Bass, Berry & Sims Launches Comprehensive Pro Bono Program to Promote Access to Justice

April 24, 2019
Firm Announcement

Firm Appoints Pro Bono Member and associate begins six-month fellowship with CJI as part of the firm’s new Pro Bono Program

Nashville, Tenn., (April 24, 2019) – Bass, Berry & Sims is excited to announce the launch of a comprehensive new Pro Bono Program that will provide opportunities and incentives for the firm’s attorneys to give back to the community. One of the key components of the program includes the BBS Fellowship, which will allow up to two attorneys across the firm’s four offices to spend up to six months serving full-time in a pro bono capacity within the community. The first BBS Fellowship placement began on April 22, when attorney Angie Bergman started a six-month fellowship at the Choosing Justice Initiative (CJI) to advocate for bail reform in Nashville’s criminal courts.

“Public service has always been an important part of the Bass, Berry & Sims culture. Our new Pro Bono Program will help continue that passion and enhance our attorneys’ ability to give back to our communities in a meaningful way,” said Todd Rolapp, managing partner of Bass, Berry & Sims. “We are excited for Angie as she begins this fellowship to officially launch our program. Through these valued partnerships with organizations like CJI, our attorneys will be able to make the greatest impact in our communities.”

CJI was launched in late 2018 by Dawn Deaner, who spent more than 20 years working in Nashville’s Public Defender office, including being elected the public defender for the city. Through CJI, Deaner aims to end wealth-based disparities in Nashville’s criminal legal system. Bergman will work with Deaner to advocate for fair bail setting practices within the Nashville criminal courts as required by the U.S. and Tennessee Constitutions. Bergman will coordinate with other agencies and nonprofits, including the Metropolitan Nashville Public Defender’s Office and the Nashville Community Bail Fund, to explore just alternatives to Nashville’s existing bail system.

“I am thrilled to have Angie join CJI for the next six months to help advocate for equitable bail practices in our city,” said Deaner. “Statistics show that hundreds of accused individuals are forced to remain in jail in Davidson County solely because they lack the financial resources to obtain their freedom while their case is processed through our criminal justice system. This can result in job loss, child custody disputes and potential loss of housing. With Angie’s help, CJI can focus on furthering the conversation around the inequality in our bail system and work toward significant reform in our city. I am grateful to Bass, Berry & Sims and their willingness to dedicate attorneys in this fellowship capacity to help organizations like CJI.”

In addition to the fellowship component of the new Pro Bono Program, Bass, Berry & Sims created a 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. Attorney David Esquivel – a long-time advocate of pro bono and access-to-justice initiatives – will serve in this capacity. Esquivel is a founding member of the firm’s Pro Bono Committee and has served as its chair since 2013. He previously served as chair of the Tennessee Bar Association’s (TBA) Access to Justice Committee and as a member of the Tennessee Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Commission. In 2005, Esquivel was named the TBA’s “Pro Bono Attorney of the Year” following his work representing victims of human rights abuses that occurred in El Salvador during the early 1980s.

“I am honored to lead this newest chapter of pro bono initiatives at the firm. I am fortunate to work with an amazing group of attorneys who dedicate their time and resources to pro bono work and am thrilled to be given the opportunity to work alongside my peers to make a real difference in our communities,” said Esquivel.

The firm’s new Pro Bono Program also allows for increased hours or credit for all attorneys to dedicate to pro bono activities. For non-member attorneys, the firm will increase billable hour credit from 50 to 100 hours annually. For members, the firm will provide pro bono credit to those individuals that devote significant time to pro bono work. These hours will be counted toward the annual billable hour requirement and allow attorneys to devote more time to serve in pro bono capacities. Through the program, attorneys will continue to partner with various nonprofits and other organizations to advise individuals related to landlord-tenant disputes, adoption cases, veterans’ claims, TennCare eligibility/benefits challenges, asylum requests, death penalty defense and more.

About the Choosing Justice Initiative

CJI works to end wealth-based disparities in Nashville’s criminal legal system through education, advocacy and direct legal representation. CJI was created to empower people without wealth to pursue and achieve the justice they seek in Nashville’s criminal legal system. Learn more about the organization on the CJI website.

About the Nashville Community Bail Fund

The Nashville Community Bail Fund (NCBF) exists to free people from jail who are presumed innocent and cannot afford to pay their bail. By working together, the NCBF and the people it frees create a self-sustaining tool that makes the court system more fair for everyone. Learn more about the NCBF, or make a donation, at the NCBF website.

 About Bass, Berry & Sims PLC

With more than 280 attorneys representing numerous publicly traded companies and Fortune 500 businesses, Bass, Berry & Sims has been involved in some of the largest and most significant litigation matters, investigations and business transactions in the country. Learn more about the firm on the Bass, Berry & Sims website.