Helmets and hotdogs . . . it must be Law Day- Firm to hold 24th annual legal aid clinic in fair-like setting

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By Jo Mathis

Legal News

Throwing a big bash for hundreds of guests is a huge undertaking, but attorney Scott Goodwin is looking forward to his firm's 24th annual legal aid clinic on Saturday, June 11.

Goodwin sees Law Day as a chance for adults to get free legal advice, kids to receive free bike helmets in a fair-like environment, and everyone to see the softer side of lawyers.

"Our profession needs to reach out to our community and share our talents with the public so we can help solve problems and we can be looked upon not as ambulance chasers or greedy trial lawyers but as productive members of the community fighting for justice and championing our clients rights," said Goodwin, who founded the Birmingham-based Goodwin & Scieszka Law Center in 1986 with his partner, Jim Scieszka.

About 30 attorneys from several Detroit area law firms will donate their time giving free legal advice on all areas of the law. In addition to pro bono counseling, visitors get free hot dogs, ice cream, prizes, and bike helmets for all children through age 12.

Karl Nilsson is so impressed by the good done at Law Day, he's volunteered there every year as event coordinator.

"They do such a great thing for the community," said Nilsson, who met Goodwin and Scieszka when they were guests on the radio show he directed years ago. "Their whole staff is energized, and everyone pitches in. And people have such a good time."

Since the event began, Goodwin & Scieszka have donated 10,000 free safety helmets.

As a personal injury attorney who has seen the devastating results of auto and motorcycle crashes, and as a father of three, Goodwin is happy to give away those free helmets.

"I receive thank you letters and even calls telling me their son or daughter fell off their bike and the helmet saved them from serious injury," he said.

He's also happy to give people who perhaps can't afford an attorney a chance to meet in a relaxed setting. Law Day allows the lawyers to be approached in a safe informal environment. Last year, about half of the 500 people who attended Law Day received a free legal consultation.

Many times folks seeking legal assistance come in contact with a lawyer during a contentious time, such as an adversarial situation or a criminal arrest, and they are forced into a system where they may be paying thousands of dollars to avoid jail, said Goodwin said.

"Our law day gives the average individual an opportunity to visit with a lawyer in a less formal environment without the fear of a hourly charge, and get their questions answered free of charge," he said, noting that questions range from landlord-tenant issues to more complex cases involving a bankruptcy or medical malpractice. "There is a greater need during economic downturns to help folks and we need to focus our attention on how we can help -- not just how we can reap economic rewards."

Local radio personalities from WMUZ-FM will broadcast live and local musicians will perform. Also scheduled to appear from 1 to 3 p.m. is Paws, the Detroit Tigers' mascot.

Nillson said some people come to Law Day and stay all day, watching the entertainment, listening to their favorite radio shows broadcasting live, listening for their names to be drawn and announced.

"This is all out of (Goodwin's) own pocket, but he doesn't make a big deal about it," said Nillson of the day, which costs about $15,000. "It's a public service event that's very satisfying and it's a blast for the kids."

The event will be held rain or shine on Saturday, June 11, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the parking lot of Goodwin & Scieszka, 999 Haynes in Birmingham. The building is directly behind Border's Books on Woodward just south of Maple in Birmingham.

Published: Tue, May 24, 2011