For many of us, we went to law school to help people — to ensure that all receive a fair and fast chance at justice, regardless of ability to pay.
Yes, we want to make a good living for our families, but we also want to share our distinct legal skills with the poor and underserved. We know there are many people in need of legal assistance — but with limited and dwindling resources, how can we better pair people in need with pro bono attorneys willing to help?
Answering this question is one of the most important questions facing our local legal services organizations.
Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, working in collaboration with Three Rivers Legal Services, the Northeast Florida Medical Legal Partnership and representatives from the private bar, is making it easier and more efficient for everyone working in the pro bono community to identify good pro bono "matches."
JALA has developed an online resource that aims to make pro bono case placement much easier, as well as more meaningful.
The online case review tool allows attorneys wishing to help a pro bono client to review synopses of cases awaiting placement, find cases in which they are interested and receive all of the necessary documents and materials delivered directly to his or her email inbox.
To begin, attorneys visit jaxlegalaid.org, click "Cases In Need of Placement with Pro Bono Attorneys," and begin reviewing case summaries right away.
Attorneys who would like more information on a particular matter click, "Yes, I'd like to review this case further." This link will allow an attorney to create an email that will go to the JALA Case Placement Manager. The manager will then verify the person is licensed to practice law in Florida and will send additional case information for the attorney's review, again by email. The attorney then has the choice to accept the case or not.
This online resource allows attorneys to make more meaningful pro bono case selection choices, as they will be able to read through any case awaiting placement and pick those that interest them the most.
In addition to making the case selection process more accessible, the online tool also speeds up the process, providing complete, relevant documents and information in a digital and downloadable format, ready for immediate delivery via email. The process is simple, fast, and cost effective.
The case review tool is located on jaxlegalaid.org. Attorneys interested in pro bono assistance are urged to try this resource. Upon case acceptance, pro bono attorneys receive support in different ways. They are covered by JALA's professional liability insurance when serving these pro bono clients; there are CLE webinar resources available for pro bono attorneys; pro bono attorneys who are new to a substantive area can be paired with an expert resource attorney who provides guidance along the way; and pro bono attorneys also may receive the assistance of law students for legal research and document drafting for the case.
"Equal Justice Under Law." These words are carved over the entrance to the United States Supreme Court building. It's what we believe. It's a tenet on which our country was founded. Assisting a pro bono client is a very real way each attorney helps to ensure this is true in our country: that people are afforded equal justice under the law regardless of ability to pay.
The inscription on the rear door is "Justice, the Guardian of Liberty." Certainly, when only people of means receive justice, the strength of our country and the freedom on which we stand is threatened.
Attorneys in the 4th Judicial Circuit and throughout the state are asked to assist one client with one matter. One Client. One Attorney. One Promise.
Attorneys interested in pro bono opportunities throughout the 4th Judicial Circuit are encouraged to contact Kathy Para, Pro Bono Committee chairwoman, The Jacksonville Bar Association, [email protected]