Happy Thanksgiving!!!

So as I sit on the verge of opening the 1,500th case of this year, I wanted to write quickly and thank each and every volunteer who has helped our program out by taking on a case, coming to a clinic, or donated time and/or money to the Nashville Pro Bono program. It truly is because of volunteers such as yourself that we are able to continue to provide this vital service to the people in town who would have no where else to turn to.

In honor of giving thanks this holiday season, I wanted to share a few words from our clients. When we close out a case, we always send a survey out to clients to ask them to tell us about their experience with the Program. When we get them back, sometimes they contain very simple answers. Sometimes, however, we get clients who fill the entire page with comments. Here are a few:

Mr. (Philip) Kendrick was the best lawyer we could have asked for. He helped my husband until his death then helped me get my benefits. I wouldn’t have known what to do without his help…
Widow of J.R. on a Social Security case

…Mr. (Avery) Mott was professional, non judgmental, listened and [was] understanding… he made me feel important…
R.N. on a Bankruptcy case

He (Matt Moushon) was wonderful. He was very professional and really cared about me and my case. He treated me like I was paying him $250 an hour!!
A.M. on a Wage Claim case

Excellent! He (Joseph Rusnak) explained everything he was doing, what would happen, always available to answer my questions, made me feel at home. With so much debt I didn’t know what to do. He gave me & my family peace of mind… Mr. Rusnak was perfect. He never looked down on me like most lawyers I talked with. He always made me feel welcomed…
B.T. on a Bankruptcy case

Once again, thank you all for everything that you have done so far this year. As we head into the holidays, there are still clients who are going to be looking for help. If you have some time you can fit in between the Thanksgiving turkey and the New Year’s champagne, please feel free to give me a call! You can give them a holiday gift that they will always be grateful for, and we can help gift you with some last minute CLE credit for 2009.

Wishing you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving. 🙂

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Meet the Staff: Victoria Webb

As written by Victoria Webb

Having just passed one of those milestone birthdays, I can admit that I am literally the “oldest” staff person at the Nashville Pro Bono Program! So, a little history is in order. (And I prefer not to write about myself in third person!)

I started with the Program in the summer of 1986 as assistant to the Nashville Pro Bono/Lawyer Referral Service Coordinator. In those days, the Program was housed in the Nashville Bar Association’s office. I was there when the NBA staff consisted of a law librarian, an office assistant and the two-person Nashville Pro Bono staff.

The NBA soon hired an executive director for the first time, Allan Ramsaur (now director of the TBA), who set about growing, developing and branding the NBA and the Nashville Pro Bono Program. When the Program’s coordinator moved on, I enthusiastically applied for the job and Allan hired me. We soon found ourselves involved in negotiating with the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee on a joint venture/merger agreement. I’ve always said that process was like a shotgun wedding that’s made a great marriage!

I moved to a corner office on the 8th floor of the wonderful Stahlman Building (the NBA offices at that time were on the 3rd floor) and began working with colleagues who were absolutely devoted to helping low-income people get equal justice. Legal Aid staff welcomed our help and I was in heaven. Staff assigned to the Nashville Pro Bono Program grew and the number of attorneys signing up to help also grew astronomically. The key was getting to work closely with some saintly, impeccable titans of the legal community like Charlie Warfield and Ashley Wiltshire. When we moved to the Legal Aid offices, the Program had about 350 active Nashville volunteer lawyers. (Today we have almost 1,200 active volunteer lawyers, in both Davidson and Williamson Counties, with a total of 1,460 signed up.)

As far as personal history, I’m one of the few native Nashvillians you might meet. However, in the second grade, I packed my little bags and moved to south Georgia with my mom and sister—after a short stay in Texas. Fast forward 10 years and I’m attending the University of Georgia and end up with a degree in Journalism (before they called it Mass Communications). I soon move back to Nashville after that degree and started to write for various small publications and to volunteer with local agencies such as the Southern Coalition on Jails & Prisons. There I helped provide outside coordination to an inmate organization at the Tennessee Prison for Women. I worked in a photography lab until I discovered the “lucrative” world of actually working for non-profit organizations. I began as a VISTA worker for a consumer advocacy group for the frail elderly called SAGA–the Social Action Group on Aging. Our daunting job was to reform nursing home care in Tennessee. I was even a registered lobbyist in the Tennessee General Assembly for a while. In both my prison and nursing home reform work, I became familiar with lawyers and what they could do to change people’s lives for the better.

