We can be proud of the voluntary Bar associations in this circuit. Each of them is dedicated not only to the professional development and support of its members, but also to giving back to our community by serving those in need.
This is certainly true of The Jacksonville Bar Association, and The Florida Bar and Florida Supreme Court agree.
On Jan. 19 in Tallahassee, JBA President Geddes Anderson accepted the 2017 Voluntary Bar Association Pro Bono Service Award from Chief Justice Jorge Labarga.
Members of the JBA have provided pro bono legal services to the poor for nearly 80 years.
As early as 1937, the association met regularly to consider the civil cases of low-income people who came to their offices seeking help.
Based on their practice area expertise, attorneys took on numerous cases for clients in need.
That’s how the Duval County Legal Aid Society, later named Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, had its beginnings.
The effort eventually grew to hiring staff attorneys, but the volunteer involvement of the JBA always has been a vital component of the legal services delivery system in Northeast Florida.
Decades later, the JBA continues to provide dynamic, effective and generous support of legal services for those who cannot afford to hire an attorney.
Pro bono projects of the JBA comprise many initiatives, including:
• In 2009, the Pro Bono Committee started the quarterly Ask-A-Lawyer events.
Working with City Council to identify locations in low-income neighborhoods, the association launched the Ask-A-Lawyer project largely in response to the mortgage foreclosure crisis.
• The association was awarded the 2010 Robert J. Beckham Equal Justice Award for its partnership with JALA to help address some of the problems of the community.
• Established in 2012, the Pro Bono Attorney Ad Litem Program is facilitated and managed by the Legal Needs of Children Committee.
Attorneys who volunteer for this project receive training for effective advocacy for children in dependency actions, serve as Attorneys Ad Litem and accept judicial appointments.
• In 2013, the Pro Bono Mediation project began.
An effort of the Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee, it’s a program through which low-income clients can request pro bono mediations.
• The Law Week Committee includes the annual Citizenship Day as one of its many observances.
The committee recruits JBA members to assist on this valuable annual event. Citizenship Day is offered at Florida Coastal School of Law.
Other JBA sections and committees also enhance legal services to the poor.
• The Family Law Section helps recruit attorneys to staff monthly information clinics at JALA and for Lawyers in Libraries presentations.
• Working with Florida Coastal School of Law and the Northeast Florida Paralegal Association, the Elder Law Section staffs the quarterly Advance Directives for Senior Citizens events.
• The Young Lawyers Section introduces new attorneys to the importance of volunteering their time and talent by including legal services in the summer event “Noon in June” in which it provides a tour of the Duval County Courthouse and City Hall.
• In 2015 and 2016, the YLS encouraged members to participate in The Florida Bar’s Young Lawyers Division Youth on Solid Ground Pro Bono Project.
• In 2016, the JBA joined with the 4th Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committee to organize the first circuitwide pro bono attorney recognition event at the courthouse.
• The JBA board of governors endorsed the “JBA Pro Bono Initiative” during its 2015-16 program year and it has become an ongoing focus.
Through this initiative, members of the Pro Bono Committee help other panels implement meaningful and manageable pro bono projects within their structures and goals.
The positive impact of the association on the legal needs of the indigent in Northeast Florida has established a legacy and commitment that has spanned decades and changed countless lives for the better.
The JBA sets a high bar for professionalism standards by encouraging involvement in all facets of the association. The organization has been unwavering in its advocacy of access to justice for all.
Our foundation is strong and we continue to build and improve our capacity to strengthen our community with pro bono services.
Attorneys interested in pro bono opportunities throughout the 4th Judicial Circuit are encouraged to contact [email protected]