The Jacksonville Bar Association recognized Phylisha Carter, club sponsor of the Ribault High School Future Lawyers Program and a social studies teacher, with the Liberty Bell Award at the JBA’s 2023 Law Day Luncheon on May 4.
The award honors someone, not an attorney, who promotes a better understanding of the rule of law, stimulates a sense of civic responsibility, contributes to good government in the community, and who has provided exceptional service to the legal community
Alexandra Underkofler, an associate attorney at the Delegal & Poindexter firm, nominated Carter for the award.
“She’s very active in her role,” Underkofler said at the luncheon at the Marriott Jacksonville Downtown.
Carter wrote in her nomination that Carter “has provided tremendous support and effort to the attorneys and judges who participate in the program. Many of the program’s mentors return to participate in the program year after year, in large part thanks to Ms. Carter’s work for the program.”
Carter coordinates attorney mentors with students who participate in the program, and visits to colleges and universities, courthouses and government municipalities, including City Hall.
Students and mentors also collaborate through luncheons. The program concludes with a mock trial competition at the Bryan Simpson U.S. Courthouse in Downtown Jacksonville.
Carter also handles transportation logistics.
“I can’t even collect my thoughts on this. I’m so overwhelmed,” she said of the honor.
“This is a really special moment. As a teacher, I’m used to giving awards, not getting them.”
The JBA’s Young Lawyers Section developed the mentorship initiative program with the Jacksonville Public Education Fund. In its pilot year in 2015, more than 20 attorneys were paired with students from the “most impoverished and underperforming public high schools” in Duval County, according to the Bar’s jaxbar.org site.
Students are chosen based on their interest in the legal field as a career path as well as their academic performance.
“Ms. Carter’s efforts to build the Future Lawyers Program has provided the students of Ribault High School, a Title I school, with unique opportunities they might not otherwise have been able to experience,” Underkofler wrote in her nomination.
“While Ms. Carter’s direct involvement with the program has been with the Ribault students and mentors of Ribault students, the program has expanded to include Raines High School and the D.W. Perkins Bar Association,” she wrote.
She said Ribault and William M. Raines High School students and the mentors involved in the program have benefited “from Ms. Carter’s efforts in the program.”