by Kathy Para
JBA Pro Bono Committee Chair
Question: Combine one journalist, three law students and a diverse collection of generous and energetic pro bono attorneys and what do you get?
Answer: A wealth of interesting and inspiring stories of attorneys achieving positive outcomes for low-income, vulnerable, and underserved persons in our community.
For the past two years, since July 2009, the Financial News & Daily Record has provided space in Monday’s Jacksonville Bar Bulletin for the “Pro Bono Spotlight.”
It’s a weekly column that appears under my byline as the chair of the Pro Bono Committee of The JBA. It’s my role to organize the topics, coordinate deadlines and provide information, but it’s the amazing team of volunteer ghostwriters who are writing the vast majority of the stories we enjoy each week.
These creative and enthusiastic writers are the ones who have made two years of weekly articles possible. It’s this team that I’d like to thank with this particular article (yes, I’m writing it myself), but along with my appreciation to them, I also must thank the hundreds of pro bono attorneys who are the subjects of these articles.
First, we extend sincere thanks to our ghostwriters. Bill Johnson, a 17-year veteran journalist-turned-paralegal, helped get this endeavor started. Bill took pictures, interviewed pro bono attorneys, visited CLE seminars and helped us figure out the rhythm and process of submitting a weekly article.
After a year of consistent and creative service, Bill stepped back from this writing project to pursue other endeavors, but he was instrumental in helping us establish a workable, sustainable framework for continuing the articles.
Going forward, Karen Millard, director of Pro Bono at Florida Coastal School of Law, suggested that we recruit a team of law students to serve as writers. Millard selected three students — Jessica Hoffman, Morgan Montano and Brad Eiseman — to fill the positions.
Although the initial request was that the students write one or two articles a month for a semester, all three submitted articles for a year. Their topics included pro bono success stories, pro bono attorneys of the month, pro bono projects, pro bono resources – essentially, all things pro bono.
As did Bill, the students brought enthusiasm, fresh perspective, creativity and excellent writing skills to each assignment. They met deadlines with professionalism, determination and patience and their product was two years’ worth of many wonderful stories of pro bono involvement and opportunity.
Here’s where you, my colleagues of the Fourth Judicial Circuit, come into the story. You provided the fodder for these great articles and at the same time nurtured some of the next generation of pro bono attorneys. As the team of law students approached graduation in May and were submitting their final articles, they offered some remarks.
Morgan stated: “One of my greatest experiences in law school was being involved in pro bono work. Writing these articles allowed me to talk about others who have done the same.”
From Brad: “Writing these articles has shown me how important pro bono representation is for everyone involved including our communities and that many attorneys from all areas of law take part. It has inspired me to continue my pro bono efforts well beyond law school. Thank you for this opportunity!”
Jessica added: “I have a new appreciation for what pro bono attorneys have to offer their communities. This is a profession that truly can positively affect individuals and families in ways that last a lifetime.”
The pro bono attorneys in the Fourth Judicial Circuit provide a picture of our profession at its best – sharing legal expertise to stabilize low-income families and, as a result, helping ensure the very integrity of our judicial system.
Thanks to Bailey Publishing for providing the space for the “Pro Bono Spotlight” articles. Thanks to our team of ghostwriters for composing the articles week after week. Thanks to the hundreds of pro bono attorneys in the Fourth Judicial Circuit who faithfully serve low-income persons with professionalism, energy and compassion.
What we describe in the “Pro Bono Spotlight” is the tip of the iceberg. We are deeply grateful for the efforts of all of our pro bono attorneys circuitwide. We do have hundreds.
The need is immense. We could use thousands. Join us in this vital work and, with our incoming team of ghostwriters, we look forward to more stories of pro bono attorneys making a difference one person at a time.
For information on how to be involved in pro bono service in the Fourth Judicial Circuit, contact Kathy Para, chair, The Pro Bono Committee, Jacksonville Bar Association, [email protected]