Committees of the Chattanooga Bar Association
Committees of the Chattanooga Bar Association
Fee Dispute/Arbitration - Barry Abbott and Paul Hatcher, Co-Chair
The Fee Dispute Resolution Committee [hereinafter “the Committee”] shall be comprised of current members of the Chattanooga Bar Association [hereinafter “the Association”] who are in good standing with the Association and with the State of Tennessee Supreme Court’s Board of Professional Responsibility. The primary duty of the Committee shall be to arbitrate or otherwise attempt to reconcile disputes between attorneys and/or between attorneys and their clients [collectively, “the Parties”] regarding justification and reasonableness of fees charged or claimed [“disputes”]. The Committee or the Association shall refer all other matters not directly bearing upon fees to the appropriate decision-making body. The Committee shall conduct its work in accordance with these Policies and Title 29, Chapter 5 of the Tennessee Code (T.C.A. Secs. 29-5-101—29-5-320 and all updates thereto). In the event of a conflict between these Policies and the Code, the provisions of the Code shall be controlling.
1. JURISDICTION. The Committee shall consider only such disputes as are referred by the Association. Generally, those disputes must have arisen between clients and their attorneys practicing in Chattanooga, Hamilton County, Tennessee, who consent to arbitration, including, but not limited to, members of the Chattanooga Bar Association. It is not a purpose of the Committee to hear or resolve matters that are more properly matters for the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility [“BPR”], and the parties shall be so advised and offered contact information for the BPR at the intake level of the fee dispute resolution process by the Association. The Association will not entertain and will not refer any dispute to the Committee unless one of the Parties to the dispute has filed a written, signed complaint preferably on a form developed and maintained by the Association. Nor will the Association refer disputes originating:
a. In cases wherein a court or agency has mandatory or discretionary power to fix fees, except upon request of the court or agency;
b. In undecided cases pending in any court or federal or state administrative agency, provided that arbitration of said cases is not preempted by deferral to the National Labor Relations Board.
(1) except upon request of the court or agency; or
(2) unless all Parties to said dispute agree in writing to seek and obtain an order of the court or administrative agency where said dispute is pending, placing the matter on hold or in abeyance pending the arbitration; and agree in writing that the arbitration award shall be final and binding on all Parties and that the prevailing Parties shall thereafter enroll the arbitration award in said court or before said administrative agency as a final judgment in the pending matter, for which execution may issue pursuant to law as required in order to enforce said judgment. A copy of such order of the court or administrative agency shall be submitted to the Association along with the Parties’ written consent to arbitration BEFORE the matter may proceed through the fee dispute resolution process herein described.
2. RECONCILIATION. Recognizing that fee disputes often result from misunderstandings, the Committee may, through investigation and persuasion, first attempt to clarify any misunderstandings and to amicably reconcile disputes. In fulfilling this approach, the Association or Committee (or their designee) may encourage the Parties to discuss their dispute for potential resolution before submitting it for arbitration through this Program.
3. ARBITRATION. Failing reconciliation pursuant to Paragraph 2 above, the Association shall suggest binding arbitration to the disputants pursuant to Title 29, Chapter 5 of the Tennessee Code (T.C.A. Secs. 29-5-101—29-5-320 and all updates thereto), in conjunction with and as set forth in these Policies.
4. COMPOSITION OF THE HEARING PANEL. The Panel consists of three members of the Fee Dispute Committee who must be members in good standing of the Chattanooga Bar Association. The Association shall identify and designate those individuals. The Executive Director of the Association shall designate one of the Panel to serve as Panel Hearing Chair. The Association shall make an effort to include on the Panel at least one lawyer who practices in the area involved in the dispute. If any Panel member has a conflict of interest or even the appearance of a conflict of interest, that Panel member shall not serve. If three Panel members are not able to attend the scheduled hearing, the hearing shall be continued, unless both Parties consent in writing to have a hearing panel of less than three members.
