Legal Resources and Organizations
Marital and Family Law Organizations
- Family Law Section of the Florida Bar – The Family Law Section provides section members and the public with information on attorneys practicing in the areas of divorce, child custody, adoption, modification of judgments and enforcement of alimony and child support. Family law deals with legal problems arising from family relationship of husband and wife and parent and child, including litigation of civil controversies arising from those relationships. In addition to actual pretrial and trial process, marital and family law includes evaluating, handling and resolving such controversies prior to the institution of suit and post-judgment proceedings.
- American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers – The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) was founded in 1962 by highly regarded domestic relations attorneys “To provide leadership that promotes the highest degree of professionalism and excellence in the practice of family law.” There are currently more than 1,600 Fellows in 50 states. The Academy Fellows are highly skilled negotiators and litigators who represent individuals in all facts of family law. These areas include divorce, annulment, prenuptial agreements, postnuptial agreements, marital settlement agreements, child custody and visitation (parental responsibility and timesharing), business valuations, property valuations and division, alimony, child support, and other family law issues.
- American College of Family Trial Lawyers – The American College of Family Trial Lawyers (ACFTL) is a select group of 100 of the top family law trial lawyers from across the United States. ACFTL was formed in 1993 to bring together some of the best trial lawyers in America practicing sophisticated and complex family law and matrimonial matters both domestically and abroad ranging from dissolution of marriage (divorce), paternity, palimony, child abduction and domestic torts. Diplomates, all members of the AAML, are chosen based upon their recognized litigation skills and courtroom abilities.
- International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers – The International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (IAML) is a worldwide association of practicing family law lawyers who are recognized by their peers as the most experienced and skilled family law specialists in their respective countries. The IAML was formed in 1986 to improve the practice of law and administration of justice in the area of divorce and family law throughout the world.
Collaborative Divorce Groups
- Tampa Bay Collaborative Divorce Group – The Tampa Bay Collaborative Group is the most experience collaborative divorce professional group in the Tampa Bay area. The lawyers in the Tampa Bay Collaborative Divorce Group are required to have a minimum of ten years of legal experience in the field of family law. They must be a member in good standing with the Florida Bar, they must be trained in collaborative law and actively practicing collaborative law. The financial professionals must have an aggregate of 20 hours of education in the financial fundamentals of divorce and at least one 30 hour training program in conflict resolution training or a minimum of 2 years hands on experience with divorces and no less than 50% of practice in family law. The facilitators must be licensed and have expertise in the area of family counseling. The facilitators function as collaborative facilitators. They must be licensed therapists, trained mediators, trained parent coordinators, and have experience in the area of family counseling and child development. All members of the Tampa Bay Collaborative Divorce Group are members of the International Academy Of Collaborative Professionals (IACP).
- International Academy of Collaborative Professionals -The International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP) is an international community of legal, mental health, and financial professionals working in concert to create client-centered processes for resolving conflict. The IACP supports Collaborative Practice as a conflict resolution option worldwide by establishing and upholding the essential elements, ethical and practice standards of Collaborative Practice; fostering professional excellence by educating and providing resources to Collaborative practitioners; leading and integrating the Collaborative community; and promoting the growth of Collaborative practice.
Other Alternative Dispute Resolution Groups
- American Arbitration Association – The American Arbitration Association® (AAA), is a not-for-profit organization with offices throughout the U.S. AAA has a long history and experience in the field of alternative dispute resolution, providing services to individuals and organizations who wish to resolve conflicts out of court.
Local Bar Organizations
- The Florida Bar – The Florida Bar is a mandatory statewide membership association of attorneys practicing in the State of Florida and judges. The Florida Bar is a guardian for the integrity of the legal profession and is lead by the President and a Board of Governors.
- Hillsborough County Bar Association – The Hillsborough County Bar Association (HCBA) is a voluntary membership association of Hillsborough County attorneys, judges, and legal professionals. The HCBA’s mission is to inspire and promote respect for the law and the justice system through service to the legal profession and to the community.
- Hillsborough Association for Women Lawyers – The Hillsborough Association for Women Lawyers (HAWL) is a voluntary membership association of Hillsborough County attorneys, judges, and legal professionals. HAWL’s mission is to promote gender equality in the legal profession and under law. HAWL’s goals include promoting and recognizing the contributions of women in the legal profession and judiciary, enhancing the quality-of-life issues for the membership, providing peer support of the membership, engaging in collaborative efforts within HAWL and with other organizations to enhance leadership opportunities, provide educational programs, and facilitate fellowship with other women’s organizations, and to advocate and lobby for equal treatment of lawyers, litigants, and witnesses.
