Unselfishly Sharing Her Talents
Even before she joined The Florida Bar, Michele Stephan understood the value of pro bono service. Stephen went to the Stetson University College of Law on a Public Service Fellowship from The Florida Bar Foundation and, while there, developed a program to providelegal services to the poor and volunteered at legal clinics. She was awarded the college’s Pro Bono Service Award in 1996, the year she earned her J.D.
Now, after 20 years of legal practice, she has left a Sarasota personal-injury firm and starteda solo practice, Legal on Your Own, P.A., to offer unbundled legal services to pro se litigantsand others who can’t afford a lawyer.
For six years, Stephan has single-handedly run a weekly legal counseling clinic for the homeless clients at Resurrection House. During that time, she has donated more than 500 hours of pro bono service. “Michele continues to be a forceful and caring voice for our clients needing legal representation,” comments Acting Executive Director Bill Wilson.
Examples of the variety of legal issues Stephan has resolved include:
She has helped numerous clients obtain birth certificates which enable them to obtain Florida identification card or driver’s license and get back to work.
She has assisted numerous clients in applying for and going through the Social Security Benefit process; assisted clients with modification of child support proceedings; assisted an indigent father obtain State appointed counsel in a termination of parental rights action; assisted clients in obtaining divorces and other family law issues.
She assisted a client involved in a hit and run accident recover uninsured motorist benefits and obtain benefits through the State of Florida Vocational Rehabilitation in order to obtain a much needed operation.
Another client was living in a decrepit motel, even though she had an inheritance. Stephan helped establish a guardianship which provided oversight over the inheritance and the client is now living in suitable housing, getting three meals a day and doing well.
Because of her untiring efforts at Resurrection House, Michele received the “Florida Bar President’s Pro Bono Service Award” in January 2017.
Other recognitions include:
Sarasota Country Bar Association "Distinguished Community Service Award” September 2014
Legal Aid of Manasota “Outstanding Service to the Community Award” June 2015
News Channel 9 “Everyday Heroes” April 2017
SNN—Sarasota News Network—”People You Should Know” 2017
Florida Association for Women Lawyers “2017 Leaders in the Law” award June 2017
“Michele Stephan is a shining example of the work ethic and dedication that volunteers bring to work every day.” concludes Wilson.