Attorney Virginia Love and Judge Jeffrey Hollingsworth are the newest members of Legal Aid of East Tennessee (LAET)’s Pro Bono Hall of Fame. The legal aid organization inducted the two esteemed members of the Chattanooga Bar into the Hall of Fame during a reception held at its offices Thursday, Oct. 23. Justice Holly Kirby was the keynote speaker during her first visit to Chattanooga as a member of the Tennessee Supreme Court.
“It’s an honor to be here to mark the induction into the Hall of Fame of Judge Hollingsworth and Ms. Love,” she said. “It’s hard to imagine any more deserving individuals.”
Charlie McDaniel, director of the Pro Bono Project at LAET, said the Hall of Fame recognizes those attorneys who have donated their time and expertise to Legal Aid over the years.
“We created the Hall of Fame to honor attorneys for three things: one, an attorney’s long-lasting commitment to pro bono representation; two, for consistent support of Legal Aid of East Tennessee; and three, for effective advocacy for equal access to justice for all Tennesseans,” he said during his opening remarks.
While inducting Love, McDaniel said she exemplifies all three things. “Throughout her career, Virginia has made pro bono work a priority,” McDaniel said.
Love is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Asheville and the University of Tennessee Law School. She has been an attorney at Baker Donelson for over 35 years. Her practice consists of estate planning, trust administration, tax law, corporate law, and health care law.
Love has been “very involved with organizations that exist for the betterment of legal practice and professional services in general,” McDaniel said. She has been the president of the Chattanooga Chapter of the Society of Financial Services Professionals, the Chattanooga Tax Practitioners, and the Chattanooga Estate Planning Council.
In 2014, the American Lung Association named Love a Woman of Distinction. She is also a Fellow of the Chattanooga Bar Association and the American College of Trusts and Estates Council.
Love is an adjunct professor of business law at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
“My passion for pro bono work probably emanates from my upbringing by Christian missionaries, both through their examples and the biblical directives for helping the poor, fostering justice and, in light of the biblical exhortation that, “To whom much is given, much is expected,” doing my part to give back to help make the world a better place,” Love said.
“One of the impetuses for my going to law school was my awareness, resulting from a job as a counselor of troubled youth while I was in graduate school, that many problems needed both legal and social solutions,” Love continued. “Because I was a single parent when I started my career, I could not fulfill my values to help on a full-time basis, so it has been a blessing to me to give back to my community by giving my time, skills, and financial resources to help make my corner of the world a better place for those whose lives are so impacted by poverty and lack of access to equal justice. I feel like it helps to give balance to my life by doing so. I am indeed honored to be recognized by LAET for my drop-in-the bucket contribution.”
David Fowler, executive director of LAET, inducted Judge Hollingsworth, who was unable to attend the ceremony. Hollingsworth graduated from Louisiana State University and Tulane University. He served as an assistant district attorney in East Baton Rouge and in Hamilton County. He then practiced law with Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel before ascending to the bench in 2006. “He’s served our community exceptionally well,” Fowler said. “We’re proud of him.”
Judge Hollingsworth has since said he was deeply honored to be inducted into Legal Aid’s Pro Bono Hall of Fame: “Anything I have done to assist Legal Aid in its work is a drop in the bucket of the public’s need for legal services. It is essential to the proper operation of our legal system that all citizens have access to the courts to address their grievances and protect their rights. Legal Aid and all the lawyers who give of their time and talent to represent those who cannot pay honor our profession and greatly benefit our society. I again thank Legal Aid for this honor, but much more for the work they do every day.”
During the keynote speech, Justice Kirby said the importance of pro bono has taken on greater magnitude in recent years. “The number of unrepresented litigants in our courts has skyrocketed,” she said. “The courts have become the emergency room for our country’s society ills. The most intractable social problems are finding their way to our doors in increasing numbers.”
Justice Kirby also said the pro bono work attorneys provide can immeasurably change the life of the person who receives their services. “When a pro bono lawyer helps a victim of domestic violence, it can prevent injury and save lives. When a pro bono lawyer saves a family from foreclosure, it prevents them from becoming homeless,” she said.
Pro bono also benefits the administration of justice in society, Kirby said. “Pro bono alleviates clogged courts, overworked law enforcement, overburdened shelters, and municipal services,” she said. “It also helps to maintain the spirit of idealism in our profession. Some are arguing the law profession is losing its soul, replaced by ruthlessly competitive business driven by profits. Pro bono brings back into the profession ... the lawyer as gatekeeper of justice and freedom.”
In closing, Kirby quoted Alexander Hamilton, who said the first duty of society is justice. “The pro bono work done by Ms. Love, by Judge Hollingsworth, and by all of you in this room helps our state complete its mission of achieving justice for its citizens,” she said. “The work done by each lawyer who offers his [or her] personal time, expertise, and compassion for his [or her] fellow human being allows all of us to live in a society that comes a little closer to being peaceful and just.”
Other LAET Hall of Fame members include Max Bahner, Bruce Bailey, Tom Caldwell, Bill Carriger, Dick Crotteau, Buz Dooley, Marcy Eason, Sam Elliott, Richard Ruth, Hal Schwartz, Joe Simpson, and Glenn Stophel.
For more photos, pick up a copy of the Hamilton County Herald.