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VOL. 122 | NO. 81 | Thursday, May 3, 2007

Pro Bono Commitment Starts From Top At Glankler Brown

By Amy O. Williams

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ROUND OF APPLAUSE: Frank J. Glankler Jr. of Glankler Brown PLLC recently received an award from Memphis Area Legal Services Inc. during a pro bono reception at Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz P.C. He is surrounded by James S. Gilliland, of counsel at Glankler Brown, and Linda Warren Seely, director of operations and pro bono projects at MALS. -- Photo By Amy O. Williams

Attorney George Nassar compares taking on a new case to grabbing a piece of chocolate from a box - when you bite into it, sometimes you don't know what you're going to get.

In his more than 25 years of practicing law at Glankler Brown PLLC, Nassar said he knows that to be true of all types of work, including pro bono cases.

The pro bono work attorneys at Glankler Brown take on each year range from helping someone who didn't get the refrigerator they ordered to a case that might require a court hearing, a lawsuit over a contract dispute or even an appeal.

"We're happy to help any way we can and take whatever comes along," said Nassar, who in February became chief manager of the firm.

From the top down

That dedication to pro bono work starts at the top at Glankler Brown, with Frank J. Glankler Jr. Glankler was senior partner at the firm until his retirement in 2004.

Glankler always stressed the importance of pro bono work and set the example for others, Nassar said.

Frank Glankler Jr.
Glankler Brown PLLC
One Commerce Square
Suite 1700
Memphis, TN 38103

East Memphis Office
6000 Poplar Ave.
Suite 100
Memphis, TN 38119

"I have been with the law firm over 25 years and from the day I walked in the door, Frank was involved in helping people who couldn't afford good legal counsel," he said. "He has instilled the importance of continuing that tradition in every attorney who has come through the doors over here."

Glankler was honored last week for his lifelong commitment to pro bono work. The reception, held at Glankler Brown's Downtown offices last Thursday, also recognized the efforts of other attorneys and firms in Memphis who go above and beyond with pro bono work. Among the firms honored were The Hardison Law Firm PC, Burch Porter & Johnson PLLC and Nahon, Saharovich & Trotz PLC.

Glankler worked with the Memphis-Shelby County Anti-Predatory Lending Coalition to help pass a law to protect people from unfair business practices such as balloon payments at the end of a loan.

The Tennessee Home Loan Protection Act of 2006 went into effect Jan. 1 and Glankler was one of its biggest proponents. The law regulates mortgage lending and outlaws predatory practices for loans that have high interest rates and fees.

Making a commitment

During last week's reception, Nassar announced Glankler Brown had committed to take a minimum of 35 pro bono cases each year from Memphis Area Legal Services Inc. (MALS).

As a result of Glankler Brown's MALS work, Nassar said those who can't afford legal representation will be able to get top-quality legal services for their respective problems.

And the people who work for MALS could not agree more.

Linda Warren Seely is the director of private attorney involvement for MALS and coordinates pro bono projects for attorneys, law students and paralegals. MALS handled 3,000 cases last year, and Seely said what Glankler Brown has done makes her job much easier.

"The Glankler commitment makes the referral process more simple, which reduces the amount of time my paralegal and I spend trying to refer cases," she said. "A huge amount of our time is spent just trying to contact individual attorneys.

"The Glankler commitment gives us a process."

Because Glankler Brown has about 65 lawyers, Nassar said individual attorneys are able to specialize and choose cases that are within their areas of expertise. Glankler Brown will fulfill its commitment to MALS by encouraging the firm's associates to handle at least two pro bono cases each year within their practice areas, and he said firm members also are encouraged to do the same.

"Frank has always encouraged us to participate in pro bono activities to help people who are indigent or in a position where they can't hire legal counsel," Nassar said. "And he has instilled on the firm members the importance of our profession being treated as a profession and not as a business, and as a result, we have been handling pro bono cases in an ad hoc basis over the years."

Band of brothers - and sisters

Amy Amundsen, vice president of the Memphis Bar Association, said she was inspired by the commitment to pro bono work in the Memphis legal community.

"Pro bono work is the essence of a lawyer volunteering their time and their efforts to help society," said Amundsen, who is a partner at Rice, Amundsen, Rogers & Caperton PLLC. "And it is what our profession is all about."

While Amundsen's firm does not have a formal policy in place for pro bono work, she said it does take on pro bono work as attorneys are called.

"The larger law firms have certainly stepped up and shown what they can do," Amundsen said. "And I think it challenges the other law firms, not just the large firms, to see what they can do."

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