News

A Wellness Tip from the Attorney Well-Being Committee

Consider waking 10 minutes earlier so you can incorporate a brief mindfulness meditation into your preparations for the day. Set a timer for 3-10 minutes (depending on how much time you feel you want to use). Begin by sitting in a relaxed and comfortable but dignified and upright position, with your spine and head aligned. Place both feet on the ground, with legs uncrossed, and rest your hands gently on your lap. Gently close your eyes and allow yourself to notice the sensation of sitting in the chair, of your feet on the ground, of your hands resting in your lap.

Gently bring your attention to your breath, slowly taking a deep breath in, pausing briefly, then slowly exhaling. Now repeat this twice and as you do so, observe your breath as it goes in your nostrils and as it exits your nostrils. Sense the flow of air as it moves in and out, and the space between breaths. You may notice the air feels cool as you inhale, but warmer as you exhale.

Return to your normal breathing. Don’t try to change your breath, just continue to observe it, with a sense of curiosity. Allow yourself to feel your body relax and yield to gravity as you sit quietly in your chair, focusing on your breath. Notice any tense areas in your body and with your next breath, imagine it as a cool breeze touching those areas holding tension and as you exhale, release the tension along with the breath. Continue observing your breath.

When thoughts or concerns arise – as they inevitably will – simply acknowledge their presence, without judgment or opinion, and let them pass by while you gently bring your attention back to your breath. There is no need to grab hold of any thought right now -- just allow your breath to guide you back to the present moment.

Our minds will wander, as intrusive thoughts are constantly vying for our attention. When you realize this has happened, simply observe without judgment and gently guide your attention back to your breath. You might find it helpful to label the thought – “worry” “laundry” “clients” – then let it go and return to your breath. Although thoughts and feelings will come and go in the background, you can prevent them from highjacking your attention by simply acknowledging them without judgment, then gently returning to the breath and this present moment.

Julie Sandine is a graduate of Wake Forest School of Law. She serves as the Chair of the TBA Attorney Well-Being Committee.

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Antitrust Regulators Focus on Real Estate Data

The real estate sector is getting fresh scrutiny from U.S. antitrust regulators regarding a proposed centralized system, known as Upstream, that is designed to offer a single point of entry for inputting, managing, and distributing listings at the brokerage level, Bloomberg Law reports. The centralized system has been backed by The National Association of Realtors (NAR). Critics — including Trulia and Zillow — argue the project has the potential to impede competition in the market by placing a large share of valuable real estate data in the hands of one entity controlled by NAR and large brokerages. NAR settled with the U.S. Department of Justice in 2008 on similar issues.

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June Issue Features Ramsaur, Advertising and Fiction Contest Winners

In the June issue of the Tennessee Bar Journal, tribute is paid to the long career of the Tennessee Bar Association's Executive Director Emeritus Allan F. Ramsaur. He steps down after 20 years with the TBA, leaving an impressive legacy, especially with his work in the legislature. Also, read the top two entries in our 2nd Annual Fiction Contest, and get the answers to every question advertising lawyers are asked. TBA President Lucian Pera writes the last installment of his column, reflecting on successes as well as efforts the TBA will continue. Read the Journal online.

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This Week: TBA General–Solo Section FastTrack Programming

TBA’s General–Solo Section will present its annual FastTrack programming, this Friday in Knoxville. These CLE opportunities are designed to provide you with up-to-date information on a diverse range of topics while allowing you to customize your learning to your schedule and fulfill all your Tennessee CLE requirements for the year. General–Solo–Small Firm Section members receive a discount to attend. Click here to register.

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Judge Tosses Suit Over Zillow ‘Zestimates’

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit that claims the real estate website Zillow engages in deceptive business practices by using its “Zestimates” of property values as a marketing tool, the ABA Journal reports. The class action suit filed in Illinois on behalf of state property owners claimed Zillow draws home sellers to its website by posting home value information without permission in effort to connect sellers with real estate agents who pay for Zillow advertising. The judge however found that any marketing purpose behind the Zestimate tool doesn’t qualify under the Illinois deceptive practices law.
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Investment Trust to Buy HCR ManorCare Real Estate

Welltower Inc, a real estate investment trust, is purchasing the real estate of recently bankrupt nursing home giant HCR ManorCare for $2.7 billion, Reuters reports. Welltower will team up with non-profit hospital operator, ProMedica, which purchased ManorCare’s operations for $1.3 billion, to create a 30-state health care system. The partnership plans to capitalize on the trend of more health care taking place outside of hospitals.

