What do a charter school, a community development corporation, a fitness organization and a community college have in common?
They are all sites for Ask-A-Lawyer events in 2014.
In 2009, the City Council and The Jacksonville Bar Association joined forces to take legal guidance to locations in close proximity to low-income families.
In part, the effort was in response to the foreclosure crisis. In part, it was in response to the overwhelming need for general legal guidance and representation for those not able to pay attorneys.
The JBA president at the time, Dan Bean, working with the council and Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, spearheaded Ask-A-Lawyer with the goal of taking general legal advice and information to people in need.
The value of the events was quickly realized and Ask-A-Lawyer is now in its fifth year.
At Ask-A-Lawyer events, people may speak face-to-face with an attorney for 15-20 minutes. Cases are not opened at the events, but rather the attorneys provide brief counsel, encouragement and direction.
Attorneys advise in their areas of expertise.
Typically, guidance is provided 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 are available to provide translation.
Florida Coastal School of Law students attend to provide administrative assistance and to observe the consultations. JALA Client Advisory Board members assist by greeting and directing attendees.
The aims of each Ask-A-Lawyer event are to provide legal guidance and direction, as well as information on additional community resources for persons in need.
Attendees may be referred to Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, The JBA Lawyer Referral Service, Three Rivers Legal Services and/or to a community service agency.
The events are held quarterly in locations that are easily accessible to low-income persons and the underserved.
Ask-A-Lawyer dates and locations for 2014:
• March 29, 9 a.m.-noon, SOS Academy (next to M.L. Gibbs Community Center), 6974 Wilson Blvd.
• June 21, 9 a.m.-noon, Northwest Jacksonville Community Development Corp., 3416 Moncrief Road
• Sept. 20, 9 a.m.-noon, Florida State College at Jacksonville, Downtown Campus, 401 W. State St.
• Dec. 6, 9 a.m.-noon, Johnson Family YMCA, 5700 Cleveland Road
More pro bono attorneys are needed for this year’s Ask-A-Lawyer events. All interested attorneys are asked to send an email to Kathy Para, The JBA Pro Bono Committee chair, at [email protected] indicating their willingness to participate.
Attorneys’ time commitment the day of the event is 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Attorneys may volunteer for one or multiple events or may simply request to be on the distribution list for future notifications.
Taking the first step toward solving a legal problem requires courage. For many of the attendees at Ask-A-Lawyer events, the guidance they receive bolsters their courage and gives them the direction for the next step toward stability and resolution.
For more information on pro bono opportunities throughout the 4th Circuit attorneys are encouraged to contact Para at [email protected].