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Jax Daily Record Monday, Jan. 4, 201612:00 PM EST

Pro bono spotlight: How one attorney helped client get her driver's license back

by: Kathy Para

On a morning in October, I listened to this message on my office voice mail:

“I really do appreciate what pro bono attorney Robert Wilbert was able to do for me. You’ll never know how grateful I am. It’s been a blessing to have his help. I’m able to get back into life and to be free once again. I just wanted to call you to let you know how grateful I am this morning.”

Wilbert closed this case late in the fall after his client’s driver’s license was reinstated and her debts discharged in bankruptcy court.

Wilbert answered some questions about the case.

What were the basic facts of your case?

My client’s driver’s license was suspended six years ago when her son was driving her car and got into an accident. She was not even driving the car at the time of the accident.

The people in the car her son hit sued my client for $250,000. She said she was never served with the suit but the Duval County Circuit Court entered a judgment against her for more than $250,000. Since she is disabled, she could not pay that or make payment arrangements.

As a result, the state suspended her driving privileges.

What were you able to accomplish for your client?

Immediately after I filed her case, her driver’s license was reinstated. It was the first time since 2009 she had her license. She was very relieved and grateful. By the end of the fall she received her discharge from the bankruptcy judge.

Why was the outcome important to your client?

A tremendous barrier to living her life was removed. Now she can get to her college classes and doctor appointments without having to rely on family members or public transportation.

Why was the experience important to you? That is, what did you gain from the experience?  

I worked for legal aid programs for over 20 years. A lawyer at a firm wanted to charge this client $1,000, but I knew she could not pay and could be denied access to justice based on her low income. I wanted to fix that.

What is the name of your firm?  In what areas do you practice?

I am of counsel at Wood, Atter & Wolf and also practice at Robert Wilbert.

I practice in the areas of bankruptcy and consumer protection.

What advice do you have for other attorneys considering pro bono involvement?

I understand that many newer lawyers are having a rough time finding jobs right now. Handling a pro bono case gives you experience and gratification — and gives the disenfranchised a shot at justice they might not otherwise have had.

We extend sincere appreciation to Robert Wilbert and the hundreds of other pro bono attorneys serving low-income clients and resolving their legal matters. The rewards are many and are not monetary.

Attorneys who accept pro bono cases through legal services organizations are covered by the organization’s professional liability insurance and receive educational and expert attorney resources.

Attorneys are encouraged to contact Para at [email protected] for information on pro bono opportunities in the 4th Circuit.

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