Embracing the promise of “experience, commitment and integrity in the pursuit of justice,” Coker Law has become a bastion for those seeking justice through trial of a lawsuit. Established in 1976 with namesake and founding partner Howard Coker, it’s a firm pledged to aggressively and conscientiously represent those who have been injured, harmed or suffered loss through the negligence of others.
“Integrity, commitment to the client, and a willingness to pursue justice at every level has been our philosophy since day one,” says Coker. “We never make any decision based upon financial benefit to the firm. Every case is important to us and every individual client has the final say in whether or not their case is resolved or tried. I am also very proud that many of the people on our staff have been with us for 20 years or more. They are the backbone of the firm.”
On the eve of their 45th anniversary, we spoke to a few members of the Coker Law team. These are professionals who have witnessed the steady growth and success over the years who happily agreed to share their experiences, reflections and expectations for the future.
Walt Brozowski has served as the firm’s investigator for over 30 years. His military background includes the USMC intelligence school, serving as an intelligence analyst at G-2 Division Headquarters with the Second Marine Division and with the S-2 intelligence section attached to Third Battalion, Second Marines with top secret security clearance. His qualifications are exceeded only by his admiration of and confidence in the people and work of Coker Law.
“The success of our firm stems from good people taking care of our clients with a team approach,” says Brozowski. “It’s something that really sets us apart. New clients meet the whole team handling their case. I think it puts them at ease to be able to put a face to the people who will be taking them through a difficult process.
“In addition, we have a real family atmosphere, which makes coming to work every day that much easier,” he continues. “Many of us have been with Coker Law for years. It’s not uncommon for someone to have been here for 10, 20 or even 30 years. We celebrate the good times together and have been there to help each other through the not-so-good times.”
THAT FAMILY FEELING
Theresa Poulin is another long-time and integral member of the Coker team. For nearly 30 years, Poulin has been the “right-hand” to key players. As a legal assistant, she is responsible for client and file management and assisting Of Counsel Charles Sorenson in all aspects of lawsuits, from mediation to trial preparation and courtroom support.
“We’re just like family,” she says. “I know a lot of people say that, but I’ve been here a very long time and my experience has been that these are people who, no matter how big or successful they’ve become, still remain very real and caring. I can go to any of these dedicated and talented lawyers and talk about anything.
“Likewise, that’s just how sincere and caring they are about our clients,” she adds. “This can be a very stressful business and there are significant issues, large sums of money, and people’s lives on the line, but that human touch has never faded. It makes me very proud to be a part of such a wonderful group.”
If anyone can testify to the veracity of this family-supportive culture at Coker Law, it would be senior member of the medical malpractice division Lindsay Tygart. Tygart, who was hired in February 2017 and set to start in April of that year, recounts one of her most anxiously anticipated conversations with her new employer.
“I found out I was pregnant with my second daughter, Silas,” she explains. “I had just been hired to head up the medical malpractice litigation team at Coker Law and was ready to hit the ground running; and now, I was terrified. I will never forget the day I came into Howard’s office and gave him the news. He jumped out of his chair, ran over to me, and gave me a huge hug. While I had prepared myself to articulate all the reasons why I was still ready, willing and able to kick butt in my new position, Howard would hear none of it. Instead, the conversation switched to Howard telling me all of the ways the firm wanted to help me transition to my new role as a mother of two little girls.
“The attorneys and staff at Coker Law are truly like a family,” she adds. “And the firm fosters an alternative culture to the standard practice model – rejecting rigid hour requirements and allowing us attorneys to set our own schedules. This approach has enabled each of us to focus on delivering quality work and outstanding service to our clients without having to sacrifice our own needs or the needs of our family.”
Since its inception, Coker Law has sought out the finest legal minds.
Daniel Iracki, described as a dynamic, principled and results-driven attorney, is also the youngest named shareholder in Coker Law’s history. Iracki’s myriad skills were called into play when he and other partners set a goal for expanding the firm.
“We wanted to develop what would become the premier trial firm in Northeast Florida,” says Iracki. “We went on a mission to recruit the best, and the brightest, and most diverse attorneys to make that dream a reality. We have more board-certified civil trial lawyers than any other Jacksonville-based firm. We also have more attorneys that are members of ABOTA.
“We’ll continue to grow the firm upon our founding pillars – integrity, justice and a diverse practice,” he continues. “That means, we aren’t just looking for the best trial lawyers, but also those who reflect our community, which allows us to better represent our clients. Having attorneys from different walks of life is in the best interest of our clients. We actively and continually encourage and support developing professional distinctions among our lawyers, whether it be board certification, or ABOTA, or International Academy.”
“Everyone knows Howard Coker as a great man and a badass trial attorney,” says Tygart, “but what many people may not know is that Howard is a true visionary when it comes to building and solidifying the future of this law firm. Several years ago, Howard, Charles Sorenson and Jake Schickel set out to build the future of Coker Law by strategically choosing a group of younger trial lawyers, who are diverse, both in upbringing and background, as well as legal specialty.
“Throughout Coker Law’s 45-year history, there have been many female attorneys who have practiced here,” she adds, “But, in more recent years, Coker Law really made an affirmative decision to break away from outdated work structures and has not only become committed to the hiring and marketing of its women lawyers, but is also devoted to ensuring we are successful, not only in the practice of law, but outside the practice as well.”
VISIONS FOR THE FUTURE
Reaching this impressive milestone certainly denotes a level of success, trust and respect all law firms aspire to, but there is no trace of smugness among the attorneys of Coker Law. Rather, they each in their own way epitomize the type of humble, dedicated and service-minded professional they seek when adding to their illustrious roster.
When asked for his thoughts about the significance of celebrating 45 years as one of Florida’s leading firms, Coker had this to say:
“Forty-five years is a very long time. I am very proud of the firm for many different reasons. We have always placed special emphasis on the trial of lawsuits. From the very early days when we did a variety of defense work, to the present time where our practice is exclusively a plaintiff ’s practice, we have emphasized the development of trial skills in order for our clients to get outstanding results when their case is tried in front of a jury. I am very proud of our firm in that it is very diverse, but the common factor remains the superb ability to try lawsuits. Many of the verdicts that we have sustained throughout the years have been some of the highest in the state.”
“It is my sincere hope that the future will see us continue to emphasize one thing – being the best at the trial of a lawsuit,” he adds.
Whether he’s ready to acknowledge it or not, Coker is himself something of a Jacksonville institution. Loved by clients and staff alike, there is no question that he has planted seeds for integrity and success that will last and continue to blossom long after he’s retired.
“I hope the legacy that I leave behind shows that commitment, hard work and dedication to a task can overcome almost any obstacle,” he says. “I believe that there will be furtherance of specialization in various aspects of the trial field. We must endeavor to grow intellectually in order to develop specialized expertise in handling those cases. It is also my sincere hope and desire that we continue with our philanthropic, professional and community involvement.”