Study Shows Tennessee Attorneys Volunteer More Than 800,000 Hours Annually

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Tennessee Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Commission has released an extensive study showing that attorneys in Tennessee are providing more free and reduced-rate legal services to those in need.

The report shows that in 2011 the number of hours that attorneys in Tennessee volunteered their services nearly tripled from 2009. The report details significant increases in hours served during the last two years for which data is available.

“This is exactly what we had hoped to see,” said Buck Lewis, chairman of the Access to Justice Commission. “The profession is stepping up and contributing more than ever before to assist those in need of legal services. It is extremely encouraging to see this level of participation.”

The report provides 2011 data that shows 9,736 attorneys practicing in Tennessee provided 804,961 hours of pro bono, an average of nearly 83 hours per attorney. Pro bono is a Latin term that means “for the public good.” Reporting pro bono activity is encouraged, but not required by the Supreme Court. There were a total of 21,111 attorneys licensed in Tennessee in 2011, which means that 46% reported participating in pro bono activity.

These results compare with 2009, when only 18% of attorneys reported pro bono work. This demonstrates a 173% increase in pro bono hours reported from 2009 to 2011.

The Access to Justice Commission has established a goal of 50% of all licensed attorneys providing at least 50 hours of pro bono service per year. The Supreme Court in February announced a recognition program to honor the efforts of those attorneys who provide more than 50 hours of service each year.

Attorneys serve pro bono hours in a variety of ways, including volunteering at organized legal clinics, providing legal services at a free or reduced rate, offering legal advice online at OnlineTNJustice.org, or assisting those in their local or worship community with legal questions.

 “The Supreme Court considers access to justice for all citizens one of its highest priorities,” said Justice Janice M. Holder, the Supreme Court’s liaison to the Access to the Justice Commission. “Pro bono work is critical to meeting the legal needs of Tennesseans. It not only provides a much needed service but also helps strengthen communities. When legal needs are met, our citizens can refocus on their jobs and families.”

While the Constitution of the United States guarantees legal representation to those charged in a criminal case, no such guarantee exists for civil legal cases – such as bankruptcy; employment, contract or landlord issues; and custody cases. If left unresolved without assistance, these situations many times can lead to more serious legal problems for the clients. It is estimated that 1 million Tennesseans are in need of civil legal aid and do not have the resources to pay for it.

The Tennessee Supreme Court announced its Access to Justice campaign in 2008 and subsequently created the Access to Justice Commission. The commission is a response to a growing legal-needs gap in Tennessee as indigent and working-poor families face more legal problems caused by unemployment, predatory loans, uninsured medical bills, domestic violence, evictions and foreclosures.

The commission is tasked with developing and implementing strategic plans for improving access to justice in Tennessee to include educating the public on the need for legal representation to meet the ideal of equal justice under the law, identifying the priorities to meet the need of improved access to justice, and making recommendations to the Supreme Court of projects and programs necessary for enhancing access to justice.


Supreme Court Plans Public Hearing And Interviews Of Attorney General Applicants

The Tennessee Supreme Court will conduct public hearings and interviews on Monday of the eight applicants for Attorney General and Reporter. The meetings will be held in Nashville at Legislative Plaza, Room HR16, 301 6th Ave N, Nashville, 37243 starting at 9 a.m. CDT. Each candidate is required to speak on his own behalf for no longer than 10 minutes. Candidates may have ... (click for more)

Ellie's Fine Lingerie Recognized For "Best Interior Design"

Ellie’s Fine Lingerie in Warehouse Row was awarded top honors at the Best of Intima Awards held earlier this month in New York, N.Y. by Intima Magazine. It is the premium lingerie and beachwear publication for the U.S. and Canada. The Best of Intima Awards jury was comprised of 20 high-end brands responsible for nominating and selecting award-worthy retailers. This year’s jury selected ... (click for more)

Rhasean Lowry, 34, Charged In Death of 3-Year-Old Girl

Rhasean Lowry, 34, was arrested for abusing a three-year-old girl, and then criminal homicide after she died. Last Tuesday, the Chattanooga Police Department was called on a suspected child abuse case. Lowry took the victim to a local hospital and he stated the victim fell down steps. Doctors advised that the victim’s injuries were the result of blunt force trauma consistent ... (click for more)

City IDB Member Who Made Motion For $9 Million Black Creek TIF Had Not Lived In City For Years

A City Industrial Development Board (IDB) member who made the motion to approve a controversial $9 million Black Creek Tax Increment Financing (TIF) had not lived in the city for years, City Attorney Wade Hinton confirmed. Chris Ramsey, a BlueCross BlueShield official, was not present at an IDB meeting on Tuesday morning. Five other board members were. Citizen Helen Burns ... (click for more)

Decimating The Chattanooga Public Library - And Response

Corinne Hill claims that the library is just undergoing a normal weeding process for eliminating books.  She has bragged that she's responsible for the elimination of over 100,000 books - with more to go. "Normal" weeding is not rampant throwing away.  Yes, books go to the Friends for their sale - where they get $2 for a $75 book and thousands wind up being recycled ... (click for more)

The Many Lessons I Learned From Helen McDonald Exum

Helen McDonald Exum was my friend and mentor. As I think of her passing I can only imagine the celebration that is happening in heaven as the news of her arrival is being told. I am sure that there is a party that not only has she organized but that there is not a detail that has been left to chance. I am sure that it is the grandest of events, for you see, she has been planing ... (click for more)