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Jacksonville Area Legal Aid hosts ‘Alternative Spring Break’

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In total, 12 law students spent part of their 2024 spring break providing pro bono services to low-income seniors

University of Florida law students and federal judges

University of Florida law students visit with judges at the Bryan Simpson United States Courthouse as part of their Jacksonville Area Legal Aid sponsored “Alternative Spring Break.”

“Alternative Spring Break” is an annual community outreach project hosted by Jacksonville Area Legal Aid in which law students assist low-income seniors with drafting their advance directives.

“These documents are invaluable, especially to those senior members of our community, and include a power of attorney, living will, designation of health care surrogate, and designation of pre-need guardian,” said Aaron J. Irving, director of pro bono at Jacksonville Area Legal Aid.

Each year, law students from the University of Florida take part in JALA’s Alternative Spring Break. This year, however, law students from Jacksonville University were invited to participate in the program, which was held from March 11-14. In total, 12 students spent part of their 2024 spring break providing pro bono services including, Ashlyn Freeman, Logan Grutchfield, Alexander Tyler, Matthew Hanuman, Tara Garner, David Safir, and Michael Israel from the University of Florida, and Andrew-Paul Griffis, Casey Shiver, Joe Oliva, Alex Borger, and Morgan Miner from Jacksonville University.

Irving said the students began their Alternative Spring Break on Monday with an orientation at JALA and were given an overview of the importance of legal aid from JALA’s President & CEO Jim Kowalski. In the afternoon, pro bono attorney Rick Stockton of Holland & Knight spoke with the students about the importance of each of the advance directive documents. Stockton also trained the students on how to draft the advance directives using specially designed templates and computer software provided by Holland & Knight.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, students were on-site at Cathedral Towers and Pablo Hamlet and during this time, counseled seniors and drafted their advance directives. Volunteer pro bono attorneys Ashley Goggins, Stockton, Pamela Lynde, and Isabella Limonta were likewise on-site at both residential facilities to supervise and assist students in creating the documents. During lunch, students learned more about the legal field from each pro bono volunteer attorney.

JU law students and judges.

Jacksonville University law students meet with judges at the Bryan Simpson United States Courthouse. This is the first year Jacksonville Law students participated in the Jacksonville Area Legal Aid sponsored “Alternative Spring Break.”

Alternative Spring Break concluded on Thursday with a luncheon at the Bryan Simpson United States Courthouse hosted by United States District Judge Marcia Morales Howard and Magistrate Judges Patricia Barksdale and Laura Lambert. During the luncheon, Irving said students learned from the judges and their law clerks about practicing in federal court, as well as the importance of pro bono work.

“In total, the students provided services to 30 seniors, which is approximately $15,000 in pro bono legal services to those who could not afford to pay for these documents otherwise,” Irving said.

For those interested in getting involved with JALA’s Pro Bono Unit, visit where you may find several volunteer opportunities, including cases awaiting placement. Alternatively, send an email to [email protected] if you have additional questions or interests.

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