Pro Bono Pays Off For Alumni Jason Lazarus
Jason Lazarus For one UF Law graduate, the phrase “And Justice for All,” rings especially true in the courtroom. Throughout his legal career, Jason D. Lazarus (JD 97), a double Gator from Miami, Fla., and an attorney for Holland & Knight LLP, has racked up more than 200 hours of pro bono service.
“I knew that I would want to use my law degree to the extent I could to help people,” he said. “Including those who were less fortunate.”
Lazarus was recently honored for his service to those in need at the Legal Aid Society’s 20th Annual Pro Bono Recognition Evening. For Lazarus, an interest in serving the public runs in the family. His father, grandfather, stepmother and sister are all attorneys.
“My grandfather meant a lot to me,” Lazarus said. “He always took pride in being a lawyer.”
Although Lazarus graduated from UF with a finance degree, he quickly decided that he was destined for the legal profession, he said.
At UF Law, Lazarus was in the top 10 percent of his class and served as a senior editor of the law review. Before working at Holland & Knight, Lazarus served as an assistant state attorney for the Fourth Judicial Circuit in Jacksonville.
“To me it was much more appealing to help victims than to represent criminal defendants.”
In the State Attorney Office’s felony unit, Lazarus was exposed to serious crimes, including grand theft, burglary, armed robbery and attempted murder. Lazarus then moved on to the Special Assault Division at the State Attorney’s Office, where he prosecuted among the most serious crimes in the office, including child abuse, felony domestic violence and sex crimes.
“The most horrific crimes in that unit were the sex crimes against children,’ he said.
In his current position in the litigation department at Holland & Knight LLP, Lazarus has continued to serve those in need by providing representation to those who cannot afford it. While many attorneys simply write a check to the Legal Aid Society, Holland & Knight LLP actively encourages its attorneys to do pro bono work, Lazarus said.
Lazarus typically takes on between two and three cases a year from the Legal Aid Society. He is always handling at least one case for the society, he said.
“There have even been times that I have called Legal Aid myself asking for cases.”
In one of his most recent pro bono cases, Lazarus represented an elderly couple in a construction dispute. The pro bono clients hired a roofing company to replace their roof. The roofer failed to complete the job as contracted but continued to demand full payment, Lazarus said.
“After several months of pre-suit negotiations with the roofer’s attorney, the roofer filed a lawsuit against the pro bono clients,” he said. “I represented the clients during the months of litigation that followed.”
The roofing company ultimately dismissed the lawsuit.
Lazarus developed a good relationship with the clients, who were extremely thankful, he said.
“They praised me in letters to Legal Aid and to my superiors here at the firm.”
Throughout his legal career, the pro bono clients Lazarus has represented have been genuinely deserving of quality legal help, he said.
“These are people that without good legal representation would have nowhere to turn,” he said. “On many occasions, they have been on the right side and have had very legitimate complaints.”