Attorney organizing Hispanic Bar Association

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  • | 12:00 p.m. November 4, 2003
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by Monica Tsai

Staff Writer

One local attorney is trying to capitalize on the increasing Hispanic population by forming the Hispanic Bar Association of Northeast Florida.

“I knew that there were several Hispanic attorneys out there,” said Paola Parra, the organization’s founder. “I wanted us to be able to socialize for the purpose of networking with each other and to serve as a referral source.”

The association is open to interested parties in Northeast Florida, especially attorneys, judges and law students. Its by-laws and programming are still in the development phase. Fluency in Spanish is not required.

Parra estimates there are about 40 practicing Hispanic attorneys locally, including Patricia Parker, Ada Hammond, Giselle Carson and Phil Buhler, who share an interest in the organization.

Parra has been considering the idea of a Hispanic legal organization for a couple of years, but when Florida Supreme Court Justice Raoul Cantero III spoke to a crowd of hundreds at the Hispanic American Heritage Luncheon in October, she knew there was interest.

The Cuban-born Parra, a family law attorney with Harris, Guidi, Rosner, Dunlap, Rudolph, Catlin & Bethea, receives calls daily from Spanish-speaking clients with legal troubles. She may be able to translate their problems into English, but she can’t assist anyone outside of her legal expertise. Having a referral network of other Spanish-speaking attorneys in the area is one objective of the group.

“From what I’ve seen so far, we’re a very diverse group in terms of practice areas,” said Parra. “The Hispanic community is growing and growing. The legal system may differ from what they [Spanish-speaking clients] are accustomed to, but their legal needs are the same as anybody else’s. There is going to be a greater need for Hispanic attorneys to help the Hispanic community.”

Other goals of the Hispanic Bar Association include the professional development of Hispanic lawyers, mentoring law students, educating the Hispanic community on relevant legal issues and encouraging Hispanics to enter the legal profession.

Members also promote the appointment of Hispanic lawyers to judgeships and other

leadership positions in all levels

of government to better reflect

the demographics of the community.

Duval County Court Judge Roberto Arias and new U.S. Magistrate Marcia Morales Howard are the only two Hispanics on the bench in the region.

Their inaugural meeting was held Oct. 15 with approximately 20 people in attendance. The group plans to meet again in January.



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