Local attorneys to offer free legal services Monday

Group will be on hand beginning at 9 a.m. at Dimond Courthouse

Posted: Sunday, January 17, 2010

Many people will get the day off Monday in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. but a group of local lawyers will use the day to give back to the community by providing free legal services.

The Juneau Bar Association and Alaska Legal Services will provide free legal assistance and consultation from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday at the Dimond Court House.

"Currently we have about 25 attorneys who are willing to volunteer," said Hanna Sebold, a lawyer who is helping to organize the event.

Along with the lawyers, there will be representatives from a variety of local agencies, including Tlingit & Haida Central Council, AWARE, the state of Alaska and some paralegals to help with paperwork.

Anchorage is holding a similar event, and it was decided that a "Day of Service" should be held in Juneau as well, Sebold said.

"This is the first year and it really was just sort of a, 'Why not? We should be doing this sort of stuff,'" she said.

The initial idea was to provide legal advice in specific areas, including domestic violence issues, landlord and tenant law and family law for issues like divorce and child custody. Once the word got out that the event was happening, there were more and more lawyers who began offering their services, Sebold said.

"We got more and more interest from folks outside of those areas of law, so to our surprise and pleasure we have folks now willing to participate who do employment law (and) general civil law," she said. "We've been able to expand the scope quite considerably so that we are able to provide greater service to folks in the community.

Although the legal services provided Monday are free, what's being provided is consultative and there will not be an ongoing attorney-client relationship following the Day of Service.

"This is sort of a limited representation and we're not going to be able to solve everybody's issue in the 15 minutes that we're able to meet with them, but the hope is to identify problems to help navigate through the legal system and to also give them confidence to also solve some of these on their own, or at least know where to go," attorney Kelly Jantunen said.

People are encouraged to go to the main entrance of the Dimond Courthouse on Monday, where organizers will direct attendees based on the type of legal advice they need. They will then meet with a lawyer in private to discuss concerns or ask questions.

The organizers have been placing flyers at different locations throughout town but at this point are still unsure how many people will take advantage of the free service on Monday.

"At this point we could have five (people) or we could have 500," Sebold said.

Everybody is welcome to come and ask questions, Jantunen said.

"Come on down if there is anything we can help with," she said. "It is our intention that this is going to be the first of many."

The organizers are hoping that it will be a successful event that can continue in the future.

• Contact reporter Eric Morrison at 523-2269 or eric.morrison@juneauempire.com.

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