NAPLES — Legal representation should never be a do-it-yourself project.
Even the simplest criminal and civil cases can involve complicated forms, filing deadlines and courtroom procedure.
Yet some have little choice but to represent themselves in court. Public defenders don’t take civil cases like divorces or landlord-tenant disputes, and Legal Aid handles only a limited volume of cases.
For those forced to represent themselves, or anyone else in need of legal advice, the Collier County Bar Association is hosting a free legal clinic on Saturday.
More than 30 lawyers from a variety of practices will make themselves available for half-hour sessions between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. at the Legal Aid offices at 4125 East Tamiami Tr.
“They’ll give advice, they’ll help with paperwork if that’ s what’s required,” association president Lisa Mead said. “Basically point them in the right direction so they know how to proceed with their case.”
The consultations are free.
Mead runs the association’s office on the fifth floor of the Collier Courthouse, a resource for those seeking legal literature or software. Because neither Mead nor her staff are lawyers, they can only steer visitors toward a computer or point them to an attorney, not offer advice.
Attorneys on Saturday can offer pointed advice, Mead said. She expects 32 attorneys in practice areas that include family law, bankruptcy, criminal, foreclosure and landlord/tenant disputes.
State Rep. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, a lawyer in real estate and trust law, is expected to be among those attending, Mead said.
Reuben Doupé, a family law attorney with Klaus Doupé, PA, in Naples, has participated in the clinic since 2005. Handling divorce, paternity and post-judgment issues like custody and child-support, Doupé said the clinic offers a variety of cases he often doesn’t see in his practice.
“You would think they’re simple, but they’re not always,” he said.
Clinic attendees often include those who recently received divorce or paternity papers but may have limited contact with the other party, he said. They may be surprised by the case and overwhelmed by the abundant forms and procedures that come with it.
Doupé said forms are available at the clinic and that he and other attorneys can help someone fill them out.
He suggested attendees come to the clinic with the existing work in the case.
“Bring what’s been done already,” he said.
The clinic is also open to anyone with who has a lawyer but might be looking for a second opinion.
Mead expects many attendees to come with foreclosures or family law cases, both areas of high self-representation in the courts. She said a visit to the clinic can make a difference for someone overwhelmed by the system.
“If they don’t know where to look, they’ll probably file incorrectly,” she said.