If the U.S. Bankruptcy Court approves the deal, the merger stands to boost the group into the 25 largest U.S. health systems by revenue alongside names like Mayo Clinic, Geisinger and Johns Hopkins. ManorCare, which was the second-largest U.S. nursing home operator, filed for Chapter 11 protection in March, with $7.1 billion of debt, as part of a prearranged deal to transfer ownership to its landlord Quality Care Properties Inc.

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Share Your Thoughts on Proposed Amendments to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 6

The Supreme Court recently requested comment on proposed amendments to TSC Rule 6 that would require new attorneys to complete a Tennessee Law Course within one year of admission to the Tennessee bar. The Tennessee Bar Association has a working group on this issue and will be drafting comments in response to the court's Order for Comment. To ensure this comment best reflects members’ views and positions, the groups is looking for your feedback. Share your thoughts about the proposed amendments through this form by June 8.
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    Real Estate Essentials

    The Ins and Outs of Titles

    This Friday, the Tennessee Bar Center will host a program focused on the intangibles for dirt lawyers. The Real Estate Essentials CLE will cover the ins and outs of real estate titles and contracts, from basics like conducting a title search, to advanced topics such as drug seizure laws. Don’t miss this opportunity to obtain necessary CLE credit, while networking with attorneys who share your focus. Section members receive a discount for the program. Here’s the key info:

    When: Friday, May 11, registration begins at 12:30 p.m., CDT
    Where: Tennessee Bar Center, 221 4th Ave N, Nashville, TN 37219
    CLE Credits: Three General
     
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    Work-site Accidents: Use of Sub-Subcontractors Makes it Hard to Fix Liability

    A labor shortage has led to a fracturing of work sites, where subcontractors can’t complete projects with their normal crews, so they hire small "subs of subs" below them, The Tennessean reports. Some of these workers are sent onto scaffolding and roofs without safety equipment or training. Federal law places primary safety responsibility on the direct employer, however, experts say many companies pay construction workers as independent contractors, avoiding certain regulations. More construction workers died in the Nashville metro area in 2016 and 2017 compared with any two-year stretch in the previous three decades. Most of the 16 deaths were from falls without any harnesses or other protection.
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    CLE Real Estate Essentials: The Ins and Outs of Titles

    Join practitioners for 3 hours of Real Estate Essentials on May 11 at the Tennessee Bar Center. Learn how to avoid pitfalls as we look at all the players in a real estate transaction and review the ins and outs of real estate titles and contracts. Two additional sessions will cover titles and common terms used in contracts.  
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    Tennessee Adopts Uniform Bar Exam

    The Tennessee Supreme Court today amended Rule 7 and adopted the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) as the key testing component for bar admission for aspiring Tennessee attorneys. The UBE is a nationwide test that has been adopted in 31 jurisdictions and allows test takers to transfer scores between states, greatly improving the mobility of Tennessee attorneys. The change comes after the Tennessee Board of Law Examiners filed a petition with the Supreme Court to adopt the change. Comments received by the Court were overwhelmingly supportive. The UBE will be given for the first time in Tennessee in February 2019.

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    Company to Build Home in Chattanooga Using Robotic Technology

    A new architectural startup called Branch Technology will use 3D-printing robots to build its first home this year in Chattanooga, The South China Morning Post reports. Branch's machines will print the walls, roof and floor of the 1,0000-square-foot model over the span of a few months, and then a construction crew will assemble the components on-site.
     
    Branch says that the construction process will produce less waste than traditional homebuilding because the machines will print only the necessary parts and that the method will make homes that are three to four times stronger than typical wood construction. The company estimates that the prototype will cost $300 to $400 per square foot to build but plans to get that price down before it starts selling homes.
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    Real Estate Essentials: The Ins and Outs of Titles

    Learn how to avoid pitfalls, as we look at all the players in a real estate transaction and review the ins and outs of real estate titles and contracts at the Real Estate Essentials CLE on May 11 at the Tennessee Bar Center. Key players include heirs, upstream and downstream water users, taxing authorities, easement holders and due diligence parties. Learn about the common terms to be used in contracts to cover payment, closing costs, inspections, defaults, remedies and counteroffers.
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    Topgolf CLE: Estate Planning Tee-off

    Register now for the second annual TBA Estate Planning & Probate Section Topgolf: Estate Planning Tee-Off on June 19. The program will feature 3 hours of CLE programming, focused on information relevant to new attorneys interested in Estate Planning and lawyers who desire to add this area to their practice.
     
    The CLE package includes breakfast, lunch, plus two hours of Topgolf after the presentations. Don’t miss this unique opportunity to build your practice knowledge and fine-tune your drive game, all in one day! 
     
