For the Good of the Public

“We make a living by what we do, but we make a life by what we give.” — Winston Churchill

It cannot be stated enough times that an overwhelming number of low-income Tennesseans are in need of legal services. Lawyers are an invaluable resource for individuals at risk of losing their homes, their incomes, and even their children. A study by a national bar organization found that at least 40 percent of low- and moderate-income households experience a legal problem each year. The same study concluded that the collective civil legal aid effort is serving only about 20 percent of the legal needs of low-income people. Our profession can and must do better to help low-income households in Tennessee.

Judge Robert A. Katzmann of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit stated powerfully: “A lawyer’s duty to serve those unable to pay is thus not an act of charity or benevolence, but rather one of professional responsibility, reinforced by the terms under which the state has granted to the profession effective control of the legal system.”

The underlying premise of this statement appears to be that public interest obligations arise because of the self-regulating nature of our profession. In other words, this is a quid pro quo bargain of sorts: we are given self-regulation and we give services that are in the public interest. There could be major consequences if the public loses faith in the legal profession’s ability to serve the public interest. The recent erosion of self-regulation in other common law jurisdictions (such as Australia and England and Wales) should serve as a warning that the failure to act in the public interest could result in the unwelcome involvement of external regulators. Accordingly, we must not allow the perpetual access to justice crisis to undermine the public’s confidence in the ability of the legal profession to respect and protect their interests.

Talk to lawyers who handle pro bono files and most will tell you positive things about their experience. Doing pro bono work will make you feel good. It is a great feeling to give hope to someone when they have nowhere else to turn. There is a reason lawyers who take on pro bono files keep doing pro bono. Achieving results for a disadvantaged member of society really makes you feel like a lawyer. At the same time, pro bono cases create tangible examples of lawyers protecting the public interest.

 

Celebrate Pro Bono Month

October marks the 10th anniversary of the National Celebration of Pro Bono. Tennessee lawyers will again participate through our Celebrate Pro Bono Month. Pro bono publico literally translates to “for the good of the public.”

There will be numerous opportunities for Tennessee lawyers to do things for the good of the public this month. Activities will include legal advice clinics, education programs, public presentations, celebrations and other events. Celebrate Pro Bono Month events will be announced in TBA Today and on the TBA website. You can also read more about it on page 16 of this issue of the Journal.

For those lawyers who cannot make it to a live event, do not forget that you can provide pro bono service on your own time through the Free Legal Answers portal at http://tn.freelegalanswers.org. The Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services provides pro bono opportunities at http://help4tn.org.

There is more we can do than providing direct legal services for low-income individuals. Lawyers can use their unique skills and training when working for nonprofits, volunteering, coaching mock trial teams, mentoring students, participating in neighborhood associations, coaching youth sports teams, etc. All of these activities provide positive contributions to our communities and, indeed, are for the good of the public. And several of those kinds of efforts will also qualify to some extent toward your aspirational pro bono goal under the ethics rules.

 

Pannu’s Pairings: Northern Rhône

Vineyards have been planted on the Northern Rhône’s famous Hermitage hill since the ancient Greeks inhabited the area in 500 B.C. The Northern Rhône region is primarily known for its unique style of Syrah. However, some appellations in the region produce wine from the white varietals Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne. This article will focus on Syrah. The most well known appellations in the region are Cornas, Hermitage (sometimes called Ermitage) and Côte Rôtie. These wines are meant for aging. A few years ago, I happened upon Domaine DeBoisseyt-Chol, a small producer in the village of Chavanay that has been in the same family since 1797. Monsieur Chol explained that the Côte Rôtie I was purchasing would reach its peak maturity after about 25-30 years! When I asked him why I would buy wine that I should not drink until my mid-60’s or 70’s, Monsieur Chol explained that most of his customers buy wine for their children and grandchildren to enjoy decades later, just as their parents and grandparents did for them. I was told that 1983, 1985 and 1989 were drinking particularly well at the time. Apparently, the harsh black fruit flavors transform into something delicate and ethereal over time.

Unfortunately, global demand has moved the prices of sought-after Cornas, Hermitage and Côte-Rôtie into the stratosphere. However, good value can be found in the appellations of Saint-Joseph and Crozes-Hermitage, and you do not have to wait several decades to enjoy them. Saint-Joseph and Crozes-Hermitage are both large appellations so attention to the producers with the prime parcels within those appellations is important. Saint-Joseph is the most similar in profile to Côte Rôtie with smoky, game-like aromas and a spicy, white pepper finish on the palate. Crozes-Hermitage generally displays floral and dark berry notes with acidity and strong tannins.

Food Pairings: The wines of Northern Rhône pair well with heartier foods such as grilled beef, lamb, veal, pork, game and stews. Bacon flavors pair especially well with Crozes-Hermitage. I also enjoy burgers with wines from this region. Some of my favorite producers in the Northern Rhône are Jean-Louis Chave, Domaine Jean-Luc Colombo, Domaine Jamet, Domaine Gilles Barge and Domaine Phillippe et Vincent Jaboulet.

 

Jason M. Pannu is a shareholder in the Nashville office of Lewis Thomason. You can reach him at JPannu@LewisThomason.com. Follow Jason on Twitter @jasonpannu and Instagram @jasonpannu.

          | TBA Law Blog