Local pro bono attorneys counseled 43 people on more 50 legal matters in one-on-one interviews. Attorneys advised in the areas of family law, probate, guardianship, tax, criminal law, bankruptcy, foreclosure, workers' compensation, contracts, real estate, landlord/tenant, employment, immigration, tax and personal injury. Spanish speakers were available to provide translation.
The pro bono attorneys included Laura Gapske, Will Blume, Xavier Saunders, Aaron Irving, Ryan Moore, Melina Buncome, Natalie Tuttle, Alessandro Apolito, John Cherneski, Shawn DeVries, Brenda Drake, Michelle White, Franklin Ayetin, Adam Edgecombe and Kim Clayton.
Florida Coastal School of Law students Megan Peak, Tiffany Milstid, Emily Cochran and Jose Valdez were there to provide administrative assistance and to observe the consultation interviews.
Jacksonville Area Legal Aid client advisory board members Vickey Murphy, Don Edgecombe, and Bobby Bell were there to greet and direct attendees, and to help register people for appointments.
The aim of each Ask-A-Lawyer event is to provide legal guidance and direction, as well as information on additional community resources for persons in need. Attendees may be referred on to Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, The JBA Lawyer Referral Service, and/or a community service agency.
The events are made possible because of the collaboration of The Jacksonville Bar Association, The D.W. Perkins Bar Association, The Hispanic Bar, Florida Coastal School of Law, Jacksonville Area Legal Aid and the Jacksonville City Council.
The events are held quarterly in locations in the city that are easily accessible to low-income people and the underserved.
The volunteers welcomed each person who came seeking information with respect and compassion. They answered questions, provided information on legal options and community resources, and in many cases, offered hope and direction.
Facing a problem requires courage and energy. Taking a first step toward solving the problem requires even more. For many of the attendees, Ask-A-Lawyer provided the information needed to enable the attendees to take that first step toward stability and resolution.
One attendee remarked when leaving, "This is a great service. Thank you so much for being here."
From another: "This has been such a blessing for me. I can't thank you enough."
The goal of Ask-A-Lawyer is to take information and guidance directly to members of our community who may not otherwise be able to access the expertise of an attorney. We know that, as attorneys, we don't always tell people what they want to hear. However, with the belief that knowledge is power, we know that with sound information and direction, people are better equipped to get the help they need and/or resolve their matters themselves.
Access to the legal community must not be limited to those who can afford to pay for that access. It's the informed advocacy on both sides that protects the integrity of our system of justice. Ask-A-Lawyer events empower and encourage persons to effectively resolve their legal issues and the barriers they face. The efforts of the entire pro bono Ask-A-Lawyer team of Sept. 14 are applauded and appreciated.
Attorneys interested in these and other pro bono opportunities throughout the 4th Judicial Circuit are encouraged to contact Kathy Para, chairwoman of The JBA Pro Bono Committee, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The downtown campus of Florida State College at Jacksonville was the site of the Ask-A-Lawyer event held on Saturday, Sept. 14, from 9 a.m. until noon, and many received pro bono legal assistance and direction.