"I came to the practice of law somewhat atypically."
Crystal Freed is founder of the Freed Firm and is the 4th Judicial Circuits’s 2019 recipient of The Florida Bar President’s Pro Bono Service Award. She’s also rehearsing to be a contestant April 27 in Jacksonville’s Dancing with the Stars to benefit the Jacksonville Children’s Chorus.
Who or what inspired you to become a lawyer? I came to the practice of law somewhat atypically. Through a series of events in my troubled family, at 14 I met a sympathetic assistant state attorney in Broward County who asked me what I needed to feel safe. The realization of the positive impact the law can have on lives came into focus, placing me on the path to becoming a counselor at law.
How did you decide your practice area? And why have you chosen that? I started as a commercial litigator because the idea of navigating the law as a mechanism to resolve the ever-changing landscape in complex business disputes was a welcomed challenge. Then, in 2008, my current practice area chose me because, aside from a handful of immigration lawyers, no one was representing victims of human trafficking. I have since expanded my areas of practice to include contract, landlord-tenant and probate cases, deliberately serving the defenseless or oppressed through Jacksonville Area Legal Aid.
What has been the biggest change in your practice area since you passed the Bar? Propelled by legislation and advocacy, there is a better, albeit rudimentary, understanding of the people involved in and the legal issues presented by the laws addressing sex trafficking (though some still conflate it with the sex trade).
What do you think will be the next biggest change in your area of law? An understanding of legal issues, rights and remedies presented by labor trafficking outside of undocumented workers, remains a real challenge. However, as attorneys across the country continue to bring strategic labor trafficking cases, both justice for victims and increased public awareness will follow. My hope is that businesses will come alongside the anti-labor trafficking movement as an ally in ferreting out bad actors and criminals in their respective industries, without the need for additional regulation.
What’s your advice for new lawyers? The Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year for 2018 was “toxic” while for 2016, the word was “post-truth.” Since we are not divorced from the “toxic, post-truth” society of which we are not only a part, but also draw our clients, the clarion call of the Oath of Attorney, to truth, honor, fairness, integrity and civility must be front and center of our life and practice.