– Alison DeBelder

I was pleased to attend a Consumer Law training program for legal services attorneys was held in Orlando Thursday, July 20, and Friday, July 21. The conference was organized by Kathy Grunewald, of Florida Legal Services, Inc., and was offered to all participants in the Project Directors’ Training Initiative. The first day of the program began with a presentation about how to spot FDCPA issues given by renowned consumer rights lawyer Robert Murphy, of the Murphy Law Firm. This was followed by Priya Bali’s discussion of the FCRA (Priya Bali, Lyngklip & Associates Consumer Law Center, PLC). Lynn Drysdale, of Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, Inc., and Amy Leitch, of Akerman, LLP, discussed defensive practice and potential for positive claims, and then Josh Cohen, of Cohen Consumer Law, gave a fascinating lecture on student loan litigation (and alternatives to litigation). The second day of the conference featured James A. Kowalski, Jr., of Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, who discussed Ethics and Attorneys’ Fees and a discussion lead by Lynn Drysdale. Ellen Cheek, Florida Elder Justice Coordinator and Florida Senior Legal Helpline of Bay Area Legal Services, Inc. discussed Financial Exploitation of Senior Consumers. There was also an exemplary panel discussing e-discovery on the second day which featured Suzanne Clark, of Jimerson & Cobb, P.A., Chad Roberts, of The Roberts Firm, PLLC, and Chris Dix, of Smith Hulsey & Busey.

I addressed the plenary session of attendees on Friday morning and shared the good news that the FLAdvocate.org Consumer library has been completely redesigned by a committee of expert volunteers who were ably led by Mandy Mills, of Legal Services of Greater Miami. I also distributed written instructions for attendees on how to join the password-protected website as well as how to submit material for inclusion in the library. Between sessions I was able to meet in-person with a person interested in the new LGBTQ practice area that I am developing to be launched in October and meet with a person who volunteered to help with the update of the Housing practice area library. All of the individual meetings and conversations over meals where I had the opportunity to get to know or become reacquainted with colleagues made this a particularly invigorating conference.