JALA’s Latest Rising Star Annie Rodriguez Protects Consumers and Saves Homes

Annie Rodriguez
2024 Feature Nominations

Jacksonville Area Legal Aid attorney Annie Rodriguez served in the U.S. Navy, where she learned Arabic and worked as a cryptologist translator, and went on to manage a manufacturing company before deciding that law school would be a great way to challenge herself.

“A year into law school, I realized that I could really make a positive impact in individual people’s lives,” Rodriguez said.

Within a few years of coming to JALA, that impact was recognized on a national level when Rodriguez received the 2023 Rising Star Award from the National Consumer Law Center.

Rodriguez was humbled and encouraged by the validation for what she calls, “just doing my job.”

“It has really just helped me to continue this work with enthusiasm and passion for the results that we can get,” said Rodriguez, who started out at JALA advocating for survivors of domestic violence before moving into consumer protection.

JALA President and CEO Jim Kowalski said Rodriguez’s life experience enables her to connect with her clients and understand their situation.

“She has the drive, determination, intelligence and focus to take on the bullies of the world on her clients’ behalf,” Kowalski said. “She has distinguished herself in two very different and difficult areas of law, both with steep learning curves. We are very fortunate to have her with us on the JALA team.”

Rodriguez estimates that about a third of her work involves eviction or debt defense – cases that can usually be resolved quickly. Another third are longer-term cases involving the Fair Housing Act, the Fair Credit Billing Act, credit reporting and other consumer banking issues.

“It’s no secret that consumers are being victimized by fraudsters,” she said. “I feel particularly passionate about upholding the requirements of banks to conduct a reasonable investigation into unauthorized charges and to remove them from people’s accounts.”

The other third of her time is devoted to systemic work such as developing consumer class action litigation, an area in which JALA broadens its impact beyond individual clients and prevents future harm to consumers.

Rodriguez, who graduated from Florida Coastal School of Law in 2015 and co-owned a family law and mediation firm with fellow JALA attorney Michelle Broyles before joining JALA in 2020, said her ability to succeed in her work is in large part thanks to the lawyers who surround her at JALA.

“We are stacked with people who are so well respected in not just the state of Florida but around the country, and those are my mentors and the people who are teaching me how to do this work. I have such a safe and supportive work environment at JALA,” she said. “We also have great partnerships with the private bar. We punch above our weight class. We go up against billion-dollar law firms. We have a tremendous amount of knowledge and resources and experience within the people that work in our institution, and we are singularly focused on doing what’s right for the client, helping as many people as we can, and getting the best results that we can for our clients.”

Nancy Kinnally

Nancy Kinnally is the assistant editor of Attorney at Law Magazine Jacksonville.

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