The library has always been a place to study, read and relax, but to many citizens, the library is also a place where they can access legal resources.
For many, the library may be their only access to legal information, which is often the case for low-income individuals.
Legal research is a task that is daunting and confusing. "Lawyers in Libraries" is a new statewide pro bono project designed to provide guidance to public library customers and staff on the types and locations of online legal resources available to the public and free of charge.
Through "Lawyers in Libraries," pro bono attorneys will join forces with public libraries across Northeast Florida and around the State.
The attorneys will meet with citizens in one-hour presentations to describe online resources for legal information, filing and monitoring cases, where to get pro se forms and how to find an attorney.
Some pro bono attorneys will also speak to the librarians about the available legal resources and to present information on how to avoid the unauthorized practice of law when providing research assistance.
Florida Legal Services will prepare and distribute the presentation materials, legal resource lists and program brochures for use during the presentations and to the librarians for future use and reference with patrons.
The goal of "Lawyers in Libraries" is to have enough attorneys to make presentations in every main library in every county throughout Florida. Many branch libraries will also be served.
The American Bar Association's Celebrate Pro Bono Week is Oct. 20-26. In Northeast Florida, Lawyers in Libraries will launch during that and continue into 2014.
In the 4th Circuit and throughout the country, the week includes observances that recognize the service of pro bono attorneys and draw attention to the increased need for pro bono legal services.
"Lawyers in Libraries" is sponsored by Florida Legal Services Inc., The Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Service of The Florida Bar, The One Campaign, the Florida Pro Bono Coordinators Association, the Florida Library Association and the State of Florida Division of Library and Information Services.
The effort in Northeast Florida will be coordinated by the pro bono coordinators of Jacksonville Area Legal Aid and Three Rivers Legal Services, Kathy Para and Chardea Murray.