Jacksonville attorney Crystal Freed received The Florida Bar President’s Pro Bono Service Award on Feb. 7 at a ceremony at the state Supreme Court in Tallahassee.
A 2003 graduate of Georgetown University Law Center, she was a commercial litigator with the Akerman firm until 2007, when she became a sole practitioner and formed the Freed Firm.
Since then, she has focused almost exclusively on being an advocate for victims of human trafficking.
Freed said she was inspired to strike out on her own to help people who are trapped in modern-day slavery because for her, it’s a calling.
“I’ve been given the gift of life, so it’s incumbent upon me to serve others,” she said.
And 12 years ago, there wasn’t the level of awareness of human trafficking that exists today.
“It’s a legal issue and a public health issue. At the time, nobody was discussing trafficking like they were education and economic development,” Freed said.
Freed co-chaired Northeast Florida’s first Human Trafficking Task Force from 2007-09.
As chair of the Jacksonville Bar Association Human Rights Committee, Freed established the Attorneys for Human Trafficking Survivors pilot project. Working with law enforcement and Florida Coastal School of Law, the project identified victims, developed strategies for their recovery and connected victims to pro bono attorneys and legal aid.
In 2014, Freed helped organize the North American launch of Artworks for Freedom, using art to raise awareness of trafficking.
She organized the JBA’s first CLE event to train law enforcement officials, social services providers and attorneys. Sixty attorneys attended, and many joined Freed as volunteer lawyers helping victims of trafficking.
In addition, Freed has logged more than 1,000 volunteer hours in individual case representation.
The president’s award is given each year to an attorney in each of the 20 judicial circuits and to a member of The Florida Bar who practices outside the state.
It was established in 1981 to encourage lawyers to volunteer free legal services to the poor by recognizing those who make public service commitments and to make the public aware of the volunteer services provided by lawyers to those who cannot afford legal fees.