- Tampa Hispanic Bar Association – The Tampa Hispanic Bar Association (THBA) is a voluntary membership association. THBA was formed in 2006 to bring together by association, communication, and organization lawyers, judges, and other members of the Tampa Bay legal community of Hispanic origin or descent and all others who support the mission of the THBA. THBA seeks to promote the exchange of information and ideas related to the practice of law in order to enhance its members’ knowledge and skills. THBA also strives to provide resources and enhanced opportunities for the education of future attorneys of Hispanic origin or descent while promoting the improvement of Florida’s legal system. These efforts ultimately promote the organization’s important goals of improving the administration of justice and increasing the quantity and quality of the legal services rendered to members of the Hispanic community.
- George Edgecomb Bar Association – The George Edgecomb Bar Association (GEBA) is a voluntary membership association. GEBA is Tampa’s largest predominately African-American voluntary bar association. Founded in 1982, in memory of the late Honorable George E. Edgecomb, the George Edgecomb Bar Association is dedicated to the promotion and recognition of African Americans within the legal profession and the judiciary. Today, the Association’s 100 members strive to maintain the ideals and principles George E. Edgecomb embodied during his brief but productive life.
- Central Florida Gay & Lesbian Law Association – The Central Florida Gay & Lesbian Law Association (CFGALLA) is a voluntary membership association which was founded in 2004. CFGALLA’s objective is to establish and maintain an integrated group to support, assist, and encourage gay and lesbian attorneys, legal professionals, and law students, and provide support and resources to the community at large on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered issues.
- Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Tampa Bay – The Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Tampa Bay (APABA Tampa Bay) is a voluntary membership association. APABA supports its members, its community, its colleagues and the legal profession in the Greater Tampa Bay area. It strives to create sustainable change and growth through dialogue, education, fellowship and service.
- St. Petersburg Bar Association – The St. Petersburg Bar Association (SBA) is a voluntary membership association of attorneys, judges, and legal professionals in the St. Petersburg Florida community. The SBA is committed to helping those in the legal profession and the St. Petersburg Florida community at large.
- Clearwater Bar Association – The Clearwater Bar Association (CBA) is a voluntary membership association of attorneys, judges, and legal professionals in the Clearwater Florida community. The CBA’s mission is to work for the greater good of attorneys and the community at large. The CBA’s vision is to exceed the expectations of both the legal profession and the community as a model of service and action.
- Tampa Bay Paralegal Association, Inc. – The Tampa Bay Paralegal Association (TBPA) is a voluntary membership association of legal assistants, paralegals, and affiliates. The TBPA strives to be a local Florida voice and the standard for excellence for the paralegal profession through its work on the issues of regulation, ethics, and education.
- NALA (The Association of Legal Assistants * Paralegals) – NALA is the leading paralegal association in the United States. Its mission is to provide continuing education and professional development programs to all paralegals. NALA provides current information about the profession, continuing education materials and seminars, networking opportunities, professional certification programs, occupational survey findings and manuals to help paralegals excel in the workplace.
Family Law-Related Pro Bono Legal Organizations and Opportunities
- Florida Free Legal Answers – The Florida Bar, together with the American Bar association, supports the Free Legal Answers website for Florida which allows qualifying individuals to ask non-criminal legal questions and get a response from a qualified volunteer Florida attorney. Using the service is a four-step process: (1) the person interested in a free legal answer clicks on the “get started” button where the website will ask a series of questions to see if the person qualifies for the service; (2) the qualified person creates an account and then asks his/her non-criminal legal question; (3) the website sends the question to a qualified volunteer Florida attorney for a response and then e-mails the person once the response is ready; and (4) the qualified person logs back into the site to read the response. The website also contains a link with other places where legal help is available.
- Florida Courts HELP – Florida Courts Help is a guide prepared by the Florida Commission on Access to Civil Justice which is intended to guide civil litigants (including Family Law litigants) who are not represented by an attorney (also called “pro se“) through the court system. The website provides information about local self-help centers, free and low-cost legal aid, and family law forms. The website also offers a link to the HELP App (available for download on the Appple App Store, Google Play, and Amazon) which allows mobile device users, among other things, access to family law forms, links, and plain-language instructions and descriptions to help them navigate Florida’s court systems.
