Alaska News

Attorneys at free legal clinic offer advice on wills, adoptions, ANCSA stock

Put three dozen attorneys together in a room and lives can change.

That's the idea behind the Elizabeth Peratrovich legal clinic available for three hours Friday at the Alaska Federation of Natives convention in Anchorage.

A project of Alaska Legal Services Corp. and the Alaska Bar Association, the effort offers free 20-minute legal session to convention-goers, a valuable service for residents from remote villages who don't have courts and law firms nearby.

"The free consultations give better access to justice," said Nikole Nelson, ALSC executive director.

Alaska Legal Services, with some dozen offices statewide, provides free legal support to low-income Alaskans.

But the clinic includes a variety of private law firms who help provide the roughly 35 attorneys volunteering their time, she said. The clinic runs from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., in the Tubughnenq 3 room, on the second floor of the Dena'ina Center.

The clinics are named after Peratrovich, an Alaska Native civil rights leader who died in 1958.

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Offered in recent years, the sessions have produced important outcomes for families, she said.

"There are sometimes problems that have been weighing on folks for a number of years, but there can be an easy fix if there's access to attorneys," she said.

A private attorney at a past clinic helped a person who had run into trouble with the law, but wanted to live in a village for a job and family reasons after serving time. The lack of a village probation officer prevented the move.

But after making calls, the attorney learned a game warden serving the area could fill that probationary role, allowing the person to move to the village, said Nelson.

Estate attorneys have helped elders write wills.

"That gives peace of mind to someone wanting to make sure their affairs are in order and land passes down to the next generation," Nelson said.

A variety of questions will be handled Friday. Topics will include family matters, such as adoption or divorce, benefits such as Medicaid or Medicare, and questions about Native land allotments or stock with Native corporations.

"People are so appreciative to get assistance they otherwise can't have," Nelson said. "It's one of the great pleasures of being lawyer."

Alex DeMarban

Alex DeMarban is a longtime Alaska journalist who covers business, the oil and gas industries and general assignments. Reach him at 907-257-4317 or alex@adn.com.

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