2012 News Articles

December 8, 2012 – Memphis Daily News: Daily Digest – RedRover Co. Receives Pro Bono Service Award

Memphis sales and marketing firm RedRover Co. was one of 10 Pro Bono award recipients at a recent recognition event in Downtown Memphis as part of Celebrate Pro Bono Month in October. The event was held by the Memphis Bar Association’s Access to Justice Committee, the Community Legal Center and Memphis Area Legal Services Inc. to honor their outstanding volunteers. RedRover has volunteered to help with several Memphis Area Legal Services projects throughout the year, including a video campaign to raise awareness of the need for more pro bono legal services and private donations. RedRover Co. designed the 2012 “We’re All In” campaign to put a face to the legal aid Memphis Area Legal Services provides to those in need and to encourage the community to contribute. Read More

November 15, 2012 – Memphis Daily News: Ben F. Jones Law Chapter Chooses Officers

The Ben F. Jones chapter of the National Bar Association has tapped new officers and board members for 2013. And the group’s president-elect talks about the group’s work in a way that heralds a continuing service to the Memphis community. Imad Abdullah, an associate in the Memphis office of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz PC, is the Ben F. Jones chapter’s president-elect. Abdullah said his group intends to be at the vanguard of helping MALS, which long has been a champion of the impoverished who need legal help but can’t afford it. Memphis Area Legal Services currently is in the midst of a capital campaign to raise funds to continue supporting its work. “Our work has basically been focused on issues such as access to justice,” Abdullah said. “At the Barrister’s Ball we honored Judge John Fowlkes and Frank Cantrell and Harrison McIver of MALS. They had a shortfall of funding this year, MALS did, and the work they do is so important. We’re looking toward the future not just honoring them with an award but the chapter trying to be out front in helping them with their mission.”Read More

November 11, 2012 – The Commercial Appeal: Women To Watch: Organization Founder Helps Spread Brother’s Love To Others With Disabilities

By day, she works in finance. But in her spare time, Jillian Sweet works to help others, and that’s where her passion lies. In 2009, Sweet founded On Our Own of Memphis, a nonprofit group that provides social opportunities for young adults with developmental disabilities to increase their independence and improve their quality of life.
What challenges did you face getting an organization off the ground? Money! That was definitely a barrier when trying to start the group. Luckily, I found a nonprofit legal group (Memphis Area Legal Services) that matched with me a lawyer (Sean Hord) who did all our work pro bono. It was a tremendous help to us; I had no clue where to even start the process.Read More

November 5, 2012 – Memphis Daily News: Memphis Area Legal Services Relies On City’s Legal Community

The description of Memphis Area Legal Services Inc. as a law firm works in some ways. But unlike conventional law firms, the attorneys work with clients across several institutional boundaries that might not ordinarily be part of the services offered by a conventional law firm. And while those law firms compete with each other for business, the legal services agency relies on some of the city’s largest law firms as a front line of financial support during its annual capital campaign. “We are not here to do anything but help make Memphis a better place to live for everybody. Justice is everybody’s business. We play our part,” said MALS executive director and CEO Harrison McIver. “We need the assistance. We need the financial support as well as volunteers to help us achieve access to justice and equal justice under the law, which is etched on the U.S. Supreme Court building. We are essential to that but we are not exclusive.” “We froze salaries. We froze other benefits like retirement,” McIver said. “We’ve taken very austere measures in order to keep the doors open and keep the services going without further reductions in staff.” The organization has lost 10 full-time employees in the last two years.Read More

November 5, 2012 – Memphis Daily News: Legal Community Seeks Access, Diversity

Diversity and access to justice are some of the watchwords often heard around Memphis legal circles these days. Diversity, because of the continued concern that both men and women get equal shots at advancing up the ranks from law school all the way to the corner office. Access to justice, because of everything from the recession’s grinding toll to the ever-present scars of poverty in Memphis that all combine to make legal problems harder than ever to pay for. All of it springs from a similar place. Harrison McIver, executive director and CEO of Memphis Area Legal Services Inc., a nonprofit group that exists to provide legal help to needy Memphians, takes it all the way back to the beginning of the U.S. Constitution. On the pro bono and access to justice front, Memphis Area Legal Services is raising funds to continue supporting its work. To underscore its importance: about 19,000 people called MALS for help in 2011. The organization also raised a record $350,000 last year from private donations, but it still had to lay off staff because of congressional budget cuts that offset the additional funding. George “Buck” Lewis, a shareholder in Baker Donelson’s Memphis office, said pro bono work has never been more critical to the Memphis community because of historic levels of poverty in the city, state and country. Read More

November 1, 2012 – Memphis Daily News: Seely Sees Career at Memphis Area Legal Services as ‘Mission Work’

