TALLAHASSEE — Among the 22 lawyers that will be honored by the Florida Bar later this month for their work with low-income and disadvantaged clients will be Sandra K. Haas.
Haas is the recipient from the Third Judicial Circuit of the Florida Bar President’s Pro Bono Service Award, which will be awarded during a Jan. 30 ceremony at the Supreme Court of Florida.
Shortly after opening her law office in 1995, Haas began doing pro bono work with people from Branford and several counties surrounding Suwannee County. She had discovered that a significant number of elderly clients could not afford to pay an attorney to prepare their wills, power of attorney, designation of healthcare surrogate and living wills.
In December 2007, she became the supervising attorney for the Third Circuit Guardian Ad Litem program. Haas was still helping people in her community during that time, but she was not allowed to do pro bono work.
When she retired from GAL in 2010, she resumed her pro bono work — helping the elderly who needed deeds, wills and other documents prepared but who could not afford to pay an attorney for those services.
Not long after, Haas began volunteering with Three Rivers Legal Services – a nonprofit law firm providing free legal help in Gainesville, Jacksonville and Lake City – preparing wills, power of attorney documents, designation of healthcare surrogates and living wills.
Haas said she enjoys meeting these clients she feels privileged to serve.
Established in 1981, the Florida Bar President’s Pro Bono Service Awards are intended to encourage lawyers to volunteer free legal services to the poor. The annual awards recognize those who make public service commitments and raise public awareness of the volunteer services provided by Florida lawyers. Florida Bar President John M. Stewart will present the 2020 awards.
The awards recognize pro bono service in each of Florida’s 20 judicial circuits (with two honorees this year in the 14th Circuit) as well as service by one Florida Bar member practicing outside the state of Florida. They are presented annually in conjunction with the Tobias Simon Pro Bono Service Award, which is given by the chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court. Awards recognizing pro bono contributions also will be presented in the categories of Distinguished Judicial Service, Distinguished Federal Judicial Service, Law Firm Commendation, Voluntary Bar Association and Young Lawyers Division.
By the latest available reporting period, Florida attorneys collectively provided more than 1.6 million hours of free legal service and, in addition, more than 24,000 hours were provided through law firms, along with donations of more than $6.2 million in legal aid.
This year’s ceremony is scheduled for Jan. 30, at 3:30 p.m. at the Supreme Court of Florida. Watch it at http://wfsu.org/gavel2gavel and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/floridasupremecourt and The Florida Channel.