Mediation can be costly, but it can also be a valuable resource for resolving any matter.
However, thanks to the Mediators with the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Section of The Jacksonville Bar Association, low-income clients now have access to mediation for their legal matters through the Pro Bono Mediation Project.
More than a year ago, the ADR Section of The JBA met to discuss how the members could make more charitable contributions to the community, which gave birth to the idea of working with Jacksonville Area Legal Aid (JALA) to provide mediation services to low-income clients.
Receiving a great response from the Mediator Members, the ADR Section reached out to JALA to put together a program through which JALA could refer pro bono clients to the ADR Section Mediators so that JALA’s clients could resolve their matters through mediation.
After several months of successful planning, the Pro Bono Mediation Project has hit the ground running with the implementation of its first mediations.
The referral process has been effective and both JALA and the mediators are looking forward to reaching more clients with this pro bono service.
Penny Schmidt, chairwoman of the ADR Section, said, “I have received great feedback. The pro bono mediations are definitely providing a service to JALA
and its clients, which helps our community. We hope to be
able to provide even more pro bono mediations in the
The project is aimed at assisting low-income clients dealing with all legal matters.
Schmidt said that the wide variation of legal expertise of the Mediator Members of the ADR Section enables this project to provide mediation services to JALA clients in almost any type of dispute.
Recognizing the importance of resolving a matter and the need of the community, Schmidt said, “The longer a dispute or case is open in JALA’s office, the more attorney and other resources it spends on the case. Our mediators felt that the sooner a case could be resolved amicably at mediation, the better for all concerned. ... If a dispute can be resolved at a mediation instead of going to trial, it saves both parties time and money. This also saves JALA time and money and allows its staff attorneys to handle more cases.”
When asked what one of the main benefits of mediation was, Schmidt replied, “If the case settles, the parties decide the terms of the settlement and don’t have the uncertainty of having a jury or judge decide their case.”
She further observed, “The effort behind this pro bono project is not mine. I am merely the chairperson for the ADR Section of The JBA. Our Mediator Members as a whole wanted to do something to benefit our community and providing pro bono mediations was the group’s
way of doing it. All recognition for this program goes to all of
the members of the ADR Section.”
The collaboration and efforts of the Pro Bono Mediation Project are not limited to the ADR Section members alone.
The McLeod Law Firm, in St. Johns County, also deserves recognition for its valuable contribution of donating meeting space for one of the mediations.
As important as the mediation itself is, a comfortable and neutral place to work through the matter can be a great aid to the clients, and the McLeod Law Firm graciously provided its meeting space to the project and pro bono clients.
The ADR Section of The JBA encourages anyone interested in assisting to please join its Section by contacting The JBA or Penny Schmidt directly at [email protected].
For information on pro bono opportunities throughout the 4th Judicial Circuit, attorneys are encouraged to contact Kathy Para, chairwoman, The JBA Pro Bono Committee, [email protected].