by Kathy Para
JBA Pro Bono Committee Chair
For the fourth time this year, Jacksonville area pro bono attorneys took legal services to where the people are, providing free counsel and advice to dozens of people at an event called, simply, “Ask-a-Lawyer.” Approximately 40 people took advantage of the free legal services offered in the Faust Temple Church of God in Christ at North Point (corner of Myrtle Avenue and Moncrief Road) on Saturday, June 12.
“We believe that lawyers have been given a special gift and that they have a responsibility to give back to the community,” said Dan Bean, The Jacksonville Bar Association president. “One of the ways that we do that is by reaching out and helping members of our community resolve some of the legal issues they have.” Fifteen area attorneys took time out of their weekends to tackle those legal issues. The attorneys made a positive difference by just showing up and giving their time and expertise to people who may not have ready access to legal assistance. As people were leaving the “Ask-A-Lawyer” event, there were comments such as, “That was so helpful,” “I am very relieved,” and “What a blessing!”
This “Ask-a-Lawyer” event was held in conjunction with the Northwest Jacksonville Community Development Corporation’s (NJCDC) annual “Health and Neighbor Day” (HAND).
“Community development is all about knowledge, encouragement, and empowerment,” said Paul Tutwiler, director of the NJCDC. “That’s really the purpose of the HAND event and ‘Ask-A-Lawyer’ is a perfect complement to our goals. We’re so pleased to be able to offer the legal assistance component.”
The event took place in City Council District 8, represented by Council member E. Denise Lee. The attorneys advised people in one-on-one interviews on many areas of the law, including family law, foreclosures, small business, landlord/tenant, criminal law, wills, guardianship, civil rights, personal injury, injunctions, contracts and employment.
Attorneys participating in this “Ask-a-Lawyer” event were Imani Boykin, Kim Clayton, Ham Cooke, Adam Deli, Elizabeth Gonzalez, Tom Harper, Jamie Ibrahim, Rick Lasseter, Reese Marshall, Bruce Maxwell, Vanessa Newtson, Marty Sack, Lanesha Sims, Dana Singer and Aurora Vaca.
The attorneys represented several legal and civic organizations, including The Jacksonville Bar, the D.W. Perkins Bar, the Hispanic Bar and the West Jacksonville Rotary Club. All came together for the purpose of providing legal guidance to individuals who may not have had access to services otherwise.
“Our sincere thanks certainly go out to these many generous individuals,” said Bean. “As well as to Ms. Lee, the Northwest Jacksonville Community Development Corporation and the Faust Temple Church of God for providing the venue. ‘Ask-A-Lawyer’ is a very effective and valuable collaborative effort.”
While the attorneys did not actually accept cases at the event, they were able to analyze and evaluate people’s problems and get them moving in the right direction. Participating pro bono attorney Lanesha Sims stated, “Many times people just don’t know where to get started. The law and government bureaucracies can be daunting to many people. Events such as ‘Ask-A-Lawyer’ can provide that all-important first step.”
We’re fortunate in Jacksonville to have so many socially conscious attorneys who find time to make these events work. Ask-A-Lawyer is a relaxed and convenient place for people to come in and talk about their legal problems.
The Ask-A-Lawyer event on June 12 was featured on First Coast News, www.firstcoastnews.com.
Attorneys interested in “Ask-A-Lawyer” or other pro bono opportunities in the Fourth Judicial Circuit should contact Kathy Para, JBA Pro Bono Committee chair, [email protected], 356-8371, ext. 363.