We all know there’s no such thing as a free lunch, but this coming Monday, Jan. 15, anyone in Juneau who needs a free legal consultation can have one, thanks to volunteer lawyers from the Juneau Bar Association who donate their services to honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. On what would have been Dr. King’s 89th birthday, two free legal clinics — one in the Valley from 9 a.m. to noon (at the Alaska Legal Services office, Jordan Creek Mall, second floor) and the other downtown from 1-4 p.m. (at the Dimond Courthouse) — will make legal consultations available without charge to anyone, regardless of income level.
Volunteer attorneys will provide one-on-one consultations to advise people regarding the best way forward on a wide variety of legal problems. The clinics are intended as an entry point for people looking for advice on how and where to start in dealing with their problem. Maybe a person’s former spouse has stopped paying child support. Or a landlord isn’t providing reliable heat or running water. Or public benefits are being wrongfully denied. Figuring out your rights can be an overwhelming and intimidating experience, and hiring a lawyer can be an expensive proposition. At the MLK Day clinic, the consultation is free and entirely confidential.
The clinics are not intended to provide a continuing legal relationship. But they can be extremely helpful to explain a person’s rights and legal position, discuss possible solutions to a person’s problems, and set out resources that may be available to the person.
The Alaska Bar Association, in partnership with local bar associations, Alaska Legal Services Corporation, and the Alaska Court System has been running MLK Day free legal clinics for eight years. In that time, hundreds of volunteer attorneys across the state have served about 3,000 clients, donating over 5,200 volunteer hours with a value of nearly half a million dollars in legal services. Providing access to justice is one way that lawyers celebrate and honor Dr. King and his goal of justice for all. In-person clinics are held in three communities: Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau, and phone banks are used in serving rural Alaska.
And that free lunch thing? Refreshments — including vegetable plates, cheese and crackers, muffins, cookies, light beverages and coffee — will be available to all, thanks to contributions from the Juneau Bar Association, as well as the generous support of Heritage Coffee and Costco. Free legal consultation and free refreshments available to all? We think Dr. King would have liked that.