New Website Offers Free Legal Advice For Tennessee Residents

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

A new website that allows Tennesseans to seek free legal advice from volunteer lawyers is now available at OnlineTNJustice.org. The service -- a joint project of the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services and the Tennessee Bar Association -- will provide an immediate resource for victims of recent storms, flooding and tornadoes who need legal assistance. Beyond that, it will provide an on-going service for Tennesseans who need civil legal help but are unable to afford a lawyer. More than 250 volunteer lawyers stand ready to provide services through the site.

The website is a virtual walk-in clinic where clients can request brief advice and counsel about a specific civil legal issue from a volunteer lawyer. The lawyers will provide information and basic legal advice without any expectation of long-term representation.

While Tennessee lawyers have held thousands of legal clinics and helped tens of thousands of fellow residents through traditional pro bono methods, this website was created to eliminate any lingering barriers -- such as geographic location, work schedule or family obligations -- that keep those in need from receiving free legal help. It also was developed to expand pro bono services in rural areas of the state and to provide an alternative source of assistance for legal aid clients who are eligible for services but turned away due to an agency's lack of resources.

In announcing the new service, TBA President and Chattanooga attorney Sam Elliott said, "With its statewide reach and ability to match volunteer attorneys with those in need at times and places where practical difficulties interfere with personal contact, this website represents a paradigm shift in the delivery of pro bono legal services."

Erik Cole, executive director of the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services, also said "This project provides one more option for low-income Tennesseans seeking legal help, and it provides an innovative new way for lawyers to help them."

The website was developed with the financial support and technical expertise of the information technology team in the Memphis office of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz PC. The team, led by John Green, devoted a considerable amount of time to the project. Memphis attorney and former TBA President George T. "Buck" Lewis, a shareholder at Baker Donelson, praised the effort saying, "I am extremely proud of the work our information technology team has done to make this site a reality." In commenting on the new service, Lewis -- who has been active in access to justice issues for most of his career -- said, "This is the first statewide resource of its type in the country. From the start, it has been our fervent hope that this site would be a convenient way for more lawyers to provide help to those in need."

Eligibility for service through OnlineTNJustice.org is open to Tennessee residents who:
* Have civil legal concerns (criminal law matters will not be accepted);
* Have a household income less than 250% of the federal poverty level (for example, under current law, a family of four could earn up to $55,875 and still participate);
* Have liquid assets up to $5,000 in value (this includes checking and savings accounts as well stocks and bonds); and
* Are not incarcerated

The online system will screen potential clients for eligibility and, if they are qualified, will allow them to post a legal question to a secure messaging system. Questions will be answered by private attorneys volunteering their time. Clients will have the ability to check the system for answers at any time. Only the name of the client will be shared with the volunteer attorney. All other information is anonymous to ensure privacy.

Lawyers will have the ability to log on to the site 24 hours a day and answer questions from the public at a time that best suits their schedules. Lawyers will receive continuing legal education credit for the time they spend researching and answering questions, and they will be covered by professional liability insurance maintained by the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services.


Making Musical Memories At Morning Pointe

Long time volunteer, Bob Marsh, entertained residents with his voice and guitar skills during his visit to Morning Pointe of Hixson.  Mr. Marsh makes monthly visits to the Assisted Living Community to entertain residents and he is always welcomed with smiles and leaves with sweet "thank you, come back again soon"s. (click for more)

Traffic Signal Out At Shallowford, Hickory Valley Tuesday Night

Completion of a utility project will cause the traffic signal at the intersection of Shallowford Road and Hickory Valley Road to be non-working from 7:30-9:30 p.m. today (Tuesday). A police officer will be on site to provide traffic control. (click for more)

Erlanger Health System Projecting $10.8 Million Profit - With Help From $19 Million In Federal Funds

Erlanger Health System is projecting a $10.8 million profit for the upcoming fiscal year - with the help of $19 million in federal funds from a pool for public hospitals. The $19 million received in time for the current budget helped avoid a sizable deficit. The hospital is hoping the federal funds will be coming on an annual basis. At the start of the last fiscal year, ... (click for more)

History Center Gets $400,000 Grant From National Endowment For The Humanities

The National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded grants totaling more than $800,000 to three Tennessee projects that aim to display and preserve historical materials. Winning grants Monday included the Chattanooga History Center, which will get $400,000 to install a permanent, multimedia exhibit on the history of Chattanooga. The University of Tennessee-Knoxville will ... (click for more)

I'm Number One In A Round About Way

Roundabouts have been popping up all over Chattanooga over the past few years and for the most part have been successful.  Unfortunately there are some who just don’t get it as I have found out the hard way.    My latest instance was last week when a young woman on her cell phone almost t-boned me as she flew into the roundabout without yielding.  A near miss ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Judge Philyaw Is The Best

Tomorrow morning there will be a special gathering at the Hamilton County Juvenile Court that will prove to our community that we have perhaps the most innovative juvenile judge in America. Shortly after Rob Philyaw was hand-picked by our Hamilton County Commissioners to fill the remainder of Suzanne Bailey’s term 15 months ago, he found that truancy was a big problem in our schools. ... (click for more)