The Tennessee Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Commission has released its annual report showing that attorneys in Tennessee have increased dramatically the number of hours of free and reduced-rate legal services to those in need.
The report shows that the number of hours of pro bono service volunteered by attorneys in Tennessee has more than doubled in recent years. Pro bono is a Latin term meaning “for the public good.”
“The Commission is very pleased with the results of the Pro Bono Report,” said Douglas Blaze, chair of the Commission.
“Tennessee attorneys are providing pro bono hours at an average significantly higher than the 50-hour aspirational goal set by the Supreme Court. We are proud of the leadership that Tennessee lawyers have shown and hope to build on our successes to provide even greater service to those in need.”
Reporting pro bono activity is encouraged but not required by the Supreme Court. Forty-two percent of the 21,645 attorneys licensed in Tennessee in 2013 reported participating in pro bono activity. The report relies on data collected in 2013 that shows 9,119 attorneys practicing in Tennessee provided 672,976 hours of pro bono, an average of over 73 hours per attorney. These data compare with data from 2010 when only 18% of attorneys reported pro bono work.
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, and assisting those in their local or spiritual community with legal questions.
The Tennessee Supreme Court announced its Access to Justice campaign in 2008 and subsequently created the Access to Justice Commission, which is composed of ten members from across the state. 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 recently adopted its 2014 Strategic Plan for improving access to justice in Tennessee, which includes educating the public on the need for legal representation to meet the promise 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.
“The Tennessee Supreme Court remains committed to developing Access to Justice initiatives in the state,” said Justice Janice Holder, the Court’s liaison to the Commission. “The results of this report demonstrate that the Commission is moving in the right direction, and the Court looks forward to hearing more about the projects and initiatives in the Strategic Plan.”
See the full report here, https://www.tncourts.gov/sites/default/files/docs/2013_pro_bono_report_and_appendices.pdf.