On February 24, 2023, JoAnn Hoffman received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Broward County, Workers Compensation Division of the Florida Bar for her decades long work helping the injured in Florida.
How far have we come and how far can we go to be Fair to all people? That is the question that still exists today. So I have these personal comments that brought me to this post:
I saw racism when I was a child… and sexism,…and oppression of the poor. My family did not have much money but we worked hard and slowly earned our way out of poverty.
My recognizing injustice began as a young child when I saw my mother injured in an accident. She lay in bed for months missing work. Her attorney called her and told her he settled her case for $350. I found that offensive and made it my life’s mission not to let that happen to other people. There was no internet then, no one to reach out to. Her case was just finished.
I went to law school because my high school English teacher told me I was
smart and I could do it. So I did. I remember starting my career when there were very few women in law. It was the 80s and women were still not accepted in professions. I called myself Attorney Jo Ann Hoffman to overcome the prejudice, politics, and sexism. I just kept looking to the light ahead for a brighter future. I believed that so long as I was moving forward, I could help people. Helping the injured wasn’t just a mission for me, it was my passion.
I wanted to share with you part of my acceptance speech I gave when receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award:
“As I stand here before you, I hope my work has helped you to have better jobs. For those just starting out or those who are at life’s crossroads, let the staircase I walked be a path that takes each of you even higher.
To accomplish this, we need to break through stereotypes. The words society use as definitions for our foreign workers, low income workers, and our poor citizens are barriers we need to break through. Give those who are injured hope, with a plan for a better outcome, and always give a person a hand up.
Make this pledge with me today: Let each case be analyzed on its merits instead of falling into stereotypes.
It has been my privilege to fight for those who need it the most and our team continues to do that.
We are mindful of the Florida Bar Rules of Professional Conduct which direct us how to go forward toward achieving justice for all:
“A lawyer should seek improvement of the law, access to the legal system, the administration of justice, and the quality of service rendered by the legal profession. As a member of a learned profession, a lawyer should cultivate knowledge of the law beyond its use for clients, employ that knowledge in reform of the law, and work to strengthen legal education. In addition, a lawyer should further the public’s understanding of and confidence in the rule of law and the justice system, because legal institutions in a constitutional democracy depend on popular participation and support to maintain their authority. A lawyer should be mindful of deficiencies in the administration of justice and of the fact that the poor, and sometimes persons who are not poor, cannot afford adequate legal assistance. Therefore, all lawyers should devote professional time and resources and use civic influence to ensure equal access to our system of justice for all those who because of economic or social barriers cannot afford or secure adequate legal counsel. A lawyer should aid the legal profession in pursuing these objectives and should help the bar regulate itself in the public interest.”
Following that direction can be difficult when some people may be mired in stereotypes which are not conducive to moving forward toward judging each case on his own merits, and judging each person without applying stereotypes.
In closing, I am proud to say I still get emails, letters and calls of thanks from people I helped. One man called and left a message. “He said tell Jo Ann my settlement helped my son go to college.” Just today a client called from NY to just stay in touch and applaud us for our work. A big thanks to all who reach out to us giving us support to go forward. And I personally thank all the members of the Broward County Workers Compensation Division who toil so diligently to put out an excellent product in this community with fairness toward all.
Jo Ann Hoffman