Thunderdome Tallahassee Now Accepting Applications for Inaugural Class 1: Young Lawyers Enter, Community Leaders Emerge

Thunderdome Tallahassee: A New Legal Leadership and Service Program for Leon County and Beyond

The Legal Aid Foundation announces Thunderdome Tallahassee, a hands-on legal group training program to provide education, camaraderie, networking, leadership and recognition to a new generation of lawyers serving the community.

Applications for the inaugural class are due July 15, and participants will be selected August 1 for a September 2 start. Sponsors include the Tallahassee Bar Association and Young Lawyers Section, Prime Meridian Bank, Berger Singerman, Holland & Knight, and other local businesses.

For 45 years, the Legal Aid Foundation has matched volunteer lawyers to low-income families needing legal solutions to desperate situations. Though many lawyers in our area volunteer free representation to those who need it, finding a family law volunteer is particularly difficult. In part because children and other loved ones are often involved, family law cases may involve a high intensity of client emotion – and a potentially lengthy process. But we can’t give up – over 65% of Legal Aid clients need help in this area. And the impact of family law volunteer service is immeasurable, as expressed by one of our volunteers:

“Civil legal aid seems so distant. But when you set a fair child support amount, a child has food on the table, a decent roof over their head, school clothes… you name it, these basic needs are what is at stake in a family law case.” – Karen Walker, Holland & Knight

LAF estimates over 2,300 low-income families in Leon County need help in family law each year, and those seeking pro bono help face a 3-4 month wait for a volunteer lawyer. This is a major unmet need threatening home, family, and livelihood – a need Thunderdome Tallahassee was created to meet.

Thunderdome Tallahassee addresses this gaping need for equal access to the law, while supporting volunteer lawyers with the best in legal education and leadership development. This summer, 15-20 diverse young lawyer participants will be selected for our inaugural Class 1. Each will commit to volunteer representation for a family law case over 9 months of training, mentorship, and leadership development. Upon completion of the program, participants will be invited to return as mentors and presenters to future Thunderdome Tallahassee classes. This supportive and experiential environment will foster new and continued volunteerism, benefitting local families and children.

The Legal Aid Foundation is partnering with local leaders from the judiciary, law firms, universities, bar associations, and Leadership Tallahassee to create and facilitate the program. From their shared vision, Thunderdome Tallahassee will provide legal skills and leadership development to lawyers with a drive for social change and community service.

In addition to legal and leadership education, participants receive the added benefits of:

• A lifelong network of colleagues, friends, and community connections
• Small group interactions with legal, judicial, and community professionals
• Hands-on development of client handling and trial skills
• Community engagement opportunities
• Invitations to leadership roles in future Thunderdome Tallahassee classes
• An in-depth opportunity to serve a local family in need, and a personal understanding of how pro bono family law service impacts lives far beyond the case itself

Excitingly, the Young Lawyers’ Section of the Tallahassee Bar Association has won two grants to help develop Thunderdome Tallahassee: the President’s Award at the Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division Affiliate Outreach Conference in January 2014, and a recent subgrant awarded by the American Bar Association. YLS was 1 of 19 winners of subgrants to U.S. young lawyer organizations for activities that benefit local communities, leaders or members, and the only affiliate to win an ABA subgrant from the State of Florida.

Thunderdome Tallahassee Class 1 will launch in September 2014. We seek the best and brightest young attorneys for our inaugural class … lawyers with a drive for social change and community leadership. And sponsors of Thunderdome Tallahassee, Class 1, will found a legacy of young volunteer lawyers and community leaders offering low-income families help and hope for a more stable home.

How can ~you~ and your organization be a part of this groundbreaking initiative? Support Thunderdome Tallahassee’s inaugural Class 1 in one or more of the following ways:

1. Apply as a participant, or nominate a local lawyer, at Applications are due Tuesday July 15, and Class 1 will be chosen by August 1.

2. Invest in this exciting new program as a sponsor of Thunderdome Tallahassee. Your contribution will provide the needed funds to make this program a legacy in Tallahassee and a model for ~all~ Florida Legal Aid programs. Financial gifts go to support program operations, legal costs, events, and the work of our Curriculum Partners, such as FSU Law, Leadership Tallahassee, the Virgil Hawkins Bar Association, and Florida’s Second Judicial Circuit Family Law Judges.

3. Participate in LAF’s Like-a-thon for our Facebook page at We would like to reach 1,000 likes to help promote our services to the community, the work of our volunteers, and the impact of Thunderdome Tallahassee and our sponsors.