That’s part of why working with the Nashville Pro Bono Program has been a perfect fit. The most amazing and thrilling part of my job is when I am able to successfully translate two different cultures to each other. When you put a welfare mom together with a corporate lawyer and they manage to take care of business, that’s bliss for me. Currently, I am assigned to coordinating the Program’s legal advice clinics which generate about 60% of the Program’s cases. The clinics are a great way for attorneys to get an introduction to pro bono work and do provide a valuable and innovative service to the Nashville community. I am a long-time member of the National Association of Pro Bono Professionals and currently serve on its Board of Directors. We recently held our annual Board meeting in Chicago at the ABA offices. I feel in this way I can return some of my long experience to the national pro bono community (and there is one!).

Outside of work, I like to run for exercise and listen to the wonderful live music that Nashville has to offer. I have been known to sing on stage at a local venue called the Springwater Supper Club & Lounge (once dubbed “Nashville’s best dive bar”). I live happily with my partner, Bill Flowerree (who is a songwriter and an American Red Cross worker) and our two tomcats, Nelson and Dylan. I meet monthly with a wonderful group of local women writers and hope to retire someday soon to write great, inspiring stories. Meanwhile, I just like to participate in a small way in making such stories happen.

Meet the Staff: Alison Richards

This week is the beginning of the three week series where we introduce the staff over at Nashville Pro Bono. And apparently I’ve been “volunteered” to go first. So here we go, and in third person to boot!

Alison Richards is a transplant from Yonkers, NY (20 minutes north of Manhattan), having moved to Nashville in June of 2008. Everyone asks why she would move out of NYC and it’s a simple answer: the people are so much nicer down here! Nashville is like a big city with a small town feel, and it has quickly become her home and she doesn’t plan on leaving anytime soon.

Before moving to Nashville, she had previously been working in Washington, D.C. for a year and a half at a wine importing company called Robert Katcher Selections, in which she was in charge of the liquor licenses and registrations across the country for 200+ products. It was in that position that Alison formed a relationship with three attorneys over at Bone McAllester: William Cheek, Chris Raybeck, and Tucker Herndon. That relationship would come in very handy when she moved to Nashville and needed references when she applied at Legal Aid. She still believes to this day that its their kind words that got her the job – along with the great office skills, of course!

In the past 16 months, Alison has worked to streamline the paperwork flow that comes in and out of the pro bono department, as well as getting more accurate information recorded on cases and attorney hours. She’s also increased the amount of cases placed by sending out e-mail blasts on a daily basis, and has yet to kill the LAS computer severs doing it.

Recent achievements include helping Lucinda and attorney Jessica Uitto organize the 4ALL Clinic Event back on April 4th, 2009, and the Celebrate Pro Bono Breakfast on October 27th, 2009. Already in the works for next year’s project is a massive update of all volunteer files in the system, and the goal of getting more personal relationships with the attorneys that are in town. She always is open to coffee meetings to say hello and meet the local attorneys in town – all you have to do is ask!

Outside of Legal Aid, Alison can also be found working in the local community theatres. In one year she has worked on 6 different productions doing technical work with lights and stage management, and occasionally choreographing a fight scene. She is a trained swordfighter with certificates of proficiency in both Broadsword and Small Sword from the Society of American Fight Directors (S.A.F.D).

And she is also an aspiring fiction writer. She is finishing up the edits on her first novel before starting to submit it for publication, and has very recently opened her own writing blog at alisonskydesigns.wordpress.com.

Alison works with her own sense of humor, always has music and candy in her office, and just works on enjoying her life and making each day count. Because of this, she is grateful to have a job where she feels that she makes a difference in people’s lives every day. It’s the best feeling in the world, and hearing clients thank you and every heavenly father in existence for her help makes it easy to look forward to the next day of work.

