Helping the indigent by fellowship
As a Florida Bar Foundation Public Interest Law Fellow, I assisted the staff attorneys at Three Rivers Legal Services. At my work site, I developed exceptional rapport with all of the attorneys and staff there and I gained valuable experience. I had several short assignments and one large project. The assignments ranged from research topics on proper service on a party, when a bail bondsman must report a judgment, the effect of serving a motion for summary judgment and then amending the complaint, a contract to sell land without indicating the type of deed to be conveyed, and Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) actions. The large project was a compilation of all of the Florida statutes that allowed for attorney fees. This project was extremely helpful to the office because the attorneys could quickly evaluate whether they could afford to litigate an expensive case for an indigent client. If a pro bono-oriented organization can collect its fees when it is successful at litigation, then it can more easily help other clients because it preserves the limited resources at the office.
I also had the opportunity to work with the other Florida Bar Foundation fellows. In the fall of 2010, we put on an informational session entitled: “Criminalization of Homelessness: Legal Issues in Providing Services to the Homeless”. Experienced attorneys and professors spoke on the plight of the homeless right here in Alachua County. It was an informative info-session held in the Martin Levin Advocacy Center. This spring semester, we explained how to apply for clinics and obtain fellowships and externships in an info-session entitled: “Two Birds One Stone: Serving your Community While enhancing your Legal Education”. We wanted those who attended to know exactly what to do so that they too could give back to the community.
The work that I completed in this fellowship was very fulfilling. Those who rely on public interest practitioners have no one else to advocate their rights, either because they cannot afford a private attorney or because they lack the sophistication to do so. Although we cannot help everyone, we make a difference in the lives of those to whom it matters the most. These clients are victims of domestic violence, predatory lending, prohibited treatment by private landlords, and many others. They need our help. Please remain aware of the need for public interest law and please contribute your time for such a worthy cause.
Lamar R. Miller is a 2010-11 Public Interest Law Fellow. The Public Interest Law Fellowship Program is funded by The Florida Bar Foundation to promote public interest law, and offered at the Levin College of Law by the Center for Governmental Responsibility.