Pro Bono Heroes

Celebrating the Intrepid Volunteer Lawyers of Tennessee

Compiled by the TBA Access to Justice Committee

Tennessee attorneys have a solid record of commitment to pro bono service, among the highest in the country. Attorneys in the state reported performing an average of 53.1 hours of pro bono in 2016 — the second highest rate among all states taking part in an American Bar Association survey.[1] The report also found that just shy of 67 percent of attorneys in the state reported having done at least some pro bono in 2016, and Tennessee was a leader in the proportion of attorneys offering reduced fee services. Tennessee also had the second lowest percent of attorneys who had never performed pro bono among the 24 states that participated in the survey. Results also showed that four out of five attorneys believe that pro bono services are important, although finding the time to provide free or low-cost legal services to the needy and charitable groups remains the biggest challenge for many.

There is great diversity among the thousands of Tennessee attorneys who make pro bono service a priority, with champions coming from every part of the state, every type of practice and field of law. We wanted to share just a few profiles, and always welcome additional information about pro bono heroes that you may know.
Look for these and additional profiles at www.tba.org/journal/2019_probono.

 

Dan Buchanan is a lifelong Memphian with a passion for justice.  He has been a champion for civil and human rights throughout his life, working as an activist and community organizer before graduating law school to open a holistic law firm that focuses on problem-solving and mediation. Dan advocates for Memphis Area Legal Service clients by serving as Guardian ad Litem, representing clients in conservatorship matters, and representing clients in divorce proceedings. Though a new attorney, he has made pro bono service a core part of his practice.
 

Maria Campbell is a litigation attorney and public interest advocate with Bone McAllester Norton, originally from California and currently living in Clarksville. Since Maria’s move to Tennessee, she has become active in many professional activities, including the TBA YLD Diversity Committee. She is dedicated to pro bono service and gives her time to the Tennessee Justice Center’s TennCare Appeals project and Military Spouse JD Network. Maria was one of the first to take advantage of Tennessee’s Military Spouse Licensing Law, enacted in early 2016, which grants a Tennessee law license to military spouses who are licensed in another state.
 

Prince ChamblissPrince Chambliss was born in Birmingham, Alabama, and grew up there during the tumultuous years of the Civil Rights Movement. After earning a law degree and clerking for a federal district judge, he joined a large (by long-ago Memphis and Tennessee standards) law firm and remained in private practice for more than 35 years, primarily as a trial lawyer, representing large (by any measure) national and international corporations with litigation matters in Memphis.
Encouraged to participate in both community and bar activities, Prince has volunteered extensively for the organized bar in many different capacities, including working with the Community Legal Center. He is a member of the adjunct faculty at Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law in Memphis where he teaches an advanced course in litigation drafting. Having joined the Law Division of the City of Memphis as an assistant city attorney in 2012, he is assigned to litigation matters in state and federal court.

David M. Cook has dedicated more than 40 years to the Memphis bar and has been a voice for access to justice in many ways, including serving on the TBA Access to Justice Committee for multiple terms. David believes that pro bono service is not optional, but mandatory, as it is how we compensate society for the privilege to practice law. David is a regular volunteer at Memphis Area Legal Services’ legal advice clinics and helped found the 2nd Saturday Legal Aid Clinic, which celebrated its 11th year in July 2018. David consistently goes the extra mile for clients he meets at the clinics, continuing to assist clients with their matters even after the clinic has concluded.
 

Katrice Feild is a senior associate attorney with Bruce Turner PLLC in Memphis, working primarily in the practice areas of economic / nonprofit development, business / contract law and estate planning / probate law. Katrice is an advocate for access to justice and a committed volunteer with Memphis Area Legal Services. She regularly participates in MALS’ legal advice clinics and accepts pro bono referrals in the areas of probate. She also frequently makes home visits to assist clients in executing wills and powers of attorney. 

 

Amber Floyd is a senior associate at Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs in Memphis. Amber stays active in the community by teaming up with local judges, government and churches to organize expungement clinics and has given numerous presentations about her pro bono work in Nashville and Memphis. She participates in Memphis Area Legal Services’ Saturday Legal Clinics and has been involved in the organization’s Campaign for Equal Justice Committee and Access to Justice Campaign. She has been honored with multiple local, state and national awards in recognition of her pro bono leadership.

Amber has demonstrated an unfailing commitment to the vulnerable populations in the state receiving the civil legal help that they need, specifically through the multiple expungement clinics, the first of which attracted more than 1,000 individuals. Amber encourages all attorneys in Tennessee, no matter their specialty, to join in access to justice efforts and to help spread the word about the many types of opportunities available. “There is something we can all do. We all have a part to play. ... Individuals already involved in access to justice work and pro bono work: keep telling people about what you are doing. Keep talking about the needs of individuals who are seeking services, and eventually someone will listen. Because everybody wants to do something, they just may not know what.”


