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- 2014 - August - 11th -
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Pro bono spotlight: Identifying the pro bono opportunity

By Kathy Para, The JBA Pro Bono Committee Chair

We’ve heard the slogan of the One Campaign over and over again.

One client. One attorney. One Promise.

It’s a simple message — manageable and meaningful.

You’d like to assist and doing it one matter at a time seems do-able, but how do you identify your case, and what if you’re just getting started? Here’s how.

To assist a low-income client with a civil legal matter, go to jaxlegalaid.org and click on “Cases Awaiting Placement with Pro Bono Attorneys.”

Here you’ll find a list of approximately 50 cases with redacted summaries. The cases are some of those in need of representation.

The cases are identified by Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, the Northeast Florida Medical Legal Partnership and Three Rivers Legal Services.

An interested attorney is able to click to the right of the redacted summary to request further information prior to acceptance of the case.

Attorneys are supported with professional liability coverage when serving a pro bono client, CLE webinar resources, expert attorneys who are able to provide guidance and answer questions, Westlaw access, meeting space and reimbursement of costs.

Some of the clients of Jacksonville Area Legal Aid are organizations such as Community Development Corporations whose missions focus on addressing the needs of the poor and conditions in blighted neighborhoods.

These organizations also need pro bono attorneys to draft contracts, review lease agreements, provide employment guidance, assist with permitting and incorporation, and evaluate zoning requirements. The pro bono client may be an individual and it may be an entity.

Attorneys may also choose to be listed for judicial appointment of pro bono clients. Dependency court judges appoint counsel from a panel of willing and trained attorneys ad litem, civil court judges may appoint counsel for pro se litigants, federal court judges also maintain a list of pro bono attorneys willing to accept pro bono appointments from the bench.

Pro bono attorneys also may accept individual clients through the Guardian ad Litem program or through the Office of Public Defender’s Special Assistant Public Defender Pro Bono Project.

There are several ways to accept a pro bono matter, and in all cases, the pro bono attorney has access to training and support as he or she proceeds through the case.

For attorneys who are not able to represent an individual client, there are many one-day and pro bono support opportunities. These include: Ask-A-Lawyer events, being a presenter at a group information clinic, serving as an expert resource person for another pro bono attorney, assisting with advance directives events or Citizenship Day, providing guidance to pro se bankruptcy filers, advising non-profits at a legal guidance forum, or teaching a CLE for other pro bono attorneys or legal services staff attorneys.

There is no shortage of people in need of assistance and no shortage of opportunities.

Attorneys interested in pro bono opportunities throughout the 4th Judicial Circuit may always contact Kathy Para, the chair of The JBA Pro Bono Committee, at kathy.para@jaxlegalaid.org for more information and to just brainstorm on possibilities.

Attorneys are also encouraged to speak to colleagues already involved in pro bono assistance. Your pro bono commitment should be manageable and meaningful to you. Pro bono assistance matters to the client and it matters to our community.

It matters that as officers of the court, attorneys help ensure the integrity of our system of justice by giving a voice to both sides of legal issues.

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