The hearing shall be conducted in accordance with the general principles of the Tennessee Rules of Evidence and the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure, provided such Rules shall be construed liberally in order to provide the Parties a full and fair opportunity to present their respective positions to the arbitration panel. One of the panel members shall serve as Panel Chair and shall preside over the proceedings. At all hearings, any or all panel members may examine witnesses. The Parties may examine witnesses in person or through counsel. Hearings may be suspended and/or adjourned to a day certain to meet the ends of justice.
5. SCHEDULING OF THE HEARING. All Parties to the arbitration shall cooperate with the Association in timely scheduling the hearing. The Executive Director shall provide available dates to the Parties. Should the Parties fail to reasonably cooperate in the scheduling process, the Executive Director shall have the authority to terminate the scheduling process and to administratively close the Association’s file on the matter, giving all Parties written notice thereof which cites the failure to timely schedule the hearing as the reason for the administrative file closure. Thereafter, the Executive Director shall provide the complaining Party(ies) with contact information for the BPR.
6. NOTICE OF HEARING. At least ten (10) business days prior to the scheduled hearing, written notice of the hearing date, time and place shall be sent by the Association to all Parties at their address on record with the Association by regular and/or certified U.S. mail, return receipt requested, and/or by electronic mail with a return “read receipt.” The notice to the Respondent shall be accompanied by a complete copy of the Complaint except that the Association may invite the Respondent to visit the Association offices prior to the hearing to review any Complaint exhibits too numerous and/or costly to duplicate (the latter as determined in the opinion of the Executive Director of the Association). Alternatively, notice of the hearing and a scanned copy of the Complaint may be sent to the Parties electronically at least five (5) business days prior to the scheduled hearing.
7. NO OFFER OF LEGAL ADVICE. It is not the purpose of the Committee to advise any party of his/her/its legal rights or options concerning any fee dispute submitted to the Committee for resolution. Neither the Association nor the Committee shall render any legal advice to any complaining or responding party about such Party’s legal rights or options as to the fee dispute between them.
8.FEE DISPUTES UNDER $500. A panel of three (3) Association members may be selected by the Association to make a summary disposition of disputes involving claims or amounts of under $500.00. Such dispositions may be made without the Parties present. The Association will provide, through the most economical means, all three panel members with any and all relevant paperwork concerning the dispute. Within a specified period of time but no more than ten (10) business days from the sending of the paperwork, the panel shall exchange among themselves their recommendations for resolution of the fee dispute. Following unanimous resolution among the panel members, the Panel Chair shall prepare and forward to the Association a written Award. The Award shall be sent to the Association within no more than ten (10) business days from the date the panel achieved unanimous resolution. No in-person hearing with the disputants will be held; and the panel will meet in person only if the panel desires or needs to do so in order to achieve unanimous resolution. Such an in-person disposition session will be at the Panel Chair’s discretion. Thereafter, the Association will forward copies of the Award to the disputants or their counsel within no more than thirty (30) calendar days from the date upon which the Association initially forwarded all paperwork to the panel for consideration.
9. FAILURE OF A PARTY TO APPEAR. In the event a party fails to appear at a duly scheduled hearing after being given adequate and sufficient notice, an award by default [“Default Award”] will be rendered favoring the appearing party. The non-appearing party will have ten (10) business days from the U.S. mailing date of a copy of the Default Award or five (5) business days from the electronic transmission of the Award within which to make a WRITTEN request for a new hearing. The request shall state the reason(s) for the non-appearing party’s failure to appear at the hearing. To be effective, the Association must RECEIVE said request by 5:00 p.m. EST/ESDST either by the 10th day (if mailed) or 5th day (if electronically transmitted). Failing timely receipt by the Association of such request, the Default Award shall be final and binding on the Parties. Upon timely receipt of a request for a new hearing, the Committee Chair shall determine if the non-appearing party had reasonable grounds for not appearing at the hearing. If the Committee Chair determines (in his/her opinion) that the non-appearing party did not have reasonable grounds, the Default Award shall be entered as the final Award of the panel. If the Committee Chair determines (in his/her opinion) that the non-appearing party did have reasonable grounds, a new hearing shall be scheduled in accordance with these Policies. Any doubt as to whether the non-appearing party had reasonable grounds for failing to appear shall beresolved in favor of the non-appearing party.
