The award recognizes public service or legal aid performed by a lawyer who is younger than 36 and who has not practiced for more than five years. It will be presented at a Jan. 19 ceremony at the Supreme Court of Florida in Tallahassee. The awards ceremony will also honor individual, circuit, law firm, voluntary bar, state judicial and federal judicial pro bono efforts.
This year’s YLD Pro Bono Service Award honors Edwards’ work as a guardian ad litem and court-appointed advocate for children in Pinellas County.
Edwards typically is appointed to serve in dependency cases. In her most recently completed case, Edwards worked for about a year representing a 7-year-old boy whose behavior and school work was suffering because of his parents’ substance abuse.
In this emotionally charged situation, Edwards worked to determine whether reunification with the parents was in the boy’s best interest. She wore many hats, sometimes acting as counselor and coordinator, in addition to being the boy’s attorney. She met regularly with the boy and gained his trust; she met with his parents and persuaded them to complete the reunification plan; and she met with other involved parties to investigate, monitor and evaluate the evolving circumstances.
Through the year, the boy improved his lagging language arts skills, and in the past six months, made either the honor roll or the principal’s list. At the conclusion of the case, the court agreed with Edwards’ recommendation that the boy be reunited with his parents — a heartwarming ending to a difficult and emotional year.
In late 2016, Edwards also represented the interests of a 3-week-old girl and anticipated being appointed to another case as well.
She participates in LawFest Days and is on the call list for the Community Law Program, a nonprofit created by the St. Petersburg Bar Association to serve the legal needs of low-income and disadvantaged people.
Edwards has both a J.D. and an M.B.A. from Stetson University.