Immigration attorney, who is an immigrant herself, offered more than 300 hours of pro bono service.
Attorney Andrea Reyes, founder of Reyes Legal PLLC, will receive the 2018 Florida Bar President’s Pro Bono Service Award for the 4th Judicial Circuit.
The annual award recognizes an attorney in each of the 21 judicial circuits for having freely given their time and expertise in making legal services available to the poor.
“It was very unexpected,” Reyes said.
Born in Bogota, Colombia, Reyes attended high school in Miami and enrolled at Florida State University, where she graduated in 2006 with bachelor’s degrees in criminology and psychology.
That’s where her penchant for pro bono service began, as well as her later exclusive practice of immigration law, through volunteering at The Center for the Advancement of Human Rights.
“I did translations and it briefly exposed me to immigration law and I liked it,” Reyes said.
With two undergraduate degrees, Reyes worked as executive administrator at a law firm in Tallahassee before moving to Jacksonville to attend Florida Coastal School of Law.
There, she served as secretary of the Volunteer Immigrant Student Alliance, participated in the Hispanic-American Law Student Association and the law school’s immigrant rights clinical program.
“I dedicated my law school career to immigration,” she said.
She received her JD with honors in 2012 and worked as an intern and office manager at a Jacksonville law firm that specializes in immigration law before establishing Reyes Legal in 2014.
Reyes established her own firm in 2014 and focuses her practice on immigration law. She and her team represent clients in all aspects of immigration law, including asylum and naturalization.
An immigrant herself, Reyes said she can relate to the challenges facing people who want to come to America. Her father got a job in the U.S. in the 1990s and petitioned for family immigration status. Reyes became a naturalized citizen in February.
This is the third consecutive year that a woman lawyer has been selected to receive the award for the circuit.
Laura Boeckman, a former staff attorney at Jacksonville Area Legal Aid who is now North Florida bureau chief of the Consumer Protection Division of the state Attorney General’s Office, won in 2017.
Patricia Vail, who retired from the CSX Law Department and then was state pro bono coordinator for Florida Legal Services and later a staff attorney at Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, won in 2016.
Reyes, 33, was nominated for the award by the Jacksonville Women Lawyers Association.
The nomination application cited more than 300 hours of pro bono service focused on immigration law.
The nomination also noted that Reyes has 11 pro bono cases pending.
“That is an exceptional contribution, especially for a young lawyer who is running her own practice,” said association President Jennifer Shoaf Richardson.
Reyes will be taking the day off from her practice Jan. 25.
She’ll be in Tallahassee, accepting her award from The Florida Bar President Michael Higer at a ceremony in the state Supreme Court Building.
“You don’t do this for the recognition, but it’s nice to be recognized for doing what you love,” Reyes said.