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From Missy Davenport, Chair of the JBA Pro Bono Committee

Before COVID-19 changed everything, Jacksonville Area Legal Aid had a clinic on the third Tuesday of each month where volunteer attorneys assist low-income clients with pre-production forms such as powers of attorney and livelihood documents.

Missy Davenport

Due to current safety concerns, the personal clinic has been on hold for almost a year.

However, many lawyers still take these cases free of charge and assist clients in completing the much-needed documents at no charge.

George Morrison, Advance Directives Clinic volunteer, describes one of his cases:

What were the facts of your case?

The client applied for a power of attorney so that her daughter could act on her behalf. I’ve learned that they live together, are very close, and have therefore come to the conclusion that a POA can be helpful in the circumstances.

It was also found that the client and her daughter would also benefit if other advance directive documents were in place, including the designation of the health care replacement.

What could you achieve for your customer?

I have a permanent power of attorney, a living will, the appointment of a replacement for the health service and the appointment of a guardian for the client prepared.

The Jacksonville Area Legal Aid team developed an easy-to-use document preparation template that I used as a starting point for preparing these documents.

The template ensures that advance documents created for JALA customers are consistent and up-to-date. The template also makes it easier for volunteers who may not specialize in pre-policy documents to prepare.

Why was the result important to your customer?

The client realizes that as she gets older, she may have to rely more on her daughter for daily care. The documents comforted her with the knowledge that they were there in case she should need them.

Giving a client reassurance is one of the best services a lawyer can provide.

What did you gain from this experience?

This experience has been hugely rewarding as I can see firsthand that the legal services I provide correlate with an immediate tangible benefit to the client and their loved ones who are destined to act and make decisions on their behalf.

For example, I prepared advance documents for a veteran who was in poor health. It was difficult for him to go to the Veterans Administration to do the routine paperwork.

The VA said the client’s spouse could handle administrative matters on their behalf, but only if the client exercised power of attorney. In this case, my volunteering had a direct positive impact on the client’s life as he no longer had to visit the VA in person to complete the paperwork. It was a rewarding experience for me and it confirmed that volunteering at JALA is making a difference.

What advice do you give lawyers considering free participation?

I encourage all local lawyers to work with JALA to help in their mission of providing legal services to those in our community who simply do not have the financial means to keep their own lawyer.

In which areas do you practice?

I am an in-house attorney with Bank of America. I have worked in a variety of roles over the years, in private practice and in-house, but my main focus now is generally consumer and commercial automotive finance.

Pro bono work naturally helps the customer, but it also offers the opportunity to have a direct, positive and meaningful influence on someone’s life.

Additionally, for litigators, the pro bono work can resolve a matter that would otherwise end up in the local court system. Anything the Bar Association can do to relieve our judges and the clerk is undoubtedly also greatly appreciated.

If your circumstances prevent you from working directly with JALA, remember that you can help with a financial contribution. Every little help you can give has a positive impact on the less fortunate, JALA, the judicial system, and our community.

Attorneys interested in pre-trial policy and other pro bono opportunities in the 4th Justice Circle are encouraged to contact Missy Davenport at: [email protected]

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