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.
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