Once a state pilot program, now a time-tested service that hundreds of Clay County citizens have already contacted, the Clay County Clerk’s Office Low Bono Program enters its third year of operation. However, there is room for more citizens to benefit from these low cost legal appointments – just $1 per minute – plus a need for more attorneys to volunteer their time to assist these clients with their family law matters.
“My hope for Low Bono in the future is that it continues to be a robust service that we offer the citizens of Clay County and that they recognize that this program is there for them to utilize,” said Clerk of Court Tara S. Green. Green’s comment is part of a new Clerk’s Office Low Bono Program video produced to increase public awareness and legal community involvement. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Xab1nUShLY
The goal of Low Bono is to lower the barriers that prevent people with moderate financial means from accessing legal services, specifically those involved in family law cases. This program, developed initially by Clay County Clerk’s Office General Counsel Justin Horan, is available to Clay County residents involving Clay County family law cases only, with a focus on clients representing themselves (pro se litigants).
“Helping people get through their family law related legal cases, feeling confident about what they are doing is really the end goal,” said Horan. Other involved attorneys agree.
“We want our community to understand that we are here for them, so take advantage of this program,” explained Jessica Skapetis, Wiggins Law Firm, P.A. Skapetis is one of eight licensed attorneys volunteering to meet with Low Bono clients regularly at the Clay County Courthouse. “There are misconceptions about how the court process works,” Skapetis said. “The biggest problem we see is inadmissible evidence, like hearsay, so we work with them to get them on the right track, so they have the best opportunity to be successful in front of the magistrate.”
Skapetis sees this program as a win-win. “If you love Clay County like I do and want to put roots down here in the community as an attorney, this is totally worthwhile,” she said. “The benefits of this type of community outreach outweigh any time I occasionally lose in my office.” Volunteer attorneys can meet with up to eight Low Bono clients a day. “The majority of people come in after receiving a giant packet of paperwork and forms and don’t know where to start. They’re overwhelmed and often end up filing the wrong paperwork or unnecessary forms. We help make the correct steps clear so they can move forward,” Skapetis said.
Citizens may contact the Clerk’s Office to schedule an appointment with a Low Bono attorney at a rate of $1.00 per minute, minimum appointment time of thirty minutes ($30), up to sixty minutes ($60). Services are provided on a cash only basis paid directly to the Low Bono attorney at the time of the appointment. Appointments are held at the Clay County Courthouse, 825 N. Orange Avenue, Green Cove Springs. Citizens are encouraged to watch the new informational video on the Self-Help Center page of this site and on the Clerk’s You Tube channel) and then to call the Clerk’s Office Civil Department to schedule an appointment at (904) 269-6363.