- Bay Area Legal Services – Bay Area Legal Services (BALS) is a nonprofit, public interest law firm that provides civil legal assistance to low-income residents in the Tampa Bay region including Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, and Sarasota Counties. BALS’s mission is to be a regional, nonprofit public interest law firm providing the highest quality legal counsel by assisting individuals and nonprofit groups with limited access to legal services; resolving the legal problems of its clients; and preserving the independence, hope, and dignity of those BALS serves. BALS aims to eliminate barriers to justice through high quality legal services, education, and community partnerships.
- St. Michael’s Legal Center for Women & Children, Inc. – St. Michael’s Legal Center is a free legal service helping low-income women and children who require legal assistance, and has been established and is operating at Christ the King Church in Tampa. The Center is primarily a resource for women and children although, in some cases, they do take men. The Center does not discriminate as to gender, race, creed or any church or non church membership. Its primary purpose is to assist in the collection of child support by women (or men) who cannot afford to hire an attorney, or to assist in the case of domestic battery.
- St. Paul’s Catholic Legal Clinic – St. Paul’s Catholic Legal Clinic offers free consultations on family law cases. For information, call (813) 264-3303.
- The Family Forms Clinic – Is a free program offered by Bay Area Legal Services that uses volunteer attorneys to help people complete the paperwork involved in family law cases. For information, call (813) 864-2280.
- Gulfcoast Legal Services – Gulfcoast Legal Services (GLS) is a non-profit corporation providing free legal assistance to income eligible residents of the greater Tampa Bay area. GLS has offices in Pinellas Manatee, Sarasota, and Hillsborough counties. GLS also provides immigration services to residents of Pasco County as well as the other four counties where GLS has offices. GLS provides help with housing and mortgage foreclosure problems, family or domestic violence issues, immigration matters, SSI/disability and consumer matters. GLS also has special projects to help seniors in Pinellas, Manatee, and Sarasota Counties.
- Are You Safe – Are You Safe is a nonprofit organization that helps victims of domestic violence. It provides legal assistance such as help obtaining restraining orders and injunctions. For information, call (813) 514-1058.
Other Pro Bono Legal Organizations and Opportunities
♦ Aging Solutions Inc. – provides assistance to guardians for indigent wards of the state. The organization offers information on health care law as well as assistance to individuals who do not have an advocate. For information, call (813) 949-1888.
♦ The Bankruptcy Court Legal Assistance Program – helps low-income litigants in certain proceedings.
♦ The Consumer Protection Agency of Hillsborough County – deals with cases involving fraud, theft or deceptive business practices. For information, call (813) 903-3430.
♦ The Federal Forms Litigation Project – offers a one-time consult to people who are representing themselves. For information, call (813) 225-4133.
♦ Florida Rural Legal Services – serves individuals in Polk County with landlord-tenant issues, evictions, social security overpayment, foreclosures and power of attorney. For information, call (863) 688-7376.
♦ The Hillsborough County Bar Association’s – Lawyer Referral & Information Service offers free 30-minute consultations on legal matters involving social security, disability, workers’ compensation, bankruptcy, foreclosure, labor law, personal injury and active-duty military. It also offers reduced-cost consultations in all other legal matters. For information, call (813) 221-7780.
♦ The Lemon Law Arbitration Division – of the Attorney General’s Office hosts a hotline to help individuals with “Lemon Law” cases. For information, call 1-800-321-5366.
♦ The Pro Bono Bankruptcy Clinic – led by the Tampa Bay Bankruptcy Bar Association provides information and prepares documents for people who are representing themselves in bankruptcy court. For information, email Jake Blanchard at firstname.lastname@example.org.
♦ Project H.E.L.P. (Homeless Experience Legal Protection) – provides free legal advice to Hillsborough County’s homeless. Legal consultations are available every Tuesday night. For information, call (813) 209-1200.
♦ Victim Assistance Program – of the State Attorney’s Office offers counseling to victims of crime. Counselors may also serve as liaisons between victims and law enforcement agencies. For information, call (813) 272-6472.
♦ Wills for Heroes – a program supported by the Hillsborough County Bar Foundation, provides essential legal documents such as wills, health care advance directives and durable powers of attorney to Hillsborough County’s first responders and their spouses or domestic partners. For information, call (727) 471-0675.
CLICK HERE for a PDF of an article outlining pro bono legal organizations and opportunities in the Tampa Bay Area (published December 2014).