Pro Bono: Law students assist older adults create advance directive documents

Jacksonville Area Legal Aid and volunteer attorneys coordinate a spring break project.

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  • | 5:10 a.m. May 5, 2022
  • The Bar Bulletin
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Missy Davenport
Missy Davenport

By Missy Davenport | JBA Pro Bono Committee chair

For most students, spring break is a time for rest, relaxation and time with friends at the beach or pool.

This year, University of Florida Levin College of Law students,  Lindsey Joost, James Leonard, Michael Klassmeyer, Henrietta McBee, Blake Mansker, Kathryn Pope and Sabrina Saint-Marc instead chose to spend their break from school helping the community by assisting low-income older adults create advance directive documents.  

The Alternative Spring Break Advance Directives Project of Jacksonville Area Legal Aid was a day of orientation and training during which the students created documents for each other under the supervision of an attorney.

Students had the opportunity to create the same documents as those they created for the seniors: durable power of attorney, designation of health care surrogate, living will and designation of pre-need guardian.

Then, along with notaries and volunteer attorneys, the students went to three senior housing residential facilities. Pro bono attorneys Gregory Redmon and Rick Stockton visited the facilities in advance to provide an informational presentation to residents about the advance directives documentation preparation service.  

The students provided a much-needed service to some of the community’s underserved. Here’s how the students’ spring break week looked.

March 7

Students went to JALA for orientation and to receive training on how to create the advance directives documents with pro bono attorney Rick Stockton. The students also had lunch and conversation with judges at the Bryan Simpson U.S. Courthouse.

University of Florida law student Henrietta McBee assists Mount Carmel Gardens resident Laverne Spatcher-Davis.
University of Florida law student Henrietta McBee assists Mount Carmel Gardens resident Laverne Spatcher-Davis.

March 8

The students went to Pablo Towers Apartments, an affordable housing community for people age 62 and over.  Twenty-five seniors were served by the law students under the supervision and guidance of attorney Rick Stockton to create advance directive forms.

The event was organized by JALA staff and Ellen Hopkins, service coordinator at Pablo Towers.  

March 9

 At Cathedral Towers, 18 seniors received assistance from the students in creating advance directive documents under the supervision of attorney Aaron Irving.

JALA staff attorney Michael Pelkowski provided training for the students on legal issues facing seniors including scams, reverse mortgages and contract issues.

The event was organized by JALA staff and Brian Swanner, service coordinator at Cathedral Towers. 

March 10

On the final day of the project, the students assisted 17 residents at Mount Carmel Gardens under the supervision of attorney Gregory Redmon.

Alexandra Linton, communications specialist at ElderSource, provided training for the students regarding the challenges and issues faced by older adults along with information about the resources that are available in the community.

The event was organized by JALA staff and Monique Henry, property manager at Mount Carmel Gardens.  

The participating law students brought a willingness to learn and a desire to help and provided increased access to legal assistance. They showed compassion, professionalism and enthusiasm at each event.

The experience allowed the students to understand that many members of our community lack the financial resources to access legal assistance and provided an opportunity to bring comfort and peace of mind to the residents.

Mount Carmel Gardens resident Laverne Spatcher-Davis explained what the event meant to her: “This is such a huge day for me. What it did for me was close the gap. Having this service come to the facility was heaven sent.”  

Through the collaboration of the attorneys, the UF law school, community organizations and legal services providers, dozens of our area’s vulnerable and underserved received legal assistance and support.

The students and the residents enjoyed spending this time together and the preparation of the advance directive documents brought comfort and peace of mind for the participants.

The time spent by the student groups made a positive impact on the community and their efforts were much appreciated by the residents who now have important life documents filed on their behalf.

Attorneys interested in pro bono opportunities in the 4th Judicial Circuit are encouraged to visit