The Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division recognized Jennifer Edwards of Pinellas County with the Young Lawyers Division Pro Bono Award in a ceremony with the Florida Supreme Court on January 19, 2017. Although Jennifer Edwards works over 50 hours a week as an attorney, she has still found time to serve as a guardian ad litem (GAL) for many children in need in the Pinellas County community.
Ms. Edwards has only been a lawyer for two years, yet she has made a significant impact on her community, volunteering approximately 70 hours annually as a guardian ad litem. “I believe that conducting pro bono work should be the first thought on everyone’s mind as they step into a legal career,” Ms. Edwards stated.
In 2015, Ms. Edwards suffered from personal tragedies, losing two grandparents to cancer within a matter of weeks. At a cross road in her life, she decided to spend more time helping others in need and dedicated her efforts to serving as a GAL. Her first case involved representing a seven year old boy whose parents had substance abuse problems. Through her counseling and representation, she was able to assist the child achieve reunification with his parents. More than simply provide legal representation, Ms. Edwards also spent time with the child to assist in raising his school grades that had suffered along the way.
She is currently serving as a guardian ad litem to a three-week old girl and plans on dedicating one day of each work week to local legal aid programs. “My goal with the GAL Program is to become not only a supporting volunteer by taking on several cases, but ultimately to be the best mentor I possibly can for every child I encounter. As volunteers we are providing each child with a voice, which to me is the most gratifying gift that one could receive.”