- 2013 - December - 9th -

Pycraft sets example for pro bono work

By Kathy Para, The JBA Pro Bono Committee chair

St. Johns County attorney, Tom Pycraft is dedicated to including pro bono service as part of his law practice.

His pro bono efforts focus on consumer defense matters. At its core, consumer protection advocacy is about the "little guy" (the consumer) vs. the "big guy" (businesses).

Most often, on one side is a sophisticated corporation or a large bank with seemingly unlimited resources and on the other is a consumer who might be unaware of his or her rights or may not have the financial resources to enforce them.

At their best, consumer protection lawyers can level the playing field between these two unequally matched opponents.

He worked on behalf of low-income and vulnerable clients. It is with deep appreciation for his commitment and pro bono representation of these clients that he is recognized as the pro bono attorney of the month.

Pycraft's pro bono commitment reaches beyond his individual clients. He has developed a culture at his firm that rewards and encourages pro bono work and emphasizes collaboration and mentorship between members of the bar.

In his pro bono work with the St. Johns County office of Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, Pycraft assists with intake interviews for clients with consumer law issues, attends the bi-weekly consumer pro bono practice group where cases are reviewed and placed with counsel, mentors other pro bono and Legal Aid staff attorneys, and accepts cases for full representation.

He is committed to assisting new pro bono attorneys and co-counsels cases, shares pleadings, offers advice and reviews work product. His goal is always to help ensure that consumers have access to knowledgeable and competent counsel. He is passionate about the practice of law and passionate about consumer advocacy.

In 2012, with a staff of four attorneys, Pycraft Legal Services accepted 64 pro bono cases primarily in foreclosure and credit card debt defense. Year to date, Pycraft Legal Services has taken on 42 cases.

In a recent case, Pycraft's client, age 59, had been persuaded by a local lending company to sign a wrap-around mortgage loan that the client could not afford. The client expressed concern, but in the end entered into the loan contract. He was not able to stay current on the loan and eventually faced foreclosure.

With the threat of losing his home, in which he lived with his wife and disabled grandson, the client turned to Legal Aid for assistance. The case was complicated and required filing multiple counterclaims to recover the client's modest damages.

Eventually the case went to trial and the client prevailed on all four of his claims against the lender, including a violation of Florida's Deceptive and Unfair and Trade Practices Act. The client was able to rescind the predatory loan and recover his damages in full.

Pycraft is well-respected at the state and national levels for his work as a consumer advocate. He recently presented a training seminar for the National Business Institute called "BOOT CAMP: Foreclosure and Loan Workout Procedures." This training detailed many of the legal and ethical aspects critical to successful foreclosure defense.

In addition to his pro bono commitment, Pycraft is active in his church and has recently begun assisting the Chase Academy, a nonprofit school for autistic children in South Daytona. He also represents the St. Johns County Housing Partnership as pro bono counsel.

Pycraft's pro bono clients are fortunate to have his representation and the legal community in Northeast Florida is fortunate to have him strengthening the profession with his commitment to pro bono service.

Zealous advocacy regardless of ability to pay is at the core of our system of justice. With gratitude, we recognize Pycraft as the pro bono attorney of the month and thank him for his service.

Attorneys interested in pro bono opportunities throughout Northeast Florida are encouraged to contact Kathy Para, chairwoman of The JBA Pro Bono Committee, kathy.para@jaxlegalaid.org.

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