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.


FSG Bank Presents On Point A Check For $1,000

FSG Bank presented On Point with a check for $1,000 recently from funds raised during the organization’s “Change for Change” coin drive. Supporters made donations in coin canisters at FSG locations in Chattanooga during the spring. The funds will help support On Point’s mission and programs of local youth development. (click for more)

Attorney General Announces Settlement Allowing Dollar Tree To Acquire Family Dollar

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III announced Thursday the merger of two large national chains of deep discount stores, Dollar Tree, headquartered in Chesapeake, Va. and Family Dollar, headquartered in Matthews, NC. As part of the agreement, Dollar Tree will be required to divest hundreds of Family Dollar stores nationwide, including stores in Memphis and Nashville. ... (click for more)

Muslim Advocacy Group Questions House Arrest For Signal Mountain Man Charged In Threats Against Muslim Village In New York

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation's largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, on Saturday questioned the release of a Signal Mountain man who admitted to planning what it called "a Charleston-style terror attack" on a Muslim community in New York. CAIR also called for stepped up protection for the community targeted in the plot. Judge ... (click for more)

Plumbers Bring Complaints To WWTA; Told New Contracts Are Ready

Several plumbers on Thursday brought complaints to a committee of the Hamilton County Water and Wastewater Treatment Authority (WWTA) and got little response other than being told that new contracts are ready. Kay Keefe of Keefe Plumbing said the small number of plumbing companies still participating in the program to repair leaky lines to homes, have long been operating without ... (click for more)

Could The Marriage Decision Spark A New Independence Day?

I confess that this year I am having a hard time with the idea of celebrating the 4th of July Independence Day. It is not because I am not thankful to God for what was done on that day, what it represents, and the blessings I’ve experienced that flow from it. On the other hand, I want to think that maybe this year’s celebration will mark a period in our history in which a new movement ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Fourth Of July, 2015

As one who is about good and fed up with being “socially correct” so less than 10 percent of us can dictate how the other 90 percent of us ought to think, I am going to pause today in order to share a wonderfully fun email that has been around for a while. It is aptly called, “You Could Have Heard A Pin Drop.” Before I do, I got a sweet note the other day from my dear friend ... (click for more)