News

Lawyer Advertising

Pera Helps Lead ABA Effort to Modernize Rules on Lawyer Advertising 
The ABA House of Delegates Aug. 6 voted in favor of amending Rule 7 of ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct, which addresses lawyer advertising, the ABA Journal reports.

Former TBA President Lucian Pera told delegates that in the decades since the 1977 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Bates v. State Bar of Arizona allowed for lawyers to advertise their services, there’s been a “breathtaking variation in advertising rules” among states. He said the amendments were necessary to clarify and simplify these rules.

 

1940 Cold Case Murder of NAACP Activist to be reopened

The 1940 homicide of civil rights activist Elbert Williams has been reopened in Haywood County. Garry Brown, District Attorney for the 28th Judicial District of Tennessee, reopened the investigation in August into the unsolved homicide. Williams is recognized as the first known NAACP member to be killed for his civil rights work. He was a participant in the Brownsville NAACP branch’s 1940 effort to register African-American voters.

Retired Alamo lawyer Jim Emison, a former TBA president, has been instrumental in bringing the case to the forefront, working tirelessly for years for justice and recognition for Williams, who was found in a river and buried without an autopsy in an unmarked grave. Emison is the author of the book, Elbert Williams: First to Die.

Courts

Access to Justice Commission Releases New Strategic Plan
The Tennessee Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Commission released last month its fifth strategic plan for improving access to justice in Tennessee. The plan identifies priorities for the next two years, including educating the public on existing resources, encouraging and creating new opportunities for increased pro bono and developing resources to support self-represented litigants. The new plan also includes objectives designed to connect with rural attorneys and local bar associations. The full strategic plan is available on the TN State Court website. 

New AOC Program Trains Court Reporters 
Court reporters have a vital role in the justice system, but their numbers are on the decline. The Administrative Office of the Courts has partnered with Nashville State Community College to address this need by offering a new course in digital court reporting. The 10-week course trains individuals to administer the digital recording systems already in use in many proceedings, take notes and transcribe from the recordings. The AOC has plans to offer similar training in other locations across the state.

Crime

Study Suggests More Innocent People Are Pleading Guilty 
A recent paper published by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers examines evidence suggesting that an increasing number of defendants are pleading guilty to avoid the risk of trial, rather than trying to prove their innocence, Forbes reports. The study, called “The Trial Penalty: The Sixth Amendment Right to Trial on the Verge of Extinction and How to Save It,” concludes that “there is ample evidence that federal criminal defendants are being coerced to plead guilty because the penalty for exercising their constitutional rights is simply too high to risk.”

Law School

UT Launches Pro Bono License Reinstatement Project 
The University of Tennessee College of Law Pro Bono and Legal Clinic are working together to assist Tennessee drivers whose licenses have been suspended, following a federal court decision that deemed unconstitutional Tennessee’s practice of revoking driver’s licenses for failure to pay court costs. The License Reinstatement Project includes a hotline and a website that people utilize for information or help with the process of getting their license reinstated.

Report Finds Uptick in Salaries of New Law School Grads   

According to a new report from the National Association for Law Placement (NALP), law school graduates in the class of 2017 are seeing median salaries of $70,000, up $5,000 from the previous class. Citing the NALP report, the ABA Journal writes that the salary increase comes as larger law firms hire more new graduates than at any time since the recession. Employment rates for law graduates are also at the highest point since then, but the NALP report attributes this to a decrease in graduates, rather than an increase in job numbers.

Law School Applications Surge 
The number of people applying to law school for fall semester shot up 8 percent this year, Law.com reports. This is the first significant annual increase since 2010. This year’s applicant pool was also more qualified, with the number of 175-180 LSAT scorers up 60 percent.

Scholarship Will Honor Chief Justice Anderson 
The Tennessee Judicial Conference Foundation (TJCF) has created a legacy scholarship to honor the life of former Chief Justice Riley Anderson and his contributions to the legal profession. Anderson died in July.

Created by the Judicial Conference in 1996, the Foundation awards 22 need-based scholarships annually to students at Tennessee’s colleges of law. Gifts in memory of Justice Anderson can be made to the TJCF, Attn: Suzanne Keith, Treasurer, 629 Woodland Street, Nashville, TN 37206. The TJCF earlier honored Chief Justice Frank Drowota, who died in April. The group created a scholarship at Vanderbilt Law School in Drowota's name.

ABA Scuttles Plan to Kill Law School Admissions Exam Requirement 
The ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar withdrew a resolution before the ABA House of Delegates in August that called for cutting a required exam for law school admission, the ABA Journal reports. The Young Lawyers Division Assembly also voted against changing the test requirement. And as the House session began, a letter was circulated on the House floor from the Minority Network, a group of law school admissions professionals, saying the LSAT is better than any other admissions test in predicting a candidate's success in law school.

Your TBA

New Members Elected to TBA Board 
Three Tennessee attorneys were elected to fill open positions on the Tennessee Bar Association’s Board of Governors during the recent TBA Annual Convention in Memphis. Aimee Luna, an attorney with the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee in Murfreesboro will fill the Fourth District Governor post; Dyersburg attorney Matt Willis will hold the Seventh District Governor post; and Germantown attorney Jim Barry will fill the Eighth District position. In addition, Williamson County District Attorney Kim Helper will rejoin the board as the District Attorneys General Conference representative.

Women in the Law

What Is It Really Like?  

A recent ABA survey of more than 1,300 participants from the nation’s 350 largest law firms revealed some sharp divisions between how men and women fare in Big Law, Bar Leader reports, and also that managing partners' view of their firms as champions for women's advancement is not borne out by women's own reports of their experiences. For example, 81 percent of women who responded said they had been mistaken for a lower-level employee, as opposed to 0 percent of men, and while 71 percent of firm leaders said that law firms were doing a good job of promoting women into equity partnership, only 47 percent of women agreed. The full report from the survey, commissioned by immediate past ABA President Hilarie Bass, is expected this month.

Article Examines Difficulties Faced by Female Trial Lawyers 
Is it harder to be a trial lawyer if you are a woman? The Atlantic took a look into the question, examining personal stories, history and statistics about gender in the legal profession. One suggested cause for the difficulties faced by female lawyers was the lack of women in positions of power in the courtroom: women currently make up only 33 percent of federal trial-court judges.

Civics

Tennessee Last in the Nation in Voting
Tennessee is 50th in the nation in voter turnout and 40th in voter registration, Knoxnews has reported. Only 28.5 percent of Tennesseans voted in the 2014 midterm elections, according a PEW Charitable Trust analysis. Of the state’s 95 counties, only five are above the national average of 65 percent in active voter registration numbers.

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