10. FINDINGS. The hearing panel may announce its findings at the conclusion of the hearing. Alternatively, the panel may adjourn the hearing in order to deliberate privately outside of the presence of the Parties. Thereafter, the panel must render its findings in the form of a written Award and written Opinion (the latter being optional at the discretion of the Hearing Panel and which may detail any practice observations and/or recommendations for the benefit of the respondent attorney) prepared by the Panel Chair; circulated among, approved and signed by each panel member; and tendered to the Association for dissemination to the Parties and/or their counsel of record. The Award shall be separate from any Opinion. The Panel shall tender its written Award and Opinion to the Association offices within thirty (30) calendar days from the concluding date of the hearing. The Committee Chair for just cause may extend this period, with written notice (electronic or otherwise) of the extension being given to the parties. Said Award must be by majority vote.
11. ENFORCEMENT OF THE AWARD.
a. In any case in which both an attorney and his/her client have signed a consent to binding arbitration through this Program, said consent will be considered a binding agreement under the laws of the State of Tennessee and any award rendered may be enforced by any court of competent jurisdiction.
b. If the award shall determine that the attorney who consented to binding arbitration is not entitled to any portion of the disputed fee, service of a copy of such award on said attorney(s) shall:
(1) Terminate all claims and/or interests of the attorney against the participating client(s) with respect to the subject matter of the arbitration; and
(2) Terminate all right of such attorney to retain possession of any original documents, records or other properties of such client(s) pertaining to the subject matter of the arbitration then held under claim of attorney’s lien or for other reasons.
c. If either party is unable to promptly pay in full the amount of any award rendered, application may be made to the court having jurisdiction for a determination of means deemed to adequately secure payment. When such a determination of means shall have been made and the terms thereof have been promptly fulfilled by the client(s), such compliance shall entitle the client to the relief specified in the foregoing paragraph.
12. REVIEW/APPEAL OF AWARD. There shall be no review and/or appeal of any Award rendered pursuant to this Program except in the manner provided in Title 29, Chapter 5 of the Tennessee Code. Should any disputing Party opt to submit any Award hereunder to a Court of competent jurisdiction for judgment enrollment and enforcement, the prevailing Party shall be entitled to recover attorney’s fees and court costs for doing so, in addition to any other award of that Court.
13. FORMS. The Association may from time to time develop, maintain and update various forms to support and streamline the dispute resolution process. Such forms may include, but not be limited to, the Complaint, the Agreement to Arbitrate, the Notice of Hearing, and the Arbitrator’s Conflict of Interest Disclosure Form. The Association may, at the discretion of the Executive Director, feature these forms along with the current version of these Policies on the public side of the Association website or through other forms of media available to the public.
14. CONFIDENTIALITY. All records, documents, files, proceedings and recorded notes of the hearing, if any, pertaining to arbitration of any fee dispute under these Policies in which both the client in question and the attorney have consented to be bound by the result, shall not be opened to the public or any person not involved in the dispute, except as necessary to carry out enforcement of the Award; as may be ordered by a court of competent jurisdiction; or as may be required by the Tennessee Rules of Professional Conduct of the Supreme Court of Tennessee (TSC Rule 8) to report to the Board of Professional Responsibility respecting the conduct of any attorney.
15. PROGRAM COSTS. To the degree feasible, the Association will offer and continue to offer this fee dispute resolution program without cost or charge to the public, Association member attorneys, and any non-Association attorney practicing in the Greater Chattanooga Area. Subject to Committee review and approval by the Association Board of Governors, the Association may implement a nominal fee schedule to cover its costs of administering the program.