October was National Pro Bono Month in the legal profession, a time when attorneys are urged to use their knowledge for the greater good and help those in need. The Tennessee Supreme Court has written that “a lawyer should aspire to render at least 50 hours of pro bono publico legal services per year.” Though this is more of a suggestion than a mandate, many attorneys do want to help, and that’s where Linda Warren Seely, director of private attorney involvement for Memphis Area Legal Services Inc., comes in. Seely was born in Michigan and grew up in places such as Texas, Louisiana, Chicago and New Jersey as her father climbed a corporate ladder with Warner-Lambert pharmaceutical company. Knowing he wanted to end up back in the South, the family made its last move to Memphis, where Seely entered the University of Memphis to study education. But she soon decided to change directions and found herself, instead, preparing for law school. “I chose the law because it seems to fit with my interest in helping people and in politics and history,” Seely said. “What I do now is by far the most rewarding thing I have ever done in my life,” Seely said. “I’m a Christian and to me, this is like mission work and I feel like I can really make a difference for so many people in a way that I was not able to make in private practice.” Read More

October 25, 2012 – The Commercial Appeal: Workshop Urges Memphis-area Employers to Join Struggle Against Domestic Violence

Last April, a woman arriving to work at ServiceMaster in East Memphis was slain in the parking lot by her husband, who then took his life while co-workers watched. About the same time, a woman working for First Horizon urgently needed medical care at her home and though her life was in danger, but her husband denied her care. She was saved when concerned co-workers ultimately triggered a home visit by Memphis police. Panelists at a workshop highlighting the need for domestic violence awareness and policies for Memphis-area employers on Thursday used statistics, warnings of legal liability ranging from $1 million to $40 million and real-world examples to support the point. An attorney who helps abuse victims obtain civil orders of protection, Shayla Purifoy of Memphis Area Legal Services, also advised employers to have zero tolerance for domestic violence, but recommended more understanding for victims. “The last thing you want to do is give the abuser power by firing that person,” Purifoy said. Read More

September 13, 2012 – Memphis Business Quarterly: Are You In? Memphis Area Legal Services’ New Fundraising Campaign

Memphis Area Legal Services (MALS) is launching its “We’re All In” campaign targeting legal professionals with a goal of increasing private donations and decreasing the organization’s government dependence. MALS helps more than 12,000 people annually, but with government funding down by 18 percent this year and trending toward even more significant decreases, the organization’s budget could come down over $500,000 by 2014. That translates to turning away 8,400 people in need of legal services, and MALS already has to turn away 66 percent of applicants because of lack of funding. Read More

August 29, 2012 – The Commercial Appeal: Former Schnucks Workers Sue St. Louis Chain, Alleging Fraud And Deception

Eighteen former Schnucks workers have alleged fraud and deception by the St. Louis-based grocery chain in its dealings with employees before last year’s sale of Memphis area stores to Kroger. A lawsuit seeks back pay and damages for the employees, who contend Schnucks officials lied about plans to sell the chain and violated a federal law on layoff notification. The lawsuit was filed in mid-August by Memphis Area Legal Services Inc. and was removed to U.S. District Court in Memphis Tuesday on a motion from Schnucks’ attorneys. Frank Cantrell, legal services deputy director and general counsel, said the lawsuit speaks for itself. He added, “Memphis Area Legal Services represents 18 hardworking people who worked for Schnucks. They deserved to be told the truth. Instead, what they were told was not true, and they suffered real harm.” Read More

August 16, 2012 – Memphis Daily News: MALS History Stretches Far Back

Context for a capital drive launched by Memphis Area Legal Services Inc. to pull the organization back from the financial brink can be found in MALS’ history, including its formation in the wake of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Low-income Memphians needed courtroom champions and general legal counsel, and they still do. The organization currently is in a tight spot financially, though, which is the reason for its “We’re All In” campaign. MALS got started in the first place thanks to more than two dozen attorneys led by former Tennessee Attorney General Mike Cody, and in June 1968 the Neighborhood Legal Services Project opened its doors in the old Centenary Methodist Church on Mississippi Boulevard. MALS later settled on its current name to better reflect its expansion of service into Fayette, Lauderdale and Tipton counties. Read More

August 9, 2012 – Memphis Daily News: MALS Capital Drive Under Way

Memphis Area Legal Services Inc. exists to provide crucial legal help and representation to needy Memphians. To keep doing that in the face of continued funding cuts and a consistently full caseload, though, the organization has decided it could use a little help of its own. To underscore the situation now facing the organization: about 19,000 people called MALS for help in 2011. The organization also raised a record $350,000 last year from private donations, but it still had to lay off staff because of congressional budget cuts that offset the additional funding. “We must help MALS reduce dependency on governmental funding before our community is in dire straits,” reads a flyer that’s been prepared as part of the campaign. “And that starts at home – with you. With the legal community on board and ‘all in,’ we are in a much stronger position for a general public appeal in 2013.” Read More

