Pro bono spotlight: Dozens receive legal advice at Ask-A-Lawyer

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  • | 12:00 p.m. July 27, 2015
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Attorney Jonathan Graessle and Florida Coastal School of Law student Roquelle Simmons provide assistance at Ask-A-Lawyer.
Attorney Jonathan Graessle and Florida Coastal School of Law student Roquelle Simmons provide assistance at Ask-A-Lawyer.
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For six years, the Northwest Jacksonville Community Development Corp. has held its annual Health and Neighborhood Day event.

For the past six years, Ask-A-Lawyer has been one of the many services offered at the event. Local nonprofits provide information on ways they offer assistance in the community, a band plays, health screenings are offered and attendees have the opportunity to speak to pro bono attorneys.

This year’s event was June 20.

“NJCDC’s board and staff and a host of volunteers work very hard to make this festival our signature event and we look forward to it every year,” said Paul Tutwiler, the executive director of The group.

Zeina Salam and Logan McEwen, attorneys and members of the Innovative Community Engagement Foundation, also joined forces with NJCDC and The Jacksonville Bar Association to ensure the public knew about the event.

Salam and McEwen attended meetings of community associations to encourage grass-roots communication to people who may benefit from the services. Salam and McEwen’s contributions matched perfectly with the mission of the foundation, which is to stimulate different segments of society through mentorship, service and professional development.

To accomplish this, the foundation often partners with other established organizations to promote and assist with their goals and events.

Local pro bono attorneys counseled 48 people on nearly 60 legal matters in one-on-one interviews.

Attorneys advised in the areas of family law, probate, guardianship, criminal law, bankruptcy, collections, foreclosure, contracts, real estate, landlord/tenant, immigration and personal injury. Spanish speakers were available to provide translation.

The pro bono attorneys were Dan Bean, Paul Dick, Xavier Saunders, Logan McEwen, Laura Gapske, Barry Bobek, Edith Jones, Cyndy Trimmer, Melina Buncome, Jonathan Graessle, Latangie Williams and Kim Clayton.

Florida Coastal School of Law students Noelle Lattimore, Anette Smith and Roquelle Simmons were there to provide administrative assistance and to observe the interviews.

Jacksonville Area Legal Aid Client Advisory Board members were there to help welcome attendees, sign them in and answer general questions.

Each Ask-A-Lawyer event aims to provide legal guidance and direction, as well as information on additional community resources for people in need. Attendees may be referred on to the Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, The JBA Lawyer Referral Service, Three Rivers Legal Services and/or to a community service agency.

The events are made possible because of the collaboration of The Jacksonville Bar Association, The D.W. Perkins Bar Association, Florida Coastal School of Law, Jacksonville Area Legal Aid and the City Council.

The quarterly events are at locations that are easily accessible to low-income people and the under-served.

Facing a problem requires courage and energy. Taking a first step toward solving the problem requires even more. For many of the attendees, Ask-A-Lawyer provided the information needed to enable the attendees to take that first step toward stability and resolution.

The goal of Ask-A-Lawyer is to take information and guidance directly to members of our community who may not otherwise be able access the expertise of an attorney.

We know that, as attorneys, we don’t always tell people what they want to hear.

However, with the belief that knowledge is power, we know that with sound information and direction, people are better equipped to get the help they need and/or resolve their matters themselves. Access to the legal community must not be limited to those who can afford to pay for that access.

Attorneys interested in these and other pro bono opportunities throughout the 4th Judicial Circuit are encouraged to contact Para at [email protected].



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