    When: Tuesday, June 19, 9 a.m., CDT
    Where: Topgolf Nashville, 500 Cowan Street, Nashville, TN, 37207
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    D.C. Lawmakers Move to Undo Estate-tax Break

    The recent overhaul of the federal tax code that doubled the exemption from the estate tax, erasing the tax liability for individuals with estates worth less than roughly $11 million is being challenged by Democratic on the Washington, D.C., council, The Washington Post reports. Their proposal, supported by a majority of D.C. council members, would cut in half the estate-tax exemption in the nation’s capital, to $5.6 million. 
     
    The District had loosened its estate-tax exemption as part of wide-ranging tax cuts enacted in 2014. The cuts, funded by excess revenue, were intended to make the District more economically competitive with Maryland and Virginia. Under the new proposal, about $2.5 million of the resulting revenue would go to housing for victims of domestic violence, $1.5 million would be spent on housing vouchers and $1.25 million on education. An additional $500,000 would go to a program that helps poor families buy produce at farmers markets.
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    Senate Advances Bill Overturning Some Short-Term Rental Rules

    The Senate today passed a bill that would overturn a Nashville ordinance set to gradually eliminate certain types of short-term rentals, as well as similar prohibitions in other cities, the Tennessean reports. Called a strong win for the booming short-term rental industry, the measure will now go back to the House for final approval.

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    Lawsuit Involving Construction of Oak Ridge Uranium Processing Facility Moved to Knoxville

    A federal lawsuit that asks for an environmental review of the new multi-building design for the Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) at the Y-12 National Security Complex has been transferred from Washington, D.C., to Knoxville, reports Oak Ridge Today. The transfer was requested in September by the defendants, U.S. Energy Secretary James Richard “Rick” Perry and Frank G. Klotz, former administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration, an agency within the U.S. Department of Energy that manages nuclear weapons programs and facilities. United States District Judge Dabney L. Friedrich, who was assigned the case in December, granted the motion to transfer the lawsuit from the District of Columbia to U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee on March 23.
     
    The complaint argues that a new environmental impact statement should be prepared for the new design for the UPF, the largest federal construction project in Tennessee since World War II. The plaintiffs allege that the use of several old buildings at Y-12 to house nuclear weapons work is risky because the old buildings could collapse during a major earthquake, possibly leading to a nuclear accident that could cause the release of radiological materials. Federal officials denied that allegation and others in a 29-page answer filed Sept. 29, 2017, calling the allegations vague, ambiguous or speculative, adding that safety and technical analyses are underway at Y-12.
     
    The plaintiffs previously listed the reasons for filing their complaint in the District of Columbia, citing the fact that multi-building UPF was made by a federal agency in the Washington, D.C., area; the named defendants are (or were) located there; and the information that the NNSA allegedly failed to consider originated in other federal agencies in the nation’s capital. The plaintiffs also said the important issues raised in the litigation — issues regarding the safety of the nation’s nuclear weapons program are “issues of overriding national significance and interest,” which favored keeping the case in Washington, D.C.
     
    The defendants, however, asked to move the lawsuit to East Tennessee stating, “This question should be decided in the Eastern District of Tennessee, where the Y-12 Complex is located,” a September 28 memorandum supporting its motion to transfer. “The matters at issue, in this case, are local at every turn,” the government attorneys said.
     
    Granting the motion to transfer, Friedrich said private and public interest factors both weigh in favor of moving the case to East Tennessee.“There is a substantial local interest in having this action decided in Tennessee,” she said. “The potential health and environmental effects in the locality of the Y-12 Complex and its surrounding areas present unique hazards that gravely impact residents in the Eastern District of Tennessee."
     
    The Y-12 complex was built to enrich uranium for atomic weapons as part of the top-secret Manhattan Project during World War II, and it remains the nation’s primary site for processing and storing highly enriched uranium used in nuclear weapons.
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    Senate Committee Votes to Overturn Local Short-term Rental Laws

    A Senate committee voted to advance controversial Republican-backed legislation that would overturn a Nashville ordinance set to gradually eliminate certain types of short-term rentals, led by companies such as Airbnb, as well as similar prohibitions in other cities, including Knoxville, reports The Tennessean. The Senate Commerce and Labor Committee voted 7-2 to approve a now-revamped ‘Short Term Rental Unit Act’ introduced by Sen. John Stevens, R-Huntingdon, and Rep. Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville. If passed, the bill will block a Nashville ordinance passed in January to phase out most non-owner-occupied short-term rentals that currently exist in residential neighborhoods over the next three years, as well as a similar prohibition that passed last year in Knoxville. However, the bill allows local municipalities to still prohibit certain types of short-term rentals and require grandfathered short-term rentals to acquire permits. In addition, a local government could revoke a permit for a grandfathered unit if it violates standards on three separate occasions.
     
