"Working in employment law, I enjoy the opportunity to put my passion for helping others into practice."
James Poindexter is chair of the Jacksonville Bar Association Governmental Relations Committee. The group provides legislative updates and information about changes in the law and administrative code on the local, state and federal levels that may affect attorneys who practice in Jacksonville.
Who or what inspired you to become a lawyer? I have always wanted to work in a career where I can help people. Growing up around a number of lawyers, I was inspired by their ability to help people solve problems. Working in employment law, I enjoy the opportunity to put my passion for helping others into practice.
How do you relate your undergraduate degree to your practice of law? My education in political science taught me how to read and analyze complex issues. I also learned effective writing and debate skills. Finally, my political science education allowed me to learn how to put my passion for social justice into practice. I utilize my undergraduate education each day as I research, write, advise clients and advocate before various tribunals.
How did you decide your practice area? And why have you chosen that? I worked for a labor and employment law firm while an undergrad and based on that experience decided to pursue a career in employment law. I was drawn to the ability to work with the victims of employment discrimination and other workplace disputes to resolve their legal problems.
What has been the biggest change in your practice area since you were admitted to the Bar? Discovery is a constantly evolving issue when dealing with modern companies. As businesses evolve and adopt new technologies and move at a quicker pace, it is becoming more difficult to trace communications over various platforms and find the evidence we may need to prove our cases.
What do you think will be the next biggest change in your area of law? More employers are presenting their employees with onerous employment arbitration agreements. As these agreements become more prevalent, our arbitrations practice will likely catch up to our litigation practice.
If I could change anything in the legal system … I would like to see Florida’s noncompete statute reformed to heighten the standard for enforcing restrictive covenants. Currently, many employees are forced to sign noncompete agreements when there is no legitimate business interest that needs to be protected. As a result, they must choose to either find new fields of work or risk being enjoined at significant legal expense.
What community service have you pursued and why that? I have made a practice of handling a number of pro bono employment-related cases each year. I find it rewarding to assist those who do not have the financial means to pursue their legal claims. I have learned a lot from these cases as they usually involve facts and laws that I do not typically encounter in my normal practice.
What’s your advice for new lawyers? Get a mentor. There is nothing you will face during your first years of practice that your mentor has not had to deal with during his or her career. By engaging with a mentor you will be able to navigate difficult clients, opposing attorneys or ethical dilemmas that can create a lot of problems for new attorneys.