School receives Equal Justice Award from Legal Aid

The Jacksonville legal community recognized Florida Coastal School of Law in early 2012 for its dedication to representing citizens in all income brackets. Jacksonville Area Legal Aid honored the school with the 2011 Robert J. Beckham Equal Justice Award.

Jacksonville Area Legal Aid presented the award during its annual gathering in January, which highlights local organizations’ and individuals’ pro bono work for the legal aid community. On hand to receive the award were Coastal Law Dean Peter Goplerud, Vice Dean Terri Davlantes and Professors Laura Boeckman, Ericka Curran and Karen Millard, director of the school’s pro bono program.

Michael Freed, Jacksonville Bar Association president and managing partner for Jacksonville-based Brennan, Manna & Diamond, emceed the event.

“The Jacksonville Bar Association is proud of its regular association with Florida Coastal School of Law on the provision of legal services to those who cannot afford it,” Freed said. “Such outreach is critical to the workings of our justice system.” He said Coastal Law “wisely instills this commitment” in its students, who have a well-known reputation for community service work and involvement.

Millard said the class of 2012 performed more than 39,000 volunteer hours at graduation — a school record. “That’s a significant jump,” Millard said, “up from the 26,000 hours last year’s class contributed to community service endeavors.”

Students worked with many non-profit organizations, including Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, public defenders’ offices across the state, and other groups including the Clara White Mission and the Sulzbacher Center, Millard said.

“One thing to keep in mind is that the U.S. Census Bureau reported the number of those living below the poverty level had increased to 46.9 million — that means one person out of seven is living below the poverty rate,” Millard said, adding it is the highest rate the U.S. has seen in two decades. “This work comes at a time when it is desperately needed.”

One of Florida Coastal School of Law’s fundamental pillars, she said, is service to the underserved. The lessons students are learning about pro bono work and commitment to the community through their experiences will serve them well — and help further the school’s mission.

“They’re learning right now what their responsibilities are as attorneys — they’re already putting it into action,” Millard said. “Students at Florida Coastal School of Law already are doing more than what some attorneys are doing in their practice.”

Kathy Para, pro bono development coordinator at Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, said the class of 2012 contributed a greatly needed service to the Northeast Florida community.

“Florida Coastal is doing its part to develop and instill in our next generation of attorneys how important it is that they share their unique legal skills with people in need,” she said.