Pro bono spotlight: Ask-A-Lawyer returns to the Westside

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  • | 12:00 p.m. March 30, 2015
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Attorney Yaima Coto and others assist residents at the Ask-A-Lawyer at SOS Academy.
Attorney Yaima Coto and others assist residents at the Ask-A-Lawyer at SOS Academy.
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It was good to be back at the SOS Academy on Wilson Boulevard on March 21.

The Jacksonville Bar Association, Jacksonville Area Legal Aid and Florida Coastal School of Law offered an Ask-A-Lawyer opportunity at this local school campus.

Attorneys, law students and other volunteers took legal guidance to this trusted, welcoming neighborhood location for the second year.

The leadership team at SOS Academy, in particular, Genell Mills, the charter school’s founder and director, and Gary Mills, the facilities director, readied the school cafeteria and helped publicize the event.

Thanks to their efforts, the campus became the site of a brief counsel and advice legal clinic. “We’re happy to help the community in whatever way we can,” said Genell Mills.

From 9 a.m.-noon, local pro bono attorneys counseled 38 people on more than 45 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, tax and personal injury.

The pro bono attorneys included Reese Marshall, Adam Edgecombe, Markus Sermons, Paul Dick, Edith Jones, Laura Gapske, Melina Buncome, Andrea Reyes, Yaima Coto, Jennifer Singh, Ada Hammond and Bradley Bodiford.

The following Florida Coastal School of Law students observed interviews and provided administrative help: Jessica DeLeon, Lisa Nommensen, Stephanie Menciano and Wafa Hubroman.

Bobby Bell, a Jacksonville Area Legal Aid board member, helped 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 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, DW Perkins Bar Association, Florida Coastal School of Law, Jacksonville Area Legal Aid and the City Council.

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

The volunteers served each person who came seeking information with respect and compassion. They answered questions, provided information on legal options and community resources, and in many cases offered hope and direction.

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, 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. It is informed advocacy on both sides that protects the integrity of our system of justice.

Ask-A-Lawyer events empower and encourage people to effectively resolve their legal issues and the barriers they face. The efforts of the entire pro bono Ask-A-Lawyer team of March 21 are applauded and appreciated.

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



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