CLE Reminder!

There is only two months left for you to get those required CLE hours done. Remember that you can earn them by taking on Pro Bono cases! You earn 1 CLE credit for every 5 billable hours of work you spend on a case, and you can earn up to 3 credits through us. How easy is that, right?

Plus you get to help out someone in need in the community so it’s a karmic bonus!

Also, if your firm has Pro Bono requirements you still need to fulfill, we can help you on those too!

I’ve got a nice supply of cases for everyone, so don’t hesitate. Just shoot off an e-mail or give me a call and I’ll do my best to get you set up and on your way to finishing those requirements.

*~ Alison ~*

What a Busy Week!

You wouldn’t believe how busy it’s been down at my office this week. So much to do, and only 40 hours to manage to do it all in!

The weekend started off on the 24th with our McHugh Legal Clinic. Victoria told me that they were able to help over 40 clients that morning, which is one of our biggest groups yet! More and more people in the community are discovering the legal clinics that we offer and they are coming in to take advantage of the free legal help. Special thanks to attorneys Richard Green, Matt Roberts, Caldwell Collins, Carla Fenswick, Michael Bligh, Kristin Fecteau, Charles Traughber, Nancy MacLean, and Thor Urnes for braving the cool and wet October morning to provide this help, as well as the 8 paralegals for the added support.

Monday was spent running around prepping for the Pro Bono breakfast that had all of us up at the office before the sun rose on Tuesday. It was a wonderful success, with more than 60 attorneys and paralegals drifting in and out for fresh coffee, muffins and fruit while we celebrated the 10 honorees and their efforts to help get more attorneys into the Pro Bono spirit! If you happened to miss the event, those honorees were:

Mary Beth Ausbrooks from Rothschild & Ausbrooks
Margaret Behm from Dodson Parker Behm & Caparalla
Frank Grace & Chris Cronk from Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis
Justin Pitt from Bass, Berry & Sims
Lauren Roberts from Stites & Harbison
Mike Sposato & Jan Jordan from CAT Financial
David Taylor from Bradley Arant Boult Cummings
Melissa Wibbins from Baker Donelson

Also, Lucinda surprised both myself and Victoria with gifts for all of our work that’s done behind the scenes. I know I was shocked as I had no idea, and I helped do all the planning for this! It was a nice feeling though and much appreciated.

From Pro Bono Breakfast

Everyone who attended received a gift of a mug especially made for the event, and additional mugs were sent back to select firms in town as a thanks for all the hard work that’s been done this year by everyone.

From Pro Bono Breakfast

So once again, thank you for everything you’ve done!

As we head into November, there’s still a lot of hard work to accomplish. There’s clinics to run, cases to place, and people to help. Right now I’ve got about 50 cases to place, so if you are getting into the Pro Bono spirit after reading this, drop me an e-mail and let me know what you want to do to help!

Have a wonderful week everyone!

*~ Alison ~*

Celebrate Pro Bono Breakfast 10/27!

Just wanted to remind everyone about the pro bono breakfast that we are having at 7:30am on Tuesday, October 27th at our offices! This is to celebrate all the hard work our volunteers have done for us, as well as honoring 10 individuals who have gone above and beyond the call of duty this year.

The invitation is in our Upcoming Events tabs with all the details!

See you there!

Alison

Nashville Pro Bono Has a Blog!

Welcome to the blog for the Nashville Pro Bono Program. In the coming days, this blog will be updated with the intent to become a useful source for our volunteer attorneys. it will allow you to check up on what’s going on at our program.

We will put up reminders about clinics, share feedback from clients about the wonderful work you do, and talk about the things we are going to make the Program work better, faster, and more efficiently as we blast into the 21st Century.

So take a look around, subscribe to the RSS Feed, and tell your friends to join us. 2009 is almost over and we’ve had an amazing turnout in help, and the plans for 2010 are already in the work to be even more successful!

Thank you all for your dedication and hard work. This program wouldn’t be possible without you.

See you soon!

*~ Alison ~*