Sunday, April 5, 2009

Lawyers give free legal advice and help with wills

By Kate Howard • THE TENNESSEAN • April 5, 2009 Don Barnes came to a legal clinic Saturday with a tiny but important reason he needs a new will: his 10-month-old son.
Barnes, a Metro police officer, acknowledges it's not something you think about all the time, until you have a close call. When he heard about a chance to get it done free, he knew he couldn't put it off.
"I needed an updated will because we have two kids now," Barnes said. "I've heard the prices quoted more than $300 or $400 for this, so this is a significant savings." The clinic for first responders was part of 4All, an initiative by the Tennessee Bar Association that encourages attorneys to donate more of their time. Lawyers call it "working pro bono." Dozens of legal clinics were free to the public across the state Saturday, providing more than 1,000 people with legal advice or help with documents and family matters or bankruptcy, the
Tennessee Bar Association said. Kristal Hall Boone, a Brentwood-based attorney, organized the "Wills for Heroes" event at the Metro Police Department's South Precinct on Saturday. More than 40 attorneys and paralegals volunteered to produce the wills and witness the signing of the documents.
"They provide an important service for the community, and they're putting their lives on the line every day," Boone said.
"They definitely need to make sure their estates are taken care of, and this free service is an incentive for them to go ahead and get it done."
Wendy and Andy Belew have three children, and they've never had a will. Andy Belew is a detective with the South Precinct, and his wife says the possibility they might suddenly need to have the documents in place has never been far from her mind.
"We've known for years we needed to get this done," Wendy Belew said. "This was a great opportunity."
The state Supreme Court also has made access to justice one of its priorities. The court announced a new commission on Friday aimed at addressing the crisis of growing civil needs, and passed new rules meant to encourage lawyers to do more pro bono work.

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