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VOL. 124 | NO. 79 | Thursday, April 23, 2009

Law Week Ends While Memories Remain

By Rebekah Hearn

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While the Memphis Bar Association’s annual Law Week events end today, they remain in the minds of the city’s legal community.

At 10 a.m., the bar will hold its traditional naturalization ceremony in which more than 340 incoming U.S. citizens will be sworn in at The Cannon Center for the Performing Arts.

The MBA Access to Justice Committee also will host its pro bono reception today from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Burch Porter & Johnson PLLC at 130 N. Court Ave. This event honors the attorneys who offer free services through Memphis Area Legal Services Inc., the Community Legal Center and Access to Justice programs, particularly in light of the Tennessee Bar Association’s yearlong “Justice 4ALL” campaign.

Law Week, which the bar typically holds in late April, is the association’s way of celebrating and honoring the legal profession – not to mention having a good time along the way.

The MBA’s Law Week is held annually in conjunction with the American Bar Association’s traditional Law Day on May 1. This year, the ABA is honoring the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday with the theme “A Legacy of Liberty.”

Lincoln is what the ABA calls “the quintessential American lawyer-president,” according to the ABA’s Web site. Celebrations often take place in the days before and after as well, according to the ABA’s Web site.

Party time

The ABA Law Day began in 1957 when Charles S. Rhyne pictured a national day set aside to celebrate and honor the American legal system.

Over the years, many state and local bar associations have picked up on the Law Day idea. Some, such as the MBA, have expanded it into a Law Week or Law Month.

The ABA holds events all over the country on its annual Law Day, although no events are being held on this year in Tennessee.

The MBA’s Law Week is headed by the bar’s Law Week committee, which is co-chaired by Mary Hale and Frank Thacher.

“They are the ones who put all this together,” said Art Quinn, president of the MBA and an attorney at Evans Petree Bogatin PC. “They help organize it; they’re the ones who selected the events and the speakers we have.”

On Monday, the first official day of Law Week, a memorial service was held at Downtown’s Calvary Episcopal Church to honor the 24 local lawyers and judges who have died in the past year. Chancellor Arnold Goldin spoke at the service.

“That’s a big tradition,” Quinn said. “I think that’s important because it does set our profession apart and it gives us an opportunity to honor the work of the deceased lawyers and also our relationships with many of them.

“We worked with those lawyers; we socialized with those lawyers. To many of us, some of the lawyers who passed away were mentors.”

On Tuesday, attorney John Thomason hosted a continuing education seminar and book signing for his book, “Lawyers Shaping History,” and Wednesday, The Young Lawyers’ Division of the MBA hosted a happy hour event.

‘Promoting integrity’

The goals of Law Week and its events, Quinn said, include gathering lawyers, judges, paralegals and others as well as “(promoting) the integrity of the legal system” for the benefit of the public.

“One of our purposes is also to try and ensure the confidence of the public in the legal system. But it’s a celebration, too, in the sense of us lawyers taking pride in what we do also … (recognizing) some of our efforts over the course of the year,” Quinn said.

One method of improving and promoting the public’s confidence in the profession was the “Lawyers Stand Up For You” Schools Program.

Throughout the week, volunteer attorneys visited local high schools. Students learned how the lawyers’ work affects the lives of Memphians, particularly young people, and asked a wide range of questions. The volunteer lawyers covered various legal topics, ranging from gang violence prevention to student privacy rights, pro bono work for the indigent and how the criminal justice system works.

“It’s hard in these days and times, with the economy and people’s busy lives, but in the future, I hope we can get people to take a little time to stand back and feel proud to be a lawyer and be a part of the legal community,” said Anne Fritz, the local bar association’s executive director.

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