Charles Frazier, an attorney in private practice in La Vergne, is not a Nashville native, but he fits right into the community with a strong work ethic and family values that have helped him become a great tax law, estate planning and business law attorney. He uses his expertise, and strong commitment to client service as a tax case volunteer with the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee & the Cumberlands. Charles is also a U.S. Army veteran who served his country proudly and with distinction before being honorably discharged. After leaving military service, he gained business experience as a life and health insurance agent, where he learned the values of placing his clients’ needs above his interest. Charles went on to earn a bachelor of business administration from Austin Peay State University with concentrations in finance and accounting, followed by a law degree from the University of Tennessee’s College of Law.

 


Bryan Hathorn is an associate in the litigation and arbitration team at the international law firm Withers Bergman LLP, and works out of the Los Angeles office.
Even though he currently lives in California, Bryan is active in a wide range of pro bono activities in both California and Tennessee. In addition to participating in free legal clinics and representing pro bono clients, he is a regular user of TN Free Legal Answers, the virtual legal clinic website. Bryan says this is a great way for Tennessee lawyers living out of state to participate in pro bono activities in the Volunteer State. In order to maintain his close ties to Tennessee and as part of his longstanding commitment to pro bono service, Bryan strives to answer a question per day for low-income Tennessee residents, and has answered more than 1,000 questions on the website and its predecessor.

Before practicing law in California, Bryan served as a law clerk for Justice Janice Holder of the Tennessee Supreme Court. Before entering the legal profession, he worked as a research scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. Bryan holds a bachelor of art from Haverford College, magna cum laude, a law degree from the University of Tennessee, summa cum laude, and a Ph.D from the California Institute of Technology.

Leah Hillis is an associate at Shea Moskovitz & McGhee and practices in all areas of family law, also serving as a Rule 31 General Civil Mediator. Leah is an active volunteer with the Community Legal Center in Memphis and serves as a committee chair with the Association of Women Attorneys. Leah is a Memphis native, received her undergraduate degree from Rhodes College and graduated magna cum laude from the University of Memphis School of Law in 2005. Following law school, Leah clerked for U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Anderson in the Western District of Tennessee.

 

Keith Hodges is an active volunteer with Disability Rights Tennessee, taking on a variety of projects that help protect the rights of persons with disabilities. Keith assisted in research and drafting federal complaints to ensure that deaf patients get sign language interpreters in medical settings, and he has met with deaf clients in rural areas. Keith lives in Nashville and retired from state government in 2016. 

“I do pro bono because I like it, I have the time to do it and there are many people who need help that are far less fortunate than I am. My biggest pro bono challenge, and part of the satisfaction of doing pro bono work, is taking on cases in areas of the law I know nothing about.” Keith has also volunteered with Tennessee Justice Center, providing support with TennCare appeals.
 

Jennifer Knight received her Ph.D in chemical engineering before going to work for Eastman Chemical Company in 1997. In 2003, she was accepted to the UT College of Law, graduating in 2006, second in her class. She returned to Eastman Chemical Company in 2006 as a patent attorney until 2016 when she opened a private firm. Her outstanding commitment to community service, indicated by her serving on the board of directors of the Girl Scouts of the Southern Appalachians since 2013, was just beginning. In the spring of 2017, being semi-retired, Jennifer contacted the Johnson City office of Legal Aid of East Tennessee, offering her services as an in-house pro bono volunteer assisting with adoptions and conservatorships. Her willingness to share her knowledge with staff attorneys and explore new areas of law has made her an invaluable asset to LAET.

Tony Seaton is a sixth-generation upper east Tennessean who has practiced law in the region for nearly 40 years. He has an impressive commitment to pro bono service, including his instrumental role in establishing a weekly free legal clinic serving families in need in Johnson City. Tony also served on the Access to Justice Commission for six years, completing his service last year. During that time, Tony traveled extensively, recruiting, training and supporting lawyers to establish and volunteer with similar clinics in nearly all of the judicial districts in the state. Last fall, Legal Aid of East Tennessee again recognized Tony’s unique service by establishing a new Tri-Cities pro bono hall of fame named in his honor.

 

Ben Sissman has been practicing for more than 30 years handling consumer bankruptcies of all kinds. Ben is the best kind of pro bono attorney, as he often calls Memphis Area Legal Services to ask if there is a client who needs his help. Ben regularly attends MALS’ legal advice clinics and assists clients with Chapter 7 bankruptcy. He was recently recognized by the Legal Services Corporation for his unique and consistent pro bono commitment.

 

John Speer is an attorney with Bass Berry & Sims in Memphis. John’s representation of financial institutions spans more than 30 years and involves assisting them with disputes involving federal and state laws and regulations applicable to banks and mortgage companies. However, John also volunteers his time to Memphis Area Legal Service clients by serving as Guardian ad Litem and representing clients in establishing conservatorships. John got involved when he attended a conservatorship CLE hosted by MALS and since then has been an avid volunteer.

