Tennessee Supreme Court Designates Firm an "Approved Legal Assistance Organization" under New CLE Rules
Nashville, Tenn. (June 10, 2016) – Bass Berry & Sims PLC is honored to announce that the firm has been designated as an "approved legal assistance organization" by the Tennessee Supreme Court. This designation will enable the firm to offer its attorneys up to three Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credit hours for time worked on pro bono cases. Bass, Berry & Sims is the first law firm in the state to receive this designation, which was developed as a part of ongoing efforts by the Tennessee Supreme Court and the Tennessee Access to Justice Commission to improve access to justice statewide.
"This designation is a major breakthrough for both our firm and the state of Tennessee," said David Esquivel, chair of Bass, Berry & Sims' Pro Bono Committee. "Tennessee has emerged as a national leader and innovator in improving access to justice. We are excited to be the first law firm approved under this new designation and look forward to working with the Court and the Commission on improving access to justice for all Tennesseans. As with all of our work, we are committed to delivering the best advice to our pro bono clients, and hope that our designation is the first of many for firms in our state as we seek to fulfill the promise of equal justice under the law."
During the past decade, the Tennessee Supreme Court has bolstered efforts to improve access to justice with the creation of the Access to Justice Commission. Since its inception, the Commission has led Tennessee to the forefront of states addressing the need for pro bono access. The Commission petitioned the Court to create this new designation – "approved legal assistance organization" – to expand the types of entities that may confer CLE credit for pro bono cases. Under previous CLE rules, attorneys were ineligible to receive CLE credits for pro bono cases unless the cases were referred to them by a legal aid organization receiving federal funding; the update enables those organizations approved by the Tennessee Supreme Court to offer the incentive directly. As an approved legal assistance organization, Bass, Berry & Sims' attorneys are able to receive one hour of CLE credit for each five hours of pro bono representation. The maximum CLE credit an attorney can earn annually through this program is three. Tennessee attorneys are required to earn 15 CLE credits annually.
"The Supreme Court amended Rule 21 to expand the types of organizations that can give CLE credit to attorneys for pro bono work. Several organizations have completed the application and qualification process, but Bass, Berry & Sims is the first law firm to do so. This is one of many ways the firm promotes a strong pro bono culture. It encourages attorneys who may not have been involved to find the right pro bono fit for them. The Supreme Court's designation will allow attorneys at the firm to earn CLE credit for pro bono beyond the scope of their relationship with legal aid projects. It may be especially useful to help social entrepreneurs and nonprofits with transactional legal needs to thrive," said Ann Pruitt, Executive Director at Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services.
Bass, Berry & Sims has long promoted a significant commitment among the firm's attorneys to take pro bono matters, including veterans' claims, adoptions, landlord-tenant disputes, family law, death penalty challenges and human rights violations. In transactional matters, the firm has represented nonprofits in corporate formation and real estate matters, advised nonprofit boards of directors, and counseled start-up social entrepreneurs.
"The Tennessee Supreme Court's new designation is a great way to encourage attorneys to participate in pro bono. This groundbreaking approach demonstrates how Tennessee leads the nation in innovative pro bono models. I congratulate Bass, Berry & Sims for taking the steps to earn this designation and hope other firms will choose to do so. I am excited to see how the Supreme Court's program may positively impact pro bono attorneys and their clients," said Buck Lewis, a member of the American Bar Association's Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service and former Chair of the Tennessee Access to Justice Commission.
About Bass, Berry & Sims PLC
With more than 260 attorneys representing numerous publicly traded companies and Fortune 500 businesses, Bass, Berry & Sims PLC has been involved in some of the largest and most significant business transactions and litigation matters in the country. For more information, visit www.bassberry.com.
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