Bylaws – Board of Governors
As the Chattanooga Bar Association grows and changes, there may be a need for the bylaws to be expanded and changed. Periodically, the bylaws committee shall get together to review the existing bylaws to ensure changes do not need to be made. Also, the Board of Directors may wish to amend the bylaws in some way - a task that is assigned to the bylaws committee. When that happens, the committee should meet to discuss the proposed changes. At that point, the draft of changes is made and presented to the Board of Governors for vote. Once the bylaws have been approved by the Board, the committee is then tasked with presenting them to the membership at the Annual Meeting once again for final approval vote.
Chattanooga Lawyers Assistance Program -
The purpose of this committee is to provide assistance to lawyers suffering from alcoholism, addiction or other mental or emotional problems that impair the lawyers’ ability to practice law.
Civility /Professionalism Committee – Honorable Curtis L. Collier, Chair
Reports to the CBA Board of Governors on ethics issues and is responsible for developing programs to maintain highest professional standards and practices. This committee also serves to make a positive contribution to the promotion of civility in the legal profession in Hamilton County.
LRS (Lawyer Referral Service) – Steven M. Jacoway, Chair
LRS is “Lawyer Referral Service”, a Service provided by the Chattanooga Bar Association. LRS purpose is to connect consumers to our attorneys in a friendly and professional manner. LRS can help prepare consumers to hire an attorney by providing general information about law and legal issues. LRS is made up of a group of attorney members of the Chattanooga Bar Association. The responsibility of the committee is to seek committee members interested in enhancing CLIPS’ ability to serve both the public and members. Members work to enhance this Service operation in the areas of marketing, expansion into diverse communities, revenue generation, service to clients and attorneys, and other areas that will benefit client and program.
Continuing Legal Education -
This committee shall work closely with the executive director. It shall make a continuing study of all substantive, procedural and administrative laws as interpreted by courts and agencies. It shall continuously solicit suggestions from members of the Association as to areas of the law wherein additional education is desired, and shall conduct periodic seminars in areas found to be of particular interest and importance, especially in regard to new laws and decisions and in areas most beneficial to young lawyers. It shall report through the Association’s Hamilton County Herald newsletter such news as may be of interest by way of continuing legal education. Finally, the committee is responsible for the monthly CLE programs of the Chattanooga Bar Association. The primary mission of the CLE Committee is to provide CBA members with affordable, high-quality continuing legal education seminars in numbers sufficient to help them satisfy annual CLE requirements. Each year, the CBA sponsors numerous live and online CLE seminars from which it derives a significant portion of its annual budget. The CLE Committee assists the Executive Director develop these programs utilizing volunteer speakers on local, state and national levels.
Court Relations Committee - Honorable L. Marie Williams , Chair
This committee is dedicated to dealing with matters of interest to Bench and Bar and to improve relationships and communications between the judiciary and local attorneys. The committee assists the executive director to formulate and administer the polling of CBA members to obtain periodic evaluations of the judiciary and certain other political offices for dissemination to the general public.
This committee shall consist of at least four (4) members, predominantly mature lawyers, reflecting all areas of law practice. Its duty shall be to: maintain constant communication with all courts at all levels, including the District Attorney and all law enforcement agencies; offer, voluntarily and as requested, advice on all matters of procedure, court rules, court housing, jail facilities, treatment of prisoners and jury selection and treatment, both grand and petit; investigate complaints against judges and court clerks and their ministerial officers and attendants in the conduct of their offices and report its findings in writing to the Board of Governors with recommendation; encourage public respect for the court system as the constitutional arbiter of individual and community rights; and arrange and conduct appropriate ceremonies upon the installation of judges.
Diversity Opportunities Committee - , Chair
The Diversity Opportunities Committee will foster in the Chattanooga legal community a climate of awareness of the particular needs of the minority lawyers and to implement programs designed to ensure that every attorney will have the opportunity to succeed professionally and participate in the affairs of the legal community without regard to race, color, creed, religion or gender.
