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Brian Jones and Phyllis Maxwell greeted attendees Dec. 3 at Ask-A-Lawyer at the Johnson Family YMCA.
Jax Daily Record Monday, Dec. 12, 201612:00 PM EST

Pro bono spotlight: Ask-A-Lawyer provides direction and encouragement

by: Kathy Para

Over and over again, the attorneys who volunteered at the recent Ask-A-Lawyer event received expressions of gratitude and appreciation.

“Thank you for being here.” “I know what to do now.” “Things aren’t as bad as I thought.” “What you’re doing here is very important.”

On Dec. 3, nine attorneys, a law student and two advisory board volunteers helped provide brief legal counsel at the Johnson Family YMCA on Cleveland Road.

Nearly 60 people received guidance on legal matters in one-on-one interviews.

Ron Simmons, staff member at the Johnson Y, prepared the gym to be a venue for consultations. He also distributed flyers in the neighborhood.

Attorneys advised in the areas of family law, probate, guardianship, criminal law, collections, foreclosure, contracts, real estate, landlord/tenant, immigration and personal injury.

Spanish speakers were available to provide translation.

The attorneys were Melina Buncome, Kameisha Presley, Karen Winston, Robyn Moore, Michael Kelley, Rusty Mean, Stephanie Burch, Tiane Sommer and Laura Gapske.

Florida Coastal School of Law student Tracie Reese was there to provide administrative assistance and to observe the consultation interviews.

Jacksonville Area Legal Aid Client Advisory Board volunteers Phyllis Maxwell and Brian Jones helped welcome attendees, sign them in and answer questions.

Each Ask-A-Lawyer event offers legal guidance and direction.

The sessions also provide information on additional community resources available to people in need. Attendees may be referred to Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, The Jacksonville Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service, Three Rivers Legal Services or to a community service agency.

The events are made possible through collaboration among The JBA, Florida Coastal School of Law, Jacksonville Area Legal Aid and the location partners.

The goal of Ask-A-Lawyer is to take information and guidance directly to people in need of advice who may not otherwise have access to the expertise of an attorney.

In addition to the Johnson Family YMCA, events are scheduled at SOS Academy on Wilson Boulevard, the Downtown campus of Florida State College at Jacksonville and Northwest Jacksonville Community Development Corp.

The volunteers serve everyone who is seeking information with respect and compassion. They answer questions and provide information on legal options and community resources. In many cases, they offer hope and direction.

Facing a problem requires courage and energy. Taking the first step toward solving the problem requires even more.

For many of the participants, Ask-A-Lawyer provided the information needed to enable them to take that first step toward stability and resolution.

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.

Access to legal representation must not be limited to those who can afford to pay for it. It is informed advocacy on both sides that protects the integrity of our system of justice.

Ask-A-Lawyer events empower and encourage people to effectively resolve their legal issues and the barriers they face.

The efforts of the entire Ask-A-Lawyer team are applauded and appreciated.

Attorneys interested in volunteer opportunities in the 4th Judicial Circuit may contact [email protected].

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