Jacksonville Area Legal Aid has employed more ‘Florida Consumer Protection Lawyers of the Year’ than any other firm or government agency
Of the 16 lawyers in Florida who have received the Consumer Protection Lawyer of the Year Award from The Florida Bar’s Consumer Protection Law Committee, four either work at Jacksonville Area Legal Aid currently or did at the time they received the award.
That is more than any other law firm or government agency in Florida, according to JALA.
“The fact that JALA makes up a quarter of that list is truly remarkable,” said JALA President and CEO Jim Kowalski. “It really speaks volumes about the impact of our work and how widely it is recognized within the organized Bar.”
JALA’s latest recipient is Adam Thoresen, division chief of Jacksonville Area Legal Aid’s Consumer Advocacy and Litigation Unit, to whom the award was presented June 22 in Boca Raton at the Annual Florida Bar Convention together with Morgan & Morgan’s John Yanchunis. Thoresen was also the recipient of the National Consumer Law Center’s Rising Star Award in 2021.
“Adam continues to distinguish himself as a tenacious litigator dedicated to protecting tenants and consumers from exploitation,” said Rich Dubois, executive director of the National Consumer Law Center. “In so many areas of consumer law – from auto fraud to debt collection to foreclosures and evictions – Florida consumers are fortunate to have Jacksonville Area Legal Aid fighting for justice on their behalf.”
At JALA, Thoresen leads a team of four lawyers and two paralegals who not only help individual clients put their nightmares in the past, but also work to effectuate broad change through individual and class action litigation and policy advocacy involving the mortgage foreclosure process, payday lending, title lending, fair credit reporting, tenants’ rights, and other consumer issues.
Kowalski remembers recognizing Thoresen’s promise when co-counseling on cases as long ago as 2009, when Thoresen joined JALA fresh out of law school.
“I remember thinking at that time that if JALA was able to keep Adam as an advocate we would have one of the rising leaders of JALA, the legal services community in Florida and even private practitioners like me at the time,” Kowalski said in his nomination of Thoresen for the award.
Lynn Drysdale, one of the unit’s other attorneys and its former chief, received the award in 2014. In consumer protection practice for over 30 years, Drysdale represents consumers in individual and class-action cases and has provided expert testimony to the Florida Legislature, two U.S. Senate committees, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Federal Reserve Board. She also engages in legislative advocacy and litigation relating to debt collection, payday loans, motor vehicle sales and financing, military lending and litigation protections, small lending products and forward and reverse mortgages. She teaches foreclosure defense litigation to consumer law attorneys nationwide and has taught consumer law at the University of Florida Levin College of Law for over 10 years.
Kowalski was one of three recipients of the award in 2011, the first year it was presented, “for outstanding work protecting the legal rights of Floridians facing foreclosure and helping fellow practitioners of consumer law.” That was the year before he joined JALA, where he still engages in the type of work he did at the time, when he was a litigator in private practice in Jacksonville. He is particularly well-known for his work in preventing wrongful foreclosure. In private practice he also handled consumer fraud, complex personal injury, wrongful death and premises liability litigation. Kowalski previously served as an assistant state attorney in the Fourth Judicial Circuit, where he was on the on-call homicide team, division chief of the Public Corruption Unit and County Court, and as senior trial attorney in the Special Assault/Sex Crimes Unit.
One of Kowalski’s co-recipients in 2011 was April Charney, who at the time was a JALA staff attorney also known for her foreclosure prevention work.
Charney and Kowalski were both featured in Rolling Stone in 2010 in a piece called “Invasion of the Home Snatchers.” The magazine’s Matt Taibbi described Kowalski as having “helped pioneer a whole new approach to the housing mess, slowing down the mindless eviction machine by deposing the scores of ‘robo-signers’ being hired by the banks to sign phony foreclosure affidavits by the thousands.”