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- 2013 - January - 21st -
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Outstanding Pro Bono Service recipients David King, Bonnie Yamani, Carleton Jones, Susannah Collins, Trey Wilson, Rusty Mead, Mitch Stone and Melody Eaton. Not pictured are  Jennifer Windley and Christopher Greene.

Outstanding pro bono service recognized at Equal Justice event

by Kathy Para, The JBA Pro Bono Committee Chairwoman

One client.  One attorney.  One promise.

It's the message of the Florida Bar Foundation's and the Florida Bar's One Campaign to encourage pro bono service. At Pro Bono Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, we see this simple message in action every day. 

It's all about helping one client with one matter at a time and this persistent, committed approach is achieving great results for low-income families every day in our community.

We have hundreds of pro bono attorneys accepting cases, serving as expert resources, teaching CLE webinars for other pro bono attorneys, and assisting with outreach events.

We are deeply grateful for every single one of them. There are literally hundreds of attorneys in the 4th Circuit who are involved in pro bono service. It's just that the need is immense and we could use thousands. 

At JALA's annual Equal Justice event Jan. 15 at the River Club, a few pro bono attorneys were thanked for their outstanding service.

Susannah Collins and Carrington "Rusty" Mead are two local family law attorneys who don't just represent individual clients in gnarly family law matters. They are presenters in our monthly family law clinics, they participate in Ask-a-Lawyer events and they have served as expert resources for other pro bono attorneys. 

Collins also assisted with the Jacksonville Women Lawyers Association's Bachelor/Bachelorette Auction to benefit JALA and with our JALAween event. Mead volunteers in the JALA Adams Street office and also in the JALA St. Johns county office. They are generous and responsive over and over again.

Similarly, David King practices in Clay County and has represented pro bono clients in bankruptcy matters for decades. He also supplies the JALA Clay County office with all of its paper.

In addition, he is active in the Clay County Bar Association and he encourages other attorneys in Clay County to assist pro bono client — it's this peer-to-peer recruiting that is most effective. He has assisted dozens of clients and he expands his influence and commitment by having more attorneys involved.

Pro Bono JALA is placing more pro bono cases than ever and it is, in large part, because of the efforts of the team of Bonnie Yamani, Melody Eaton, Carleton Jones and Jennifer Windley. 

These volunteers have helped us pioneer our new online pro bono case review tool and have helped us create a Case Placement Assistant, a new volunteer position. These attorneys and paralegals are the conduit between clients and pro bono attorneys, helping us push out more cases every day for consideration and acceptance by pro bono attorneys. It's their compassion, determination, insight and professionalism that make this new process work for clients. 

Lanny Russell and Thomas "Trey" Wilson of Smith Hulsey provide pro bono assistance of another kind. They have served as consultants and advisers for JALA and the JALA Foundation in its role as the landlord of its building on Adams Street. They draft real estate documents and agreements and have served as legal counsel in matters relating to building ownership and leasing. 

Our building manager, Virgil Bachtold, describes them as pleasant, responsive and generous in their willingness to assist and provide counsel. This pro bono assistance helps keep our organization moving forward and stable in its ability to serve our community's low-income population.

Attorneys with the law firm of Purcell, Flanagan, Hay & Greene came to us about a year and a half ago and said they would like to assist with the Northeast Florida Medical Legal Partnership cases. It was one of the most seamless offers of help the partnership has ever received.

We had a brief meeting in which the litigation group — led by Chris Greene and including Joe Pickles, Adam Edgecombe, and Lindsay Cole — heard about the project and the types of cases they might see. They were interested in guardianship matters and consumer matters, and we have sent them both. They have accepted cases and then have come back for more. 

In 18 months, they logged nearly 400 hours of pro bono service. We are deeply appreciative of their willingness to assist and for the way that, when they decided how they wanted to help, they hit the ground running and have not slowed down.

The law firm of Stone Lockett has provided outstanding pro bono service for many years using another equally effective approach. Their attorneys, led by Lee Lockett and Mitch Stone, take seal/expunge cases. They contacted JALA and simply said to send them "whatever you have." We call it pro bono reckless abandon – it's refreshing and it's inspiring — and it's not a new trait. Stone and Lockett have assisted dozens of clients over the years and they keep coming back for more. 

Margaret Mead said, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world, indeed it's the only thing that ever has." 

These pro bono attorneys are world changers – they've certainly changed the worlds of many pro bono clients. Their work matters to our clients, and it matters to our community. 

Attorneys interested in pro bono opportunities throughout the 4th Judicial Circuit are encouraged to contact Kathy Para, chairwoman, The JBA Pro Bono Committee at kathy.para@jaxlegalaid.org.

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