By Jane Salem, staff attorney, Nashville
It’s hard not to like Oprah Winfrey. She’s the fourth most admired woman in America and of course, a Tennessean. For decades now, she has annually created a list called “Oprah’s favorite things” recommending holiday gifts. She stole the name from The Sound of Music. So I think it’s okay that I stole the idea from Oprah.
These are a few of this staff attorney’s favorite things. They’re not gifts. But they do help me do my job, and many entertain me to some degree as well.
Disclaimer: These are things I’m listing, not the judges. Please don’t interpret this post as the Court of Workers’ Compensation Claims endorsing products, services or people. I’m simply telling you about a few tools that help me do my job. Although I’m court staff, what I do isn’t that much different from what practitioners in our Court do. I’m humbly hoping that my list might be helpful to you, too.
That said, let’s move on.
Daily, practically hourly, I log onto TNComp, the Court’s electronic filing system. I’m biased, but the system has dramatically streamlined operations and efficiency. It’s free and easy to use.
Sure, you can still file documents by mail, hand delivery, fax or email. But why? Those methods take longer to process because they require more human intervention. The Bureau invested time, money and creative energy to make this aspect of workers’ compensation law easier. Take advantage of it, if you haven’t already.
Almost daily, I use LEXIS for legal research. I remember how difficult both LEXIS and Westlaw were in the ‘90s during law school. These days, it’s like doing a Google search. I didn’t choose LEXIS, but rather the State of Tennessee did (again, not an endorsement). It gets the job done quickly, and I have confidence in it. I’ve used other systems, including Fastcase, free with many bar association memberships including Tennessee. They’re all fine.
But also, the Bureau arranged for CourtListener as a repository for workers’ compensation cases from the Court and Appeals Board. The Appeals Board also posts all of their decisions on their web page. Both are free. LawServer publishes the Workers’ Compensation Law online for free. Additionally, the Court’s website links to our rules. And the Secretary of State publishes all effective rules, including the Bureau’s, at its website.
I urge you to take advantage of any and all; do your legal research! I say that only because occasionally we still come across pleadings that say the judge should give the Workers’ Compensation Law a liberal construction. That hasn’t been so since 2014. Plus, the Appeals Board releases opinions often. The case law is rapidly developing. We have to keep up.
As any workers’ comp practitioner knows, this field requires legal and medical knowledge. For that, I turn to the Bureau’s AdMIRable Review. Full disclosure: I help in a small way with this scholarly journal. But I’m not referring to my meager contributions; I’m talking about what our medical directors have to say.
For example, a recent issue on the pandemic offered valuable information from Drs. Snyder and Talmadge about rating workers who’ve suffered the virus from a work-related exposure. No cases have been adjudicated involving injury or death from the virus yet, but it’s only a matter of time.
Another recent issue had an extremely helpful article about common mistakes physicians make when rating upper-extremity injuries. Shoulder injuries occur fairly frequently, and anything to help non-medical professionals understand the Guides better is always appreciated. I have seen attorneys successfully point out flaws in a physician’s methodology that the doctors mention in this article.
Now for some of the more fun favorite things.
All judges on the Court of Workers’ Compensation Claims are members of the National Association of Workers’ Compensation Judiciary. Through that affiliation, they’ve learned from workers’ comp judges across the country. One of them is Florida Judge David Langham, who publishes an excellent, thought-provoking blog entitled Florida Workers’ Comp Adjudication. It’s a great read, and he was the inspiration to create our blog.
I previously noted that FastCase is a benefit of some bar memberships, including Tennessee. I’m a member of the Tennessee bar on my own dime, mostly because I enjoy starting my workdays with coffee and TBA Today. It’s a comprehensive source for legal news in Tennessee and beyond.
Later in the mornings, I enjoy Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day emails. I typically read the subject line and try to predict what he’s going to say about the proper use of a word. Now that’s entertainment . . . for us grammar nerds. For example, did you know that “seldom” is both an adjective and an adverb, and that “seldomly” is a nonword? I can’t wait to bring that up with the family over holiday meals.
For other news, check out WorkCompCentral, some of which is available by subscription and some is free. Occasionally they repost articles from this blog. They have excellent editorial judgment.
The last favorite thing I’ll mention is a podcast.
Is there anything better than walking your dog and learning about evidence and proof at the same time? No, I don’t think so. The next time Rover needs some time outdoors, give Excited Utterance a listen. Vanderbilt Law School Prof. Edward Cheng created it and co-produces. He’s brilliant, and the program interviews scholars from across the country. The audience is attorneys.
I’m sure I’m forgetting something that helps me live my best life as a workers’ compensation staff attorney. Let me know whatever I haven’t mentioned that you use to do your workers’ comp job in the comments.