The Tennessee Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Commission has released its annual report showing that attorneys in Tennessee have increased the number of hours of free and reduced-rate legal services they are providing to those in need.
The report shows that the number of hours of pro bono service volunteered by attorneys in Tennessee went up by nearly 3,000 hours in the last reporting year.
"Tennessee attorneys continue to respond to the need for free legal assistance, but the Commission believes that there is more work being done than is being reported,” said Doug Blaze, chairman of the Commission. “We want to recognize the good work and the impact these attorneys have on their communities and encourage them to report their pro bono hours each year.”
Reporting pro bono activity is encouraged but not required by the Supreme Court. Although fewer attorneys reported performing pro bono work, those that did reported an average of more than 78 hours in one year, an increase of nearly six percent. Forty-one percent of the 17,980 Tennessee attorneys reported participating in pro bono activity. The total number of hours the attorneys reported was more than 578,000. The report relies on data collected in 2014 for work done in 2013.
Attorneys serve pro bono hours in a variety of ways, including volunteering at organized legal clinics, providing legal services at a free or reduced rate, offering legal advice online at OnlineTNJustice.org, and assisting those in their local or spiritual community with legal questions. Pro bono is a Latin term meaning “for the public good.”
The Tennessee Supreme Court announced its Access to Justice campaign in 2008 and subsequently created the Access to Justice Commission, which is composed of ten members from across the state. The Commission is a response to a growing legal-needs gap in Tennessee as indigent and working-poor families face more legal problems caused by unemployment, predatory loans, uninsured medical bills, domestic violence, evictions, and foreclosures.
The Court’s initiative has received national recognition for its success in the Access to Justice arena. Earlier this year, Chief Justice Sharon Lee spoke at a White House forum and was involved in a Senate briefing on what the Tennessee Access to Justice initiative has been able to accomplish in a short period of time.
“Tennessee is recognized nationally for its outstanding Access to Justice program. We are reaching and helping more and more people with their legal problems everyday,” said Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Cornelia Clark, the Court’s liaison to the Commission.
Legal resources provided by or partnering with the Access to Justice Commission: