2022 Award Recipient
The American Bar Association Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services has selected The Debt Relief Clinic, to receive the 2022 Louis M. Brown Award for Legal Access.
The Tennessee Bar Association Young Lawyer’s Division, Legal Aid of East Tennessee, and U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Suzanne Bauknight developed a virtual debt relief clinic, partnering with the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services, Tennessee Supreme Court Access to Justice Initiative, and local bar organizations to serve moderate-income clients in the Eastern District who earn up to 200% of the federal poverty level. The virtual clinic has been held four times since the fall of 2020, expanding each time to serve additional counties, with plans to expand across the state in 2022.
The clinic is robustly supported by the private bar, with at least 20 attorneys volunteering to serve 37 clients. Judge Bauknight welcomes clients and volunteers, presenting an overview of Chapter 7 bankruptcy, after which volunteers attorneys give personalized advice to clients in private Zoom rooms.
Attorneys who conclude that bankruptcy is an appropriate option often agree to pro bono or reduced-fee bankruptcy representation, thus also generating compensation for lawyers who provide affordable services. The virtual setting improves the delivery of legal services to clients in rural communities and those unable to travel to an in-person clinic, providing a safe way for attorneys and clients to meet during the COVID-19 pandemic.