Volunteer Spirit Drives Legal Community to Create #HELP4TX

September 1, 2017

Just like other emergency responders from Memphis to Mountain City, the Tennessee Supreme Court is announcing a call to action for “emergency legal responders” to lend a hand to those impacted by Hurricane Harvey. As was evident when the wildfires hit Gatlinburg last fall, there is a vital need that only lawyers can fill.

“The more our legal community watched the events unfold, the more contacts I received asking how Tennessee lawyers could help in Texas,” Tennessee Chief Justice Jeff Bivins said. “Because of bar admittance and licensure rules, the process is not always easy.”

Justice Bivins communicated with lawyers, bar associations, and, most importantly, Texas Chief Justice Nathan Hecht, to facilitate the creation of a system for lawyers to assist hurricane and flood victims.

“After multiple conversations and hard work by lawyers in Tennessee, Texas, and across the country, we now have a solution,” Justice Bivins said.

To help facilitate out-of-statelawyer assistance, the Texas Supreme Court has issued an emergency order allowing non-Texas lawyers to provide legal services to victims of Hurricane Harvey for six months without becoming licensed in Texas. Lawyers must be in good standing in Tennessee and must provide services through a pro bono program, legal aid program, or bar association that is providing services to hurricane victims.  Volunteers need to return the State Bar of Texas Registration for Temporary Practice form as soon as possible. They also must agree to abide by the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct and to submit to the disciplinary jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of Texas and the State Bar of Texas.

“We are very grateful to Chief Justice Hecht and the entire Texas Supreme Court for pushing this emergency order through so quickly,” Justice Bivins said. “Now is the time to begin spreading the word so that lawyers across our state realize we have a real opportunity to be true Tennessee volunteers again and help those who need it most. Please think about committing to help and start making preparations. The Tennessee Supreme Court stands ready to help the volunteer lawyers in any way we can. This is a true national emergency and we, as part of Tennessee’s ongoing efforts of assistance, want to be part of the solution.”

Justice Bivins announced the Texas emergency order and began the call for legal volunteers at the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services’ 40th annual Equal Justice University Conference in Murfreesboro August 30, with over 450 attorneys present.

“Just a few months ago, the Supreme Court issued a call to action for legal assistance across Tennessee, called #HELP4TNDAY, which garnered the equivalent of millions of dollars in free legal assistance,” Justice Bivins said.  “We hope the same will be true for this effort: #HELP4TX.”

The Tennessee Bar Association (TBA) is taking the lead in organizing lawyers who want to assist. The TBA has already reached out to lawyers throughout the state who also hold active licenses in Texas and can help immediately.  The group is working with several legal aid and pro bono groups to finalize activities for Tennessee-licensed lawyers. The Texas Supreme Court order allows out-of-state attorneys to volunteer in the state or online through groups like Texas Free Legal Answers.

Tennessee lawyers who would like to make monetary gifts are encouraged to donate to the Texas Bar Foundation Hurricane Harvey Legal Aid Fund, the Hurricane Harvey Legal Relief Fund established by the Texas Access to Justice Foundation, or through any of the broad charities recommended by Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam’s office or the Community Foundation.

Additional resources:

Read the order here, amended order, which includes the State Bar of Texas Registration for Temporary Practice form