Report Highlights Effect Of Pro Bono Legal Services

Friday, October 21, 2016

The Tennessee Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Commission’s released annual report shows Tennessee attorneys are donating more than 500,000 hours of their time annually worth more than $100 million. 

For the calendar year 2014, nearly half of all attorneys reported doing some kind of pro bono work. The report shows 7,615 attorneys practicing in Tennessee provided 568,170 hours of pro bono, an average of over 74 hours per reporting attorney.  The value of these services is estimated to be over $113 million. Pro bono is a Latin term meaning “for the public good.” 

As of Dec. 31, 2015, 42 percent of the 18,322 active attorneys licensed in Tennessee with a primary address in Tennessee reported participating in pro bono activity during 2014. The report relies on data collected in 2015 for work performed in 2014. 

The majority of these hours (68 percent) were provided to persons of limited means without a fee or at a reduced fee. The second highest category of service was to non-profit organizations serving persons of limited means without a fee at 14 percent of the total hours. 

Access to Justice Commission Chair Marcy Eason, a Chattanooga attorney, emphasized the growing number of methods attorneys use to make legal help available. 

“We are pleased with the many ways attorneys provide pro bono legal assistance to those in need, and we look forward to expanding and growing Access to Justice initiatives under our strategic plan,” Ms. Eason said. 

The report shows that the number of hours of pro bono service volunteered by government attorneys in Tennessee has increased in recent years. The Supreme Court recommends attorneys provide a minimum of 50 hours of pro bono legal service each year, and the average number of hours per reporting government attorney now exceeds that at nearly 52. 

The report highlights the Supreme Court’s Pro Bono Recognition Program, which honored nearly 500 attorneys and law students in 2015 for providing 50 or more hours of pro bono legal service. Attorneys provide pro bono service in a variety of ways, including volunteering at legal clinics and mediation centers, providing legal services at a free or reduced rate to those in their local or spiritual community, acting as a continuing legal education instructor, and serving on bar association committees. 

The variety of projects attorneys participate in that provide free and reduced-rate legal services to those in need in Tennessee has expanded in recent years. Some highlights: 

The Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands has established a Medical Legal Partnership with Mercy Community Healthcare in Williamson County. 

The Washington County Bar Association reported serving nearby 300 clients through its monthly legal advice clinic.

Law offices are contributing to the pro bono initiative by adopting pro bono policies and becoming Pillar Law Firms to handle specific types of matters through referrals from Legal Aid. 

Further, the Commission recently adopted its 2016 Strategic Plan for improving access to justice in Tennessee. 

“The Commission is excited to announce our strategic plan’s goals for the next two years,” said Ms. Eason. “The Commission appreciates the positive leadership of the Tennessee Supreme Court and is encouraged with our growing access to justice partnerships throughout the state.” 

The plan includes implementing a strategy to have 10 new court kiosks across the state, developing a statewide communications plan with legal aid and access to justice programs and growing the Tennessee Faith and Justice Alliance to include representation from a variety of faiths. The Commission also makes recommendations to the Supreme Court of projects and programs necessary for enhancing access to justice, especially for self-represented litigants. 

“The Tennessee Supreme Court is committed to advancing Access to Justice initiatives across Tennessee,” said Justice Cornelia Clark, the Court’s liaison to the Commission. “This Strategic plan builds upon prior successes and seeks to increase access to the courts through faith and justice alliance programs, plain language forms for self-represented litigants, and greater public awareness of legal resources.” 

The Tennessee Supreme Court announced its Access to Justice campaign in 2008 and subsequently created the Access to Justice Commission, which is composed of 10 members from across the state. The Commission is a response to a growing legal-needs gap in Tennessee for indigent and working-poor families. 

See the full Pro Bono Report and more information about the Access to Justice Commission and the 2016 Strategic Plan.



Marc Gravitt Honored With The Tennessee Leadership Award By The Tennessee Association Of Assessing Officers

Rep. Marc Gravitt has been awarded the Tennessee Leadership Award by the Tennessee Association of Assessing Officers. Will Denami, Executive Director of the Tennessee Association of Assessing Officers, presented the award to Representative Gravitt on behalf of the statewide association. “Rep. Marc Gravitt continues to study the issues and listen closely to his constituents he ... (click for more)

BASF’s Chattanooga Sites Receive Tennessee Governor’s Award Of Excellence For Workplace Safety

The BASF sites in Chattanooga received the Governor’s Award of Excellence for Workplace Safety by working all of 2016 without a lost time, restricted duty or medical workplace injury or illness. The award honors Tennessee employers and employees who meet a required number of hours without workplace injuries serious enough to cause an employee to miss a day of work or restrict ... (click for more)

Prosecutor Says Brewer Was Driving 80 And Was High On Meth At Time Of Horrific Wreck At Ooltewah Exit; Defense Says There Is No Evidence Of Intoxication

A prosecutor on Monday told a Criminal Court jury from Nashville that Benjamin Scott Brewer Brewer was driving 80 mph, was high on meth and never hit his brakes when he caused an horrific wreck on June 25, 2015, at the Ooltewah exit of I-75. Crystle Carrior asked the jury to find Brewer guilty of six counts of vehicular homicide by intoxication, four counts of reckless aggravated ... (click for more)

Haslam Announces "Agressive, Comprehensive Plan" To End Tennessee's Opioid Epidemic

Joined by leadership from the House and Senate and Chief Justice Jeff Bivins, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam on Monday announced an aggressive and comprehensive plan to end the opioid epidemic in Tennessee by focusing on three major components: prevention, treatment and law enforcement. TN Together is a multi-faceted initiative that addresses the issue of opioid addiction through ... (click for more)

General Bell: This Government Shutdown Is Outrageous - And Response

The day before yesterday two Army Apache Attack Helicopter pilots were killed in a crash during training at Fort Irwin, Ca.  The pilots and their unit were preparing for a future deployment to combat operations.    As a result of the government shutdown, none of the spouses or families of these pilots will receive a dime from the United States Government in immediate ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Rebranding & ‘Culture’

My grandfather, who ran several very successful businesses, was a very astute fellow. I can’t tell you how many times he said, “The worst thing any salesman who calls on a business can say is, ‘I am here to save you some money.’ That’s not true -- In every instance they are in front of you hoping to make some money for themselves, else they would have never come by.” Another ... (click for more)