July 29, 2012 –Commercial Appeal: Women to Watch: Passion for defending victims of domestic violence lifetime calling

Sonja White’s passion for defending domestic violence victims stems from the childhood experience of watching a lady in her South Memphis neighborhood get brutally beaten by her husband on a regular basis. “It seemed like every Friday night he’d be outside beating her brains out,” said White, managing attorney for the Domestic Violence/Family Law Unit of Memphis Area Legal Services Inc. “As a kid, you become desensitized. It became almost like entertainment. Violence in people’s home was something no one got involved with.” Sexual assault is becoming prevalent, and Memphis is not alone in that. There are just too many barriers for victims to overcome to be found credible enough to prosecute offenders. And there are a lot of same-sex cases that we are uncomfortable with as a community that we need to take more seriously. Read More

June 16, 2012 –Commercial Appeal: Stop abuse of elderly, Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell says

Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell remembers when he became passionate about elder care. After being elected Shelby County Sheriff in 2002, Luttrell learned of a group within the office who would check on the welfare of area residents, often elderly people who don’t have loved ones nearby. “I became convinced this was a public safety issue,” he said. Luttrell spoke of the importance of caring for older residents at a World Elder Abuse Awareness Day event at Lindenwood Christian Church Friday morning, bringing together a variety of resources to protect the elderly. The event was presented by Memphis Jewish Home & Rehab, YWCA, the Aging Commission of the Mid-South, Shelby County Crime Victims Center and Memphis Area Legal Services. Read More

April 26, 2012 –Memphis Daily News: Family Ties Inspired Baptist to Pursue Law

Ahsaki Baptist, an associate in the Memphis office of Wyatt Tarrant & Combs LLP who’s been with the firm for five years, was surrounded by the law growing up. She also enjoys pro bono work, and is proud of Wyatt Tarrant’s focus on it. “When I first started, I got involved with Memphis Area Legal Services and got a pro bono case,” she said. “I think a lot of times you don’t realize how special lawyers are, in the fact that we have a special skill that can help people. “The fact that I was able to help one of my pro bono clients that wouldn’t otherwise have been able to get legal assistance – I think that really brings home why I’m doing what I’m doing.” Read More

March 16, 2012 –PoliticalNews.me: Alexander Praises Nomination of Judge John Thomas Fowlkes, Jr.

At a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee, U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) introduced Judge John Thomas Fowlkes, Jr., of Memphis, nominated to be United States District Judge for the Western District of Tennessee, calling him a “nominee.” Alexander said in his introduction of Judge Fowlkes:… …“I knew his reputation but I took the time after the president nominated to study his qualifications further and to meet personally with him and I’m impressed. He devotes 50 hours a year of service to the Board of Memphis Area Legal Services, he’s active in support of the Boy Scouts, he’s devoted himself to the community in which he lives. I’m sure the committee will carefully examine his judicial qualifications, but from my vantage point his reputation is excellent, he’s served well as a judge for our state, he’s well respected in his community, and I would recommend that the committee approve him and move him on to the Senate for full consideration. Read More

February 18, 2012 – Memphis Business Journal: Memphis Area Legal Services Gets IRS Grant

Memphis Area Legal Services Inc. has been awarded a $53,000 grant by the Internal Revenue Service. The award was part of $9 million in matching grants the IRS is making to organizations in 2012 that provide Low Income Taxpayer Clinics. MALS was one of three organizations in the state to receive the funds. Low Income Tax Clinics represent low-income taxpayers in federal tax controversies with the IRS for free or for a nominal charge and/or provide tax education and outreach for taxpayers who speak English as a second language.Read More

January 6, 2012 – The Memphis Flyer: For The Defense

A lot was said over the past year about the haves and have-nots, about the 1 percent and the rest of us, about the growing income gap in America. In Memphis, we’ve been told it’s even worse; we live in the poorest big city in America. As the public defender for Shelby County, I see the results of this disparity firsthand. Every day in the criminal justice system, our office represents hundreds of people who are threatened with loss of liberty and cannot afford representation. In the civil courts, scores of attorneys assist the growing number of those who cannot hire a lawyer; many of these attorneys work without compensation. An estimated four-fifths of low-income Americans do not have access to a lawyer when they need one. Independent nonprofit legal aid programs like Memphis Area Legal Services (MALS) are working to bridge this gap. Created in the wake of Dr. King’s death over 40 years ago, MALS exists to help those who cannot afford basic legal advice or advocacy. Read More

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