 

Ryan Spickard is an associate at Douglass & Runger, with a primary practice focus on immigration law. Ryan shares his expertise via volunteering with the Immigrant Justice Program at Memphis’ Community Legal Center. He is passionate about protecting immigrants who are facing removal in Immigration Court. He has successfully helped numerous persecuted children and individuals receive asylee status in the United States where they are now able to remain safely away from the dangers they fled in their home countries. Ryan graduated cum laude from the University of Memphis School of Law in 2014. During law school, he was an active member of the University of Memphis Law Review and the Moot Court Board.

 

Dave Yoder is the past executive director of Legal Aid of East Tennessee (LAET) and remains an active member of Tennessee’s access to justice community. With more than 40 years of first-hand experience in creating and growing pro bono projects and working with volunteers, Yoder has a unique perspective. One of his main concerns is helping the larger legal community understand that the need for free and low-cost legal services is still critical.

“There is much being done in pursuit of justice for all. I have heard lawyers complain about, ‘all this fuss about pro bono.’ To some it may appear that certainly all this effort has met the need. Multiple studies document that there is still a huge unmet and critical need. Lawyers who contribute have been rewarded in ways that make them proud to be a professional. There is still much to do, and so many more rewards await.” [Go to www.tba.org/journal/2019_probono  for Dave Yoder’s full profile, along with interesting historical perspective on Legal Services Corporation funding and the “early days” of legal pro bono.]

 

 

Online Extras!

Margaret Dodson, an associate in the Nashville office of Bass, Berry & Sims, has multiple generations of lawyers on both sides of her family. Her parents Margaret Behm and Harlan Dodson have practiced together in Nashville for her entire life. Margaret is an active volunteer with the Tennessee Justice Center, including representing individuals in TennCare Administrative appeals.She earned her law degree from Vanderbilt Law School. She received a B.A. in history and religion from the University of Georgia. Before practicing law, Margaret worked in public and legislative affairs for a telecommunications company in Washington, D.C.

 

Sue Dyer is senior litigation counsel for HCA and is an active pro bono volunteer with the Tennessee Justice Center. She is also an adjunct instructor in the health care MBA program at Belmont University’s business school. Prior to HCA, Sue practiced with Bass, Berry & Sims and before beginning her career in law, she practiced nursing in the neurosurgical intensive care unit at the University of Kentucky Medical Center. Sue attended the University of Kentucky College of Nursing where she earned her B.S.N. and later returned to her alma mater to attend the University of Kentucky College of Law. Sue also serves on the board of One Generation Away, a non-profit that works to bring fresh, healthy food right to people in need.

 

Jason Ehrlinspiel serves as senior litigation counsel at HCA in Nashville and volunteers with the Tennessee Justice Center’s TennCare appeals program. Before attending law school at the University of Mississippi, Jason spent a year teaching kindergarten and coaching college football. He has practiced law since graduating in 1995, including in Mississippi and California before returning home to Tennessee, where he obtained his undergraduate degree from the University of the South. Before joining HCA, Jason worked with the Affirmative Civil Enforcement unit in United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee where his responsibilities included health care fraud investigations.

 

Bass, Berry & Sims attorney Jeff Gibson was named the 2017 Pro Bono Attorney of the Year by the Tennessee Justice Center. Jeff was recognized for his pro bono work on behalf of TJC clients who were denied TennCare coverage for various medical conditions. Jeff helped establish a program at Bass, Berry & Sims to provide pro bono assistance to TJC clients, and through this program, Jeff and several other Bass, Berry & Sims attorneys have helped clients receive much-needed reimbursement for their medical care. Jeff is also active with the Nashville Bar Association and serves as a volunteer with the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee & the Cumberlands’ HELP program, which provides health care related educational seminars and legal services, long-term care options, advanced care directives and Powers of Attorney, especially for seniors. He also volunteers with Operation Stand Down, which provides free legal clinics for veterans.

 

Originally from Bristol, Tennessee, Benjamin Lauderback practices law in Knoxville with Watson, Roach, Batson, Rowell & Lauderback. After attending and receiving his undergraduate degree from the University of Tennessee, Benji attended and earned his law degree from the Nashville School of Law. He has practiced law for the past 18 years, and prior to that worked as an insurance adjuster for four years. Benji has been an active volunteer with the Tennessee Justice Center, including representing individuals in TennCare Administrative appeals.

 

Note

1. “Supporting Justice: A Report on the Pro Bono Work of America’s Lawyers,” American Bar Association Standing Committee on Pro Bono & Public Service and the Center for Pro Bono, April 2018. Report available at https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/probono_public_service/ls_pb_supporting_justice_iv_final.pdf

 
Compiled by the Tennessee Bar Association Access to Justice Committee from submissions from legal aid groups across the state, local and affinity bar associations, and Tennessee law schools.

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