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Pro bono attorney Melina Buncome provides guidance at the Ask-A-Lawyer event at the Johnson YMCA.
Jax Daily Record Monday, Nov. 12, 201212:00 PM EST

Ask-A-Lawyer and Channel 12's Legal Phone-in serve community with pro bono legal guidance

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by: Kathy Para

Pro bono attorneys provided legal guidance to members of the Jacksonville community during two recent events — Ask-A-Lawyer and Channel 12’s Legal Phone-in. Individuals seeking brief advice and counsel received information and direction in virtually all areas of legal practice.

The staff of the Johnson Family YMCA on Cleveland Road hosted the Ask-A-Lawyer event on Nov. 3. Nearly 35 people were counseled on more than 40 legal matters in one-on-one interviews with area pro bono attorneys.

Attorneys advised in the areas of family law, probate, guardianship, criminal law, bankruptcy, foreclosure, workers compensation, contracts, real estate, landlord/tenant, employment, immigration, and personal injury. Spanish-speakers were available to provide translation.

The pro bono attorneys included Victoria McNair, Aquesha Daniels, Chris Carson, Mike Arington, Tess Arington, Rob Ellis, John Cherneski, Manuel Souza, Melina Buncome, Latangie Williams, Markus Sermons and Octavius Holliday.

Florida Coastal students were there to provide administrative assistance and to observe the consultation interviews. The assisting law students were Megan Schade, Dominique Robinson, Ramona Cook, Jen Woleslagle, Elisabeth Whitmire, Christian Rogers, Bobbie Garrison, Lauren Anzalone and Jacqueline Branch.

The goal of each Ask-A-Lawyer event is to provide direction and information on additional community resources for individuals in need. Attendees may be referred to Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, the Lawyer Referral Service and/or to a community service agency.

The events are made possible because of the collaboration of The Jacksonville Bar Association, the D.W. Perkins Bar Association, 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 individuals and people in need.

Channel 12’s First Coast News also hosted a Legal Phone-in opportunity during the evening news broadcast Nov. 7.

For this event, local consumer attorneys provide information on bankruptcy, collections, foreclosure, garnishments and the Attorneys’ General National Mortgage Settlement. Callers were anonymous and all calls were one-on-one conversations.

In addition to responding to the callers’ specific legal needs and circumstances, the pro bono attorneys provided additional information and referral resources. In particular, the attorneys directed homeowners who may qualify for assistance under the settlement to the website, which is nationalmortgagesettlement.com.

These attorneys volunteered their time to guide and inform callers on their consumer matters: Lynn Drysdale, Greg Gilbert, Chip Parker, Jim Kowalski, Alison Emery, Preston Oughton and Lance Davies.

The goal of both the Ask-A-Lawyer and the Legal Phone-in events 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 exclusive 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 and Legal Phone-in events empower and encourage people to effectively resolve their legal issues and the barriers they face.

Attorneys interested in these and other pro bono opportunities throughout the Fourth Judicial Circuit are encouraged to contact Kathy Para, chairperson of The JBA Pro Bono Committee at [email protected].

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