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VOL. 122 | NO. 67 | Thursday, April 12, 2007

Law Week to Honor, Celebrate Profession

By Amy O. Williams

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The law means different things to
different people.

But to the hundreds of future American citizens who will gather at The Cannon Center for the Performing Arts next month, it means opportunity.

Memphis' largest naturalization ceremony of the year is held each year during Law Week, an annual series of events designed to celebrate the legal profession.

Anne Fritz, executive director of the Memphis Bar Association (MBA), said the naturalization ceremony is the most inspiring event of the week.

"I think that is one of the neatest things we do," she said. "To see the new citizens take the oath to become a citizen of the United States - it's very inspirational and it makes you feel good to be an American that day."

Fritz said about 200 people usually participate in the ceremony to be sworn in as American citizens. The event, which takes place May 1 at 10 a.m. at the Cannon Center at 255 N. Main St., is co-sponsored by the MBA and the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee.

This year, the naturalization ceremony falls just after Law Week, which takes place April 23-27.

An 'unequaled' profession

The theme for Law Week is "Professionalism, Civility and Courtesy." MBA president David M. Cook said it falls right in line with the theme of the profession in general.

"Law Week is important because the whole American system is based on the rule of law, and not on the rule of men," said Cook, shareholder and president of The Hardison Law Firm PC. "And it's appropriate that we should recognize that vital and unique fact annually with a week devoted to our system, which is unequaled in the world."

During the week, several events will take place to celebrate the legal profession.

Memphis attorney Leo Bearman Jr. of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz PC will speak on professionalism at The Peabody Hotel from noon to 1:30 p.m. April 24.

"Law Week is important because the whole American system is based on the rule of law, and not on the rule of men. And it's appropriate that we should recognize that vital and unique fact annually with a week devoted to our system, which is unequaled in the world."
- David M. Cook
President of the Memphis Bar Association

Another annual event that takes place during Law Week is Legal Lines, which is sponsored by the Young Lawyers Division (YLD) of MBA. This year, Legal Lines will be held April 23. For the event, YLD attorneys answer callers who have legal questions. They will be stationed in the studios of WREG News Channel 3 from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. that day.

YLD president Shannon Toon, an attorney at Hill Boren PC, said participating in the event allows attorneys an opportunity not only to interact with the community, but to be a positive influence as well.

"Not all of the attorneys we have within the YLD get to deal with individuals; a lot of them work with corporations," Toon said. "This gives them an opportunity to give back to the community and provide a service to the public."

During the evening, the approximately 20 attorneys working the phones field calls on just about any legal topic, he said.

"It can run from landlord-tenant issues to criminal issues to personal injury issues," Toon said. "Basically, (it can be) any legal issue that an individual might be involved in."

Attorneys also take time during the week to honor members of the Memphis legal community who have died the previous year. The Annual Memorial Service will take place April 23 at noon at Calvary Episcopal Church at 102 N. Second St. Judge Julia S. Gibbons of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals will be the speaker.

On April 26, a pro bono reception will be held at Baker Donelson from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. The reception will recognize attorneys who have performed pro bono work in the past year. The event also emphasizes the importance of pro bono and encourages attorneys to do such work.

The week of events wraps up with the Annual Lifeblood Drive April 27 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at International Paper Towers at the corner of Poplar Avenue and Massey Road.

"It's a good way of giving back to the community," Fritz said.

Three cheers for citizenship

But with all the events taking place throughout the week, Fritz said the one she enjoys most is the naturalization ceremony.

The MBA invites elementary and junior high school students to attend, meaning about 300 to 400 schoolchildren watch as people gain U.S. citizenship.

"We hand out flags to the new citizens and the children, and they just love it," Fritz said. "It's good, too, because we don't always realize how diverse or multicultural Memphis is until you go to the ceremony. They are from all over the place - the Ukraine, Vietnam, Philippines and Canada and Germany, it's just amazing."

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