Akerman associate attorney wins Young Lawyers Division Pro Bono Service Award.
The Florida Bar rules state that each member “should strive to satisfy their professional responsibility to provide pro bono legal service to the poor.”
The annual aspirational goal is at least 20 hours of service at no charge or $350 in contributions to legal aid agencies.
Allison Stocker, an associate attorney in Akerman’s Jacksonville office, went beyond that goal when she was on the team that sued the City of Jacksonville in federal court on behalf of Ability Housing of Northeast Florida Inc.
Nonprofit Ability Housing was seeking to establish in Springfield permanent supportive housing for veterans with disabilities, but was blocked by the city’s special zoning overlay for the historic neighborhood.
Fighting City Hall in federal court — and winning — took 14 months and more than 2,000 pro bono hours, about 600 of which were logged by Stocker.
She accepted The Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division Pro Bono Service Award for 2018 on Thursday at the state Supreme Court in Tallahassee.
“It was great for me, experience-wise,” Stocker said. “It’s not typical for an associate to be that involved in a case in federal court.”
Stocker, 33, worked alongside real estate attorney Thomas Ingram, the lead attorney on the case, and other Akerman lawyers.
She was involved in the many aspects of the lawsuit, including drafting the complaint, discovery, depositions and planning the litigation strategy that led to settling the case in Ability Housing’s favor.
In May 2017, City Council approved a settlement that included, in addition to amending the zoning prohibitions that blocked the project that led to the lawsuit, the city paying the nonprofit $400,000 and creating a $1.5 million grant for development of permanent supportive housing.
“I checked off a lot of boxes, professionally,” Stocker said. “I handled a discovery dispute in federal court by myself.”
Working on the Ability Housing case was far more involved than Stocker’s previous pro bono service, which was primarily participating as a legal adviser at pro bono clinics organized for seniors by Jacksonville Area Legal Aid and Three Rivers Legal Services.
“I’d spend three or four hours helping people and then I wouldn’t see them again,” she said.
Stocker was accompanied to Tallahassee by Christian George, Akerman Jacksonville managing partner and president-elect of The Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division, and William Van Nortwick, a retired appellate judge who is the partner in charge of Akerman’s pro bono program.
Visit bit.ly/2n06nVw to read more about Ability Housing Inc. v. City of Jacksonville.