Memphis, Tenn. (July 27, 2010) – On July 27, 2010, Bass, Berry & Sims PLC and AutoZone, Inc. in conjunction with Memphis Area Legal Services (MALS) teamed up to provide free legal services to approximately 75 Memphis-area seniors through its second annual "Give A Little, Help A Lot" pro bono legal clinic at the Orange Mound Senior Center.
"We started this pro bono clinic last year as a way to share our collective legal knowledge and talents with the community," said Heather Kolasinsky, a corporate attorney with AutoZone and volunteer co-coordinator of the Orange Mound Senior Center pro bono legal clinic. "Based on the large number of seniors who attended last year's clinic for help with many important legal issues and the tremendous volunteer participation we had from our attorneys, we wanted to be able to continue our work to address a critical need in our community."
Attorneys and summer associates from Bass, Berry & Sims PLC joined attorneys and paralegals from AutoZone's legal department to donate their time and expertise for this year's clinic to assist seniors with the preparation of important documents such as advance care plans, health care directives, durable power of attorney forms, wills and other essential legal advice. Also, four law students from the University of Memphis who have been designated as Durham Scholars assisted with the overall clinic delivery system.
"Our involvement in last year's clinic really showed us that seniors are an underserved population and in need of these types of legal documents and services," said Kristen Wright, Bass, Berry & Sims PLC member and volunteer co-coordinator of the pro bono legal clinic. "It's very important that seniors understand their legal rights and the importance of communicating their wishes to their loved ones in writing. The documents we helped prepare will provide comfort and assurance to the seniors and their families during difficult times. We are pleased that we were able to serve the legal needs of so many people.
Wright who helped spearhead the initial effort in 2009 alongside AutoZone attorney Heather Kolasinsky worked with Memphis Area Legal Services to develop a pro bono clinic for the community and to help identify recipients. Linda Warren Seely, director of Pro Bono Projects and managing attorney of MALS, put them in touch with the Orange Mound Senior Center, one of the largest senior community centers in the area.
"Many of our seniors are in need of essential legal services and access to attorneys," said Seely. "This clinic is an incredible opportunity to help a large group put their affairs in order and get the care they need."
MALS was responsible for helping prepare the attorneys and paralegals to address specific legal priorities for seniors and to provide essential support during the clinic.
Many seniors who attended the clinic needed help making out a will, while others got advice on getting a power of attorney. Still others were interested in setting up an advanced care plan - a document that spells out exactly what they would want doctors and relatives to do if they were unable to make those decisions for themselves.
"These efforts and documents ensure that you save your family from some of the very difficult heart wrenching situations that can occur when you don't take care of your business properly," said Seely.