    "Obviously, I'm pleased with the outcome," Stevens said after the bill passed in the committee. "I think it is a very difficult issue, but it's our property and it's a very personal issue. It's a distinction between the property rights and government, even if it is local government." Sen. Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville, who is not a member of the committee, spoke against the measure saying, "If there is a permit that is issued by a local government, there is a mechanism that they might revoke that permit.”
     
    "It is my impression that (the amendment) is somewhat too restrictive," Dickerson said. "The bill makes it almost impossible to do that."
     
    The Nashville Area Short-Term Rental Association urged approval of the bill in a letter to lawmakers. “We are regular folks working to make a living and want to contribute to our local and state economy,” the short-term rental association’s letter reads. “Please protect the property rights of all. Please vote to pass SB1086 with amendments.” Detractors contend that short-term renting has displaced longtime residents by attracting investors who don’t live in the homes they rent out. 
     
    Twenty-seven cities in Tennessee have rules that don't allow non-owner-occupied short-term rentals in residential areas, including Knoxville, Brentwood, Germantown and Smyrna. Local officials say they are just following zoning laws that restrict businesses in residential areas. Some cities have gone further by outlawing all short-term rentals, including owner-occupied types. These include Davidson County's five satellite cities — Belle Meade, Berry Hill, Forest Hills, Goodlettsville and Oak Hill. You can track the legislation using this link.
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    Succession Planning for Your Law Firm or Practice

    Attorney Timothy Takacs will present a special CLE on succession planning for your law firm or law practice on March 27 in Nashville. Additional topics will include law practice management, best practices, client communication and life planning. Attendees will learn how to develop their own plan using a planning toolkit for lawyers.
     
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    Powers of Attorney 2.0 Online CLE

    In this online video, attorney Barbara Moss will talk about financial powers of attorney. She will also discuss the durable power of attorney act, appointment of conservator, effects of death, disability or incapacity, and gifting.

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    Judge Rules That Homeless Man's Truck is His Home

    A Seattle man won a recent legal dispute that could have implications on how municipalities across the country address the issue of homelessness, reports The Seattle Times. In 2016 Stephen Young returned from work to find his GMC pickup truck, that he had been living in since becoming homeless in 2014, had been towed because of an ordinance that requires vehicles to be moved every 72 hours. Officers responding to an unrelated call in the area found Young in his truck, which was inoperable and called a city parking enforcement officer who tagged it for impound. At the impound hearing, Long said the truck was his residence and the city waived the $44 ticket and reduced the towing and impound fees from more than $900 to $557.

    With the help of Columbia Legal Services in Seattle, Long sued the city on the basis that he had no home for a time; he lost income because work tools he used for day labor jobs were in the truck, and he struggled to pay the fines because he makes between $300 and $600 a month. He lost the initial suit in Seattle Municipal Court, however, won the case on appeal in King County Superior Court last Friday, where Judge Catherine Shaffer ruled that the city’s impoundment of Long’s truck violated the state’s homestead act because he was using it as a home. Shaffer also ruled the fees the city required Long to pay to retrieve the truck were too high, violating constitutional protections against excessive fines and called Long “a poster child … for a lot of other people who are in this situation.”

    “We believe this case has a lot of implications for other people using their vehicles as homes,” said Ali Bilow, one of Long’s attorneys with Columbia Legal Services. “I think Seattle municipal judges should follow this ruling and take a hard look when homeless individuals, who are living in their vehicles, are charged these really excessive fees.”

    Assistant City Attorney Michael Ryan argued that police and parking-enforcement officers could now find themselves in a bind if they can’t definitively determine whether a vehicle is simply abandoned or is someone’s home. “Someone could park right here in front of the courthouse on Fifth Avenue, and we couldn’t tow them, or if we did tow them, we couldn’t put them in impound. We’d have to put them somewhere else and we couldn’t charge them at all for it because if we did, we’d violate the constitution if they were living in that vehicle,” said Ryan. The city attorney’s office is currently weighing whether to appeal the case.

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    Tennessee Infrastructure Needs $45 Billion for Next 5 Years

    Tennessee's annual estimate of costs for needed roads, schools, parks and other infrastructure is now $45 billion in the five years between 2016 and 2021 reports the Chattanooga Times Free Press. This is an increase of about $2 billion, or 4.7 percent, from last year, according to the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations, or TACIR, a research institution that explores solutions for state and local governments.
     
