All this month, we’re shining a light on our amazing pro bono attorneys and supporters throughout the month of October, and today we’d like to introduce you to Tricia Fradley. Tricia is a sole practitioner in Manatee County who has also been teaching Legal Aid of Manasota’s Pro Se Divorce Clinic for years. (Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, she’s now offering it via Zoom.) We are so grateful that Tricia is a part of our talented pro bono team and thrilled for you to get to know her a little bit more.
Tell us about your background. What made you want to become a lawyer?
I wanted to be a prosecutor. I was an assistant state attorney for more than eight years, and enjoyed wearing the “white hat” and doing what was right for all parties involved. Now as a family law attorney and mediator, I feel like I am able to provide guidance to help make the family stronger going forward even though the parties may no longer be together. To further this, my law practice has been litigation-free for almost 10 years.
What made you decide to volunteer as a pro bono lawyer for Legal Aid?
After I left the public service life of the state attorney’s office, I wanted to still contribute. Teaching the Legal Aid Clinic for Dissolution of Marriage has been a good fit.
What has the experience of volunteering for Legal Aid been like?
It’s nice to contribute in a small way to helping these individuals move forward to starting the next chapter of their lives.
Has there been a moment or client experience that has particularly touched you?
The [legal] process can be very overwhelming for people trying to do it on their own, regardless of their economic situation, so it’s very rewarding when you hear thankful participants express that they feel like they can handle legal issues on their own.
Why is Legal Aid of Manasota important to our community?
See above. The 12th Circuit has come a long way in the self-help legal department, but doing it on your own it can still be difficult to navigate. Having a resource like Legal Aid of Manasota is invaluable in providing individuals with limited finances to have the same or similar access as those with more financial resources available to them.
What do you wish people understood about the justice system and legal aid?
That it is not “as seen on TV.” It’s not instantaneous. Patience is required. An extra plus is good organization!
If you could wave a wand, how would you make justice work for everyone?
Everyone’s situation is different; I don’t think there is a ‘one size fits all’ solution.
I would love to say “have court appointed attorneys available for all types of legal issues,” but that is not practical. Putting aside the funding difficulties, family law and sometimes probate is more often than not emotion-driven. If an individual litigant does not have some type of “skin in the game,” it can lead to unending and unnecessary litigation.
It would be great if clear instructions, requirements, steps, etc. were posted online for the Judicial Circuits for all individuals based on the issue (family, criminal, civil etc.). However, each judge has their own requirements and judges rotate in and out of divisions. Often what is required from Pro-Se individuals is much more than what is required from an individual with an attorney.
What is one thing people might not know about you?
I come from a huge family. I’m No. 2 of seven siblings, and we all like one another, talk and, before Covid-19, saw each other regularly even though we are not all local. I have more than 100 first cousins; my mom is one of 12 children and my dad is one of 10. This has really provided me with a close-up view of all types of relationships in various stages. I think it gives me a unique perspective when I’m helping people as a mediator or as an attorney in looking to the future, as opposed to reliving the negativity of the past.
What are your hobbies/passion projects?
No surprise, its family focused. My son, Patrick, is grown, so I often steal various nieces and nephews and do a variety of fun but hidden educational things with them. In our crazy Covid reality, finding at-home activities has been a little challenging. Most recently, I had six of them [with me], from ages 2 to 13. We worked together to build a float out of individual soda bottles. We had a successful launch!
What do you love about our local community?
Just that, it is a community and is community-focused. I feel like people work really hard to help make it better for everyone, regardless of their socioeconomic status.