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TBA Honors Baker Donelson with Its Law Firm Pro Bono Award


Nashville, May 29, 2008 — At a dinner and gala Thursday night in Nashville, the Tennessee Bar Association presented its inaugural 2008 Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Award to two companies – Caterpillar Financial Services Corporation and International Paper – whose legal departments have shown extraordinary commitment to providing legal services at no cost to those in need. The TBA also presented its inaugural 2008 Law Firm Pro Bono Award to the Nashville office of Baker, Donelson Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz for its work on a specific pro bono project and its overall commitment to encouraging pro bono work among its attorneys.

All three recipients were chosen by a specially created selection committee from nominations submitted by attorneys across the state. Nominees were judged on their commitment to the ideals of access to justice, actual pro bono service performed and adoption of the Corporate Counsel Covenant of Service, which states that corporate attorneys have an ethical obligation to provide pro bono legal services to the poor and underserved.

Baker, Donelson Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz was selected as a recipient of the Law Firm Pro Bono Award for its work with senior citizens in the middle Tennessee area. Through a partnership with the Nashville Pro Bono Program and the advocacy group Senior Citizens Inc., Baker Donelson lawyers conduct legal clinics, providing assistance to seniors on a range of elder law issues such as TennCare claims, nursing home care and basic estate planning. The firm was selected not just for this outstanding program, but also for the commitment of its leadership to pro bono work. In the past year, the firm has adopted new policies and procedures to encourage pro bono work by employees, including awarding credit for pro bono work, and has named Birmingham, Ala. shareholder Lisa Borden to manage pro bono initiatives. It also has created a firm-wide Pro Bono Committee – chaired by Nashville shareholder Jonathan Cole – with an attorney pro bono coordinator in each of its offices.

Caterpillar Financial Services Corporation was chosen to receive the Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Award for its corporate commitment to pro bono work as well as the individual commitment of its legal department members. In 2006, Caterpillar Financial launched a formal pro bono program with an employee-run coordinating committee and set an internal volunteer participation goal of 50 percent. After surveying needs at Nashville area charities, the committee selected two organizations with which to partner. For both Renewal House, a treatment and counseling center for addicted mothers and their children, and Hospital Hospitality House, a home away from home for families and patients receiving medical treatment in Nashville, the company has provided tax and business law assistance to management as well as individualized legal services to residents. Caterpillar Financial also joined the Senior Citizens Inc. effort and assisted them with two legal clinics for the elderly in April and May of this year. As of December 2007, Caterpillar Financial had devoted more than 915 hours to pro bono service and had achieved an employee participation rate of greater than 83 percent – well beyond its initial goal.

International Paper was recognized for the individual commitment of its legal team, as well as its corporate commitment to pro bono work. Many of the legal department’s attorneys perform pro bono work on a regular basis and serve in leadership positions with legal aid organizations in the Memphis area. As a corporation, International Paper regularly contributes financially to Memphis Area Legal Services; has sponsored the TBA’s Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Initiative two years in a row; and was the first corporate legal department in Tennessee to participate in the Street Law Program, which involved presenting information about contract and employment law and serving as mentors to high school students.

The TBA’s Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Initiative was launched in 2006 as a joint effort between the TBA Access to Justice Committee, the TBA Corporate Counsel Section and the Association of Corporate Counsel. The goal of the initiative is to help foster a coordinated approach to pro bono work in Tennessee, and generate support for the access to justice community from corporate counsel in the state. The group helps corporate attorneys find ways to serve, raises funds for pro bono project grants, and holds an annual reception and dinner to recognize outstanding pro bono service.

The Tennessee Bar Association (TBA) is the largest professional association in Tennessee with 10,000 members. Founded in 1881, the TBA provides opportunities for continuing legal education, professional development and public service. The TBA's dedication to serving the state's legal community is evidenced by its membership roll, which represents the entire spectrum of legal practice: plaintiff and defense lawyers, corporate counsel, judges, prosecutors, public defenders, government lawyers and legal services attorneys.

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