    In its latest report issued Monday, TACIR hopes that the infrastructure inventory could help local communities to woo federal dollars under President Donald Trump's pending infrastructure plan. The report includes a statewide overview chapter with information by type of infrastructure, the condition and needs of our public-school facilities, the availability of funding to meet reported needs and a comparison of county-area need, including one-page summaries for each Tennessee county.
     
    Costs for current infrastructure needs fall into six general categories:
    • Transportation and utilities: $24.8 billion
    • Education: $10.4 billion
    • Health, safety, and welfare: $6.9 billion
    • Recreation and culture: $1.8 billion
    • General government: $767 million
    • Economic development: $360 million
    Preliminary discussions of Trump's infrastructure plan indicate states could receive rural infrastructure funds if they have plans for investing the money. The TACIR news release said the report "could provide a foundation for meeting this or similar requirements." The report in its entirety can be found here.
     
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    Federal Judge Awards Street Artists $6.7 Million in Milestone Case Against Landlord

    On Monday, a federal judge in Brooklyn awarded $6.7 million in damages to 21 artists whose work at 5Pointz — a former factory turned space for artists' studios in Queens, NY — was destroyed according to The Washington Post. This comes after a three-week trial in November 2017 in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn. The case marked the first time a court has been asked to determine whether graffiti, with its transitory nature, should be considered art protected under the Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA), weighing a property owner's rights against the rights of visual artists. 
     
    Senior United States District Judge Frederic Block awarded the artists the maximum damages possible, saying the building's owner, Gerald Wolkoff, "willfully" ruined the artwork and showed no remorse for his "recalcitrant behavior." "He was bent on doing it his way, and just as he ignored the artists' rights he also ignored the many efforts the Court painstakingly made to try to have him responsively answer the questions posed to him," Block wrote in his opinion. "Wolkoff has been singularly unrepentant."
     
    As a final resort one tenant, Johnathan Cohen, tried to prevent the imminent demolition by seeking a preliminary injunction against Wolkoff under VARA. The court denied the plaintiffs' application for a preliminary injunction but said an opinion would come within eight days. "Rather than wait for the Court's opinion," Block wrote, "Wolkoff destroyed almost all of the plaintiffs' paintings by whitewashing them during that eight-day interim."
     
    The landlord and his lawyer have contended that the artists knew for years that the buildings would ultimately be demolished but Block said Wolkoff should have put off demolishing the properties for at least 10 months when he had all his permits. The judge said Wolkoff's "precipitous conduct was an act of pure pique and revenge for the nerve of the plaintiffs to sue to attempt to prevent the destruction of their art."
     
    The case is also the first time that a jury decided a VARA claim in court.
     
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    The Protest Movement as a Tool for Social Change: Fifty Years Post-King

    The Ben F. Jones Chapter of the National Bar Association presents a dynamic day of programming in recognition of 50th anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King in Memphis. This program explores the protest that brought Dr. King to Memphis in 1968 and the legacy that his untimely death has left on the fabric of the city. The event will focus on the protest movement in its current state as well as provide updated information on the law surrounding assembly, protest and municipal responsibility.
     
    The program features local historical figures who worked with Dr. King, representatives of the media, City of Memphis, local activists, attorneys and judges.
     
    Speakers and producers include:
    • Barbara Arnwine, Esq., CEO and Founder of the Transformative Justice Coalition, Washington, D.C. 
    • Judge Earnestine Hunt Dorse, Municipal Court Judge, Memphis
    • Bill Cody, Burch, Porter and Johnson, Memphis
    • Earle Schwartz, Memphis Bar Association President, Memphis
    • Judge Bernice Bouie Donald, United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, Memphis
    When: Feb. 23, 9 a.m. CST
     
    Where: Fogleman Business Center, First Floor Amphitheater, 330 Innovation Dr., Memphis, Tennessee 38152
     
    Contact Florence Johnson by email or call her at 901-725-7520 for more information.
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    TBA Gears Up for 2018 Mock Trial Tournament

    The Tennessee Bar Association will host the upcoming Tennessee High School Mock Trial Tournament on March 23 and 24 in Nashville. The Mock Trial is a two-day, single-elimination bracket-style competition where 16 high schools face-off against each other in the Davidson County Courthouse. Each team is scored on their trial preparation and skills. 

    We need TBA volunteers to help be bailiffs and jurors (scorers) for the event. After signing up, we will send you a Volunteer Memo with all the information you need for competition including; parking, hotel, downtown map, courthouse rules, and reimbursement information. Come be a part of the Young Lawyers Divisions’ March Madness! Feel free to contact YLD Director Stephanie Vonnahme with any questions.

    To volunteer for this event, click here.

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