Public service is part of who we are as a firm. Bass, Berry & Sims is committed to pursuing systemic change to eradicate the root causes of legal, social, and economic inequalities.
The firm’s commitment to pro bono focuses on three primary areas: strengthen families, empower communities, and protect civil rights. Our commitment to systemic change and focus on these three areas have become even more urgent as we consider the disparate impact of COVID-19 and the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and too many others. We are more aware than ever of our special responsibility as a law firm to address these crises of inequality and racial injustice.
As part of our response to current events, Bass, Berry & Sims has joined with more than 125 firms across the country to form the Law Firm Antiracism Alliance. Its mandate is to “leverage the resources of the private bar to amplify the voices of communities and individuals oppressed by racism, to better use the law as a vehicle for change that benefits communities of color and to promote racial equity in the law and in government institutions.”
The strength of the firm’s commitment to pro bono was evidenced in 2019 when we launched a comprehensive new initiative for attorneys to give back to the community and tackle significant legal issues. This expanded dedication of resources had a measurable impact – increasing the time committed to pro bono work by 98% in 2019 over 2018.
The new initiative provides for increased billable hour credit for all attorneys to dedicate to pro bono activities. For non-member attorneys, the firm has increased billable hour credit from 50 to 100 hours annually. These hours are counted toward the annual billable hour requirement and allow attorneys to devote more time to serve in pro bono capacities. For members, the firm provides pro bono credit to individuals who devote significant time to pro bono work.
A cornerstone of the new initiative was the creation of the Bass, Berry & Sims Pro Bono Fellows program, which allows attorneys across the firm’s four offices to spend up to six months working full-time in a pro bono capacity within the community. In 2019, Angie Bergman spent six months with Choosing Justice Initiative where she advocated for bail reform in Nashville’s criminal courts, federal court, and alongside the Nashville Public Defender’s Office. In 2020, Danielle Dudding Irvine’s fellowship with Tennessee Innocence Project allowed her to establish the organization’s presence in Memphis and create a partnership with the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law while pursuing a claim of innocence for a client. On August 31, 2020, Marc Tahiry became the firm’s third Fellow, appointed by the General Sessions Court of Metropolitan Nashville & Davidson County to serve as a law clerk dedicated to assisting with eviction proceedings to help the Court fully and fairly address the ongoing surge in eviction filings stemming from the loss of jobs due to COVID-19.
The initiative included creation of the Pro Bono Member position, allowing a partner of the firm to dedicate half of his/her work to pro bono activities and administration of the firm’s program. David Esquivel – a long-time advocate of pro bono and access-to-justice initiatives – is currently serving in this capacity. David is a founding member of the firm’s Pro Bono Committee and has served as its chair since 2013.
Read more about the firm’s pro bono news highlights by clicking below.