Kathy Para is leaving a legal aid legacy.
By Fraz Ahmed, BA Board of Governors
I always will remember the first time I spoke with Kathy Para, which was around the time I got involved with the Jacksonville Bar Association.
I was interested in pro bono work but had concerns about volunteering to practice in an area outside of my comfort zone. I called Jacksonville Area Legal Aid and was connected with Kathy, who encouraged me to accept a pro bono case.
I explained to her my concerns and, without skipping a beat, she explained what I am sure she has explained hundreds of times before – and likely to many of you.
She walked me through the process and the resources available for pro bono attorneys. She provided me with the most valuable resource, her cellphone number, and ended the call by saying, “call me any time.” That is the type of person Kathy is and always has been.
Asked about Kathy’s commitment to pro bono services, Bryan Gowdy, former president of the board of directors for JALA, said, “No one in Jacksonville in the last 20 years has done more for pro bono legal services than Kathy Para. Kathy didn’t just match an attorney with a client needing pro bono help. She raised the profile and importance of pro bono legal services with both the Bar and the bench, and perhaps most critically, outside of the legal community.”
Kathy became involved with JALA in 2009 as the pro bono development coordinator. She has regularly served as the JBA Pro Bono Committee chair. Over the years, Kathy persistently tackled the many challenges faced by JALA.
The JBA has been and always will be dedicated to supporting JALA and its mission to serve those in need.
In addition to accepting a pro bono case, there are other opportunities to assist thousands of people in our community through JALA.
There are six Ask-A-Lawyer events where members of the public are able to speak with attorneys in 15-minute one-to-one counsel and advice interviews.
The Guardian Advocacy Pro Bono Project is a monthly clinic for family members who would like to establish guardianship of an adult child with special needs.
There are many other projects and clinics that need volunteers.
We hope each of you was able to attend Kathy’s retirement celebration, but knowing Kathy, the best retirement gift for her would be for everyone to accept at least one pro bono case.
Although no one could replace the lasting effect Kathy Para has had on Jacksonville’s residents in need of legal counsel and advocacy, we wish her the best moving forward.
Good luck, Kathy. We will miss you and we thank you for all you have done.
Fraz Ahmed is a trial attorney at Coker Law focusing on personal injury and a member of the Jacksonville Bar Association board of governors.