Executive Committee of the Board
This committee consists of the President, President-Elect, Secretary, Treasurer, and Executive Director of the Association.
Law Related Education Committee -
Law Related Education provides for pairing law firms/attorneys with teachers from schools in Hamilton County, City, Private and Home Schools.
Legislative - Nicole Osborne, Chair
This committee shall consist of at least eight (8) members. It is not a duty of this committee to initiate legislation, but rather to cooperate with appropriate committees in the drafting of legislation approved by the Board of Governors and to lobby its passage. It shall maintain constant liaison with the Legislative Delegation from Hamilton County and shall keep abreast of legislation pending in the General Assembly of Tennessee affecting the legal profession and the judicial system and other legislation in which the legal profession should have an advisory interest, and shall report in writing to the Board of Governors its findings and recommendations regarding all such legislation.
Memorial - Committee
This committee shall consist of at least eight (8) members, predominately mature lawyers. Its duty shall be to prepare suitable Memorial Resolutions regarding deceased members for approval by the Board of Governors. After the Annual Memorial Service held in March, these Resolutions are to be filed in the permanent records/archives of the Chattanooga Bar Association and be enrolled in the Memorial Resolutions Book of the Circuit and Chancery Courts of Chattanooga, Tennessee; and copies are to be presented to the family member as a token of the esteem and honor in which the attorney has been held. At the annual membership meeting, the committee shall offer an appropriate resolution in memory of all members dying during the previous year.
Mentor Committee – David Kesler, Chair
The “One to One” Mentor Program matches a new attorney to a mentor in a similar geographic location or area of practice. For a year following the match, new attorneys and their mentors can discuss a variety of topics including law office management, practical considerations in setting up an office, how to develop a client base, and other issues that may not have been addressed in law school. Participants are asked that they provide the Chattanooga Bar Association an evaluation of the program after the first six months, and again after the year is over. Participants and their mentors may continue after the first year if they so choose. Mentors wanting to participate in the program must have five years experience, be Chattanooga Bar Association members in good standing, have no formal disciplinary sanctions during the past five years, and have malpractice insurance if in private practice.
Mock Trial – YLD
A project of the Young Lawyers Division, the Mock Trial Committee is charged with organizing and running the annual mock trial competition in Hamilton County, which in turn is part of the State competition. All of the high schools in Hamilton County are invited to participate in the trials, and CBA members volunteer to participate as "coaches" and as judges. The mock trial is held in the court house.
Nominating Committee - Executive Committee and Executive Director
The executive committee of the Association serves as the nominating committee. The duties of the nominating committee are: to ensure the board and individual board members are evaluated on a regular basis; to maintain records of current board directors’ skills, experiences, and terms of service; to analyze the current board’s skills and areas for improvement, as well as anticipating the future needs of the board; to develop selection criteria to be used in the recruitment process; to initiate the brainstorming of potential candidates with the help of the board and the organization; to screen suitable candidates according to the selection criteria; to recommend successful individuals to the board of directors; and to ensure the new board members receive proper orientation and other necessary training.
To be most effective in ensuring the right candidates are considered, the selection criteria must consider the composition of the current board, the current directors’ qualities, and the dynamic needs of the organization. Some basic qualities that the nominating committee considers in potential board members include the candidates’ overall interest and enthusiasm in serving on the board; level of integrity; team work skills; ability to think for the future; time availability and time constraints; and ability to support fundraising.
The nominating committee is fundamental to the board’s recruitment strategy and serves as the lead in the continuous process.
Unauthorized Practice of Law -Bill Colvin and Sam Elliott, Co-Chair
This committee shall consist of at least four (4) members, whose duty shall be to: investigate all reports, and complaints of unauthorized legal practice by non-lawyers, corporations, banks, insurance companies, real estate agents, collection agencies, or any other persons or agencies, and lawyers who abet such practice. If any unauthorized practitioner fails or refuses to cease and desist, the committee shall report its findings to the Board of Governors with recommendation.