Pro bono: Support, liability insurance is in place to back volunteer attorneys

Three Rivers Legal Services has many options for attorneys who want to help people.

  • By
  • | 1:00 a.m. February 1, 2024
  • | 5 Free Articles Remaining!
  • The Bar Bulletin
  • Share

“While it is February, one can taste the full joys of anticipation. Spring stands at the gate with her finger on the latch.”

– Patience Strong

February is a short month, but what a difference you could make in the lives of people who cannot afford adequate legal assistance. Open the gate and help a family in need.

One reason we may be hesitant to open the gate is a concern about violating our ethics. It’s scary, to be sure, but there is no need for it to be.

Samantha Howell, Three Rivers Legal Services

In a comment to rule 4-1.1 (competence), the Rules state: “A lawyer need not necessarily have special training or prior experience to handle legal problems of a type with which the lawyer is unfamiliar [...] A lawyer can provide adequate representation in a wholly novel field through necessary study. Competent representation can also be provided through the association of a lawyer of established competence in the field in question.”

When you take a pro bono case – or even a paying case – in a new area of law, you want to make sure that you have supports in place.

Three Rivers Legal Services helps with this for any pro bono cases referred by offering access to a mentor and training materials.

We also provide professional liability insurance coverage so that you are always protected.

The rules also provide guidance on conflicts and scope of representation.

Rule 4-6.6 states that attorneys providing short-term limited legal services such as advice/counsel, filling out forms, etc. through a nonprofit organization and without the expectation of continuing the representation are subject to 4-1.7 (conflict of interest; current clients) and 4-1.9(a) (conflict of interest; former clients) only if the lawyer knows that the representation of the client involves a conflict of interest, and 4-1.10 only if the lawyer knows that another lawyer associated with the lawyer in a law firm is disqualified to work on the matter (per 4-1.7 or 4-1.9(a)).

It’s good to remember that Three Rivers has your back as you venture into new areas of law, aiding those in need.

We will make every effort to ensure you have a positive experience volunteering.

Just as importantly, there are a multitude of ways to volunteer.

Telephonic Housing Clinic

This advice-only clinic is offered every Tuesday. TRLS staff screen and schedule clients, notifying volunteers of their assignments on the Friday or Monday before the clinic. 

Issues involve private landlord/tenant issues including eviction, repairs, and security deposits. Volunteers complete an online form during the call so that Three Rivers knows what advice was given and if any follow-up by staff is needed.

Pro Se Divorce Clinics

These clinics are offered every three months in Jacksonville and Fernandina Beach and involve a morning session for petitioners with minor children and an afternoon session for petitioners without minor children.

Three Rivers pre-fills much of the forms with the clients; volunteer attorneys will participate for the limited purpose of providing counsel/advice.

Upcoming clinics are Feb. 27 and May 21 in Jacksonville, Feb. 28 and May 23 in Fernandina Beach.


These “pop-up” clinics are hosted at the NAACP office in Jacksonville. Volunteers meet with people in need of legal assistance and provide advice/counsel and, perhaps, even a brief service.

These clinics are held 10 a.m.-noon one Saturday a month. Upcoming clinics are Feb. 17, March 16 and April 20. We also will have one 10 a.m.-noon March 9 in St. Augustine.

You can take on a client matter for limited scope or full representation in a variety of areas including bankruptcy, special education, family, housing/property, consumer, income maintenance and trusts and estates.

We are in particular need of attorneys to assist with family matters, probate cases, guardianship and landlord/tenant. 

As attorneys, we are encouraged to provide at least 20 hours of pro bono service each year.

Volunteering with Three Rivers is a way to take care of this obligation while meeting colleagues and learning more about our client communities. It also is an effective way to dip your toes into a new area of law. 

If you have any questions or would like to volunteer at any of the events, email [email protected] or call 904-423-8980. You also can select an available case and learn more about the Pro Bono Legal Assistance Program at 



Special Offer: $5 for 2 Months!

Your free article limit has been reached this month.
Subscribe now for unlimited digital access to our award-winning business news.