Joni Poitier is a partner and civil litigator at Moseley Prichard Parrish Knight & Jones and recipient of the 2019 Woman Lawyer of the Year award from the Jacksonville Women Lawyers Association.
Who or what inspired you to become a lawyer? I knew in fifth grade after a former U.S. prosecutor spoke with my class about his work and impact on the local community that I wanted to be a lawyer. In high school, I was fortunate enough to intern with Judge Wendell Graham, a now retired 11th Circuit judge. This opportunity and experience solidified my desire to become a lawyer.
Someone who inspires me: My 89-year-old grandmother. She has always been a strong, faithful woman who is a source of strength, support and guidance.
How do you relate your undergraduate degree to your practice of law? A degree in psychology has allowed me to relate to clients and opposing counsel. Lawyers play many roles including that of counselor and therapist for clients, witnesses and victims. My degree has assisted me in these roles.
How did you decide your practice area? And why have you chosen that? After law school, I worked as an assistant state attorney. I gained immeasurable criminal courtroom experience and was able to make an impact in the community, especially when I worked in the Sexual Assault Division. I knew that once I left the criminal realm, I wanted to gain experience handling civil cases. At my firm, I handle a variety of cases, including product liability and personal injury defense, maritime, railroad and other complex civil litigation matters.
If I could change anything in the legal system, I would: Require pre-suit mediation. A significant amount of cases resolve through mediation and pre-suit mediation would lead to more disputes being resolved prior to litigation commencing.
What community service have you pursued and why that? I volunteer with many organizations including the Women’s Board of Wolfson Children’s Hospital, Family Foundations of Northeast Florida, the St. Bernadette Council at St. Pius V Catholic Church and Catholic Charities Bureau. I serve as the co-chair of the diversity committee for the Jacksonville Bar Association and volunteer with the Ribault Future Lawyers and Leaders Mentoring Program. I also serve as the vice chair of the Florida Elections Commission. I strive to be a servant leader and my father always told me that we are here on this earth for what you can do for others, not necessarily what you can do for yourself.
What’s your advice for new lawyers? The best experience is courtroom experience. Your reputation is everything. Find a style and practice that works for you.