News

NOMINATIONS OPEN FOR ATJ AWARDS

The TBA seeks nominations for five prestigious access-to-justice-related awards, to be presented at two events in 2018.

The TBA Public Service Awards recognize service in three categories: work performed by an attorney employed by an organization providing indigent legal representation; pro bono work performed by a private attorney; and pro bono commitment demonstrated by a law student volunteer. Nominations for the Public Service Awards are due Sept. 15. Awards will be presented at TBA’s Annual Public Service Awards Luncheon on Jan. 13, 2018.

The 2018 Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Initiative (CCPBI) Awards will recognize a Tennessee law firm and corporate legal department that best exemplify a commitment to access to justice. Nominations will be accepted through Oct. 27. Awards will be presented at the 12th Annual Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Initiative Gala March 3, 2018, in Nashville. CCPBI is a project of the TBA Access to Justice Committee, in partnership with the TBA Corporate Counsel Section and the Tennessee Chapter of the Association of Corporate Counsel. Law firms, corporations and individuals are invited to support the project by becoming sponsors or purchasing tickets to the 2018 Gala.

For more information about these events, please contact Access to Justice Director Liz Todaro at ltodaro@tnbar.org.

WOMEN IN THE LAW

Judge Donald Receives ABA Women Lawyers of Achievement Honor 
Judge Bernice Bouie Donald of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Memphis received the American Bar Association’s 2017 Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award in August. Donald received the award during the ABA Annual Meeting in New York, alongside four others.

“Law can be powerful. Laws can be just. But laws don’t have hands, eyes, legs and a heart,’’ Donald said in her acceptance speech. “Only we can make the law real and only we can make the law applicable. We become its limbs and its organs, and we make the law equal for all people.”

The award — whose previous recipients include Hon. Martha Craig Daughtrey, United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit; Margaret L. Behm, a partner with Dodson, Parker & Behm in Nashville; U.S. Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg —honors outstanding women lawyers who have achieved professional excellence in their area of specialty and have actively paved the way to success for others.

Survey: Women Make Up About 35 Percent of Law Firms
A recent survey found that women made up 34.8 percent of lawyers at the end of 2016, the ABA Journal reports. Law360’s annual “Glass Ceiling Report” collected data from a sampling of 300 firms in the U.S. The previous year’s figure was slightly lower at 34 percent. The percentage of women as equity partners is less than 20 percent, virtually unchanged from the previous year.

COURTS

U.S. Supreme Court E-Filing System to Go Live in November
The U.S. Supreme Court’s new electronic filing system will begin operation on Nov. 13. Once the system is in place, most new filings will be accessible without cost to the public and legal community. Attorneys who expect to file documents at the court will register in advance to obtain access to the electronic filing system. Registration will open four to eight weeks before the system begins operation. Additional information about the system is available through the Supreme Court’s website at www.supremecourt.gov.

LAWYERS IN PRACTICE

Law Schools See Drop in Applicant Numbers 
Difficulties in the legal job market have deterred many from applying to law school, resulting in better opportunities for those who do apply, reports U.S. News and World Report. Data shows that the average number of applicants at the top 14 schools in the Best Law Schools rankings was 20.6 percent lower for the incoming class of 2016 than it was in 2008. The average number of applicants at lower-ranked law schools plunged 52.3 percent in the same time period. Applicants now also have increased options for scholarships and financial aid awards, according to Aaron N. Taylor with the AccessLex Center for Legal Education Excellence.

Government Lawyers Report Increased Pressures, Retirements  
A recent survey shows that 67 percent of government lawyers say that scarce resources and tight budgets are adding pressure to their workloads. And 76 percent of the government lawyers surveyed in the Thomson Reuters study expect their workloads to increase in the next few years. The survey projects that nearly 50 percent of the full state and local government workforce will be eligible for retirement by 2019, and that about a third of all federal workers are eligible for retirement this year.

RULE OF LAW

ABA President Condemns Charlottesville Violence 
Linda Klein, then-American Bar Association president,  responded to violence in August at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that left one protester and two officers dead.

“The ABA knows the principles that govern our country — respect for the rule of law, tolerance for the beliefs and freedoms of others, and a deep dedication to uphold the Constitution — are strong and will prevail over the forces of hate and racism,” she said.

INNOVATION

TBA Honored for Modern Law Practice Series 
The Tennessee Bar Association's educational series on the evolving legal market was recognized this summer as the best in the state by the Tennessee Society of Association Executives (TNSAE). The series was conceived and implemented by the TBA Special Committee on the Evolving Legal Market under the leadership of former TBA President Gail Ashworth. The Modern Law Practice Series consisted of four programs educating Tennessee attorneys about online dispute resolution, legal services management companies (such as Counsel on Call), artificial intelligence and consumer-facing services (such as Avvo and LegalZoom). All of the programs are still available for viewing as webcasts.

Report: Nashville Misdemeanor Defendants Often Not Told of Right to Counsel  
An American Bar Association report claims that in Nashville, indigent defendants accused of a misdemeanor and facing jail time are not consistently informed of their right to counsel, Pro-Publica reports. The document, created by the ABA Section on Civil Rights and Social Justice, was released in August, and is based on research conducted by volunteer lawyers in September 2016. It states that this failure by the Metro Nashville justice system is “an extremely serious and pervasive problem that can no longer be ignored or tolerated.” The observations in Nashville are the launch of a larger, national project to review practices in misdemeanor courts in other states throughout the country.

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