What is it about Ask-A-Lawyer that makes it such a fun and worthwhile pro bono project?
Maybe it's the opportunity to respond to fact scenarios "on the spot," like in law school. Maybe it's the chance to talk with a person in need of legal guidance in a simple and relevant way – face-to-face. Maybe it's the informal setting and the chance to get to know a few new colleagues. Maybe it's being on the front line in our community, hearing first-hand about the issues some individuals are facing. Maybe it's being able to just "show up" for a pro bono project. Maybe it's the satisfaction of giving someone real help.
Ask-A-Lawyer events are scheduled 9 a.m.-noon on Saturday morning three to five times a year.
Two events are scheduled for this fall: Sept. 14 at the Florida State College at Jacksonville Downtown Campus and Dec. 7 at the Johnson Family YMCA.
At Ask-A-Lawyer events, attorneys conduct individual interviews in their areas of expertise. Attendees sign statements verifying that they understand that the attorney is not opening a case, but is providing brief counsel and advice.
Attorneys hear the facts of a situation and provide suggestions and guidance. Some cases may be referred to Jacksonville Area Legal Aid and some may be referred to The JBA Lawyer Referral Service.
About 12-15 attorneys gather to advise attendees for the three-hour event and provide guidance in their specific areas of practice. Attorneys advise in areas including, but not limited to, family law, criminal law, estate planning, immigration, consumer matters, foreclosure, bankruptcy, real estate, nonprofit agency legal considerations, employment law and guardianship. Self-help information also is available for pick-up.
Fliers describing the event are circulated in the neighborhoods and in the community-at-large. A news release and a public service announcement are sent to media outlets before the events.
Ask-A-Lawyer events are meant to take legal guidance to areas in the community where it may be needed by many people. It's a way to increase access to information and provide options that can help resolve matters that may cause families to be unstable.
Ask-A-Lawyer events are projects of The JBA Pro Bono Committee and are organized in cooperation with Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, members of the Jacksonville City Council and Florida Coastal School of Law.
Attorneys who would like to volunteer for Ask-A-Lawyer or who would like to be notified of events scheduled in 2014 are encouraged to contact Kathy Para, chairwoman, The JBA Pro Bono Committee, at [email protected].