By Sheryl Young
Have you ever walked into a law office and felt very much at home? It may seem like an unbelievable concept, but at Johnson, Auvil, Brock and Pratico (JAB&P), walking through the door is like sinking into a plush, overstuffed chair. Anyone in need of legal assistance would immediately be put at ease — not only by the friendliness of the entire staff, but also by the comfortable setting of the old-fashioned, stand-alone building in Dade City.
The law group of JAB&P offers a wide avariety of legal services in this headquarters, on Meridian Ave. near 7th St., not far from S.R. 52 — and only 20 minutes or less from most of Wesley Chapel.
Consisting of four partners and three associate attorneys, the law firm handles every situation in civil law and commercial litigation, with each of the lawyers specializing in different areas. This includes foreclosures and avoiding foreclosure, personal injury, estate planning and probate, real estate, employment and discrimination, construction and land use and banking, business, and corporate law.
Leonard Johnson, who brings 30 years of legal experience to the table, started the firm in this same building in 1992 with his original partner, the late Jerry Schrader. Schrader was the brother of current Pasco County commissioner Ted Schrader.
“Jerry and I were both lawyers in 1991, when we realized we shared similar ideas on how to accomplish our jobs,” Johnson says. “We wanted to merge our practices and took the third floor of the building. The next year, we invited Jonathan Auvil to join us. We had attended law school together.”
Auvil is the third generation in his family to do legal work in Dade City. Today, Johnson and Auvil partner with P. Hutchison “Hutch” Brock, II — a former mayor of Dade City (2004-08) — and Steve Pratico. Pratico, a football player in college (at both Rutgers and Bucknell), stays connected to the sport by being a Board and Selection Committee member for the annual Outback Bowl (in Tampa). The four partners are joined by associates Sheada Madani, Cady H. Walden and Carolyn A. Conrad Meadows.
What Sets JAB&P Apart?
“It is our strength in having someone to handle or specialize in each of these areas of law,” Pratico explains. “For example, my own specialty is commercial litigation — like foreclosure lawsuits and contract disputes.”
JAB&P has a multitude of repeat and regular clients. All seven attorneys are very involved in the community, so Pratico says word of mouth brings them many of their cases.
“We don’t do family law — like divorce or custody disputes — or criminal cases,” he says, ‘but we have a short list of other attorneys whose work is well known to us, to whom we refer people with those types of needs. Likewise, our relationships in the community have built to such a point that when someone needs help in the kind of procedures we do, it’s not unusual for a new client to walk in and say they were sent by someone we know.”
With paralegals, assistants and the Meridian Title Company under the firm’s umbrella, there is a total of 25 employees at JAB&P, all of whom are involved in different community events; the partners also sponsor many charitable occasions each year.
For example, one or more of them is involved in the Cinderella Ball, a nonprofit organization for education; Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Tampa Bay; Ducks Unlimited, a wetlands preservation group; and Dade City Main Street, an organization dedicated to the historic preservation of the city. So, the firm supports a wide range of interests and causes.
The attorneys and their wives also are active with their children’s schools, which helps them make still more friends in the area.
“What sets us apart from other law firms is our commitment to the community,” says Brock. “I guess you could say we’ve grown our business ‘organically’ — literally 90 to 95 percent of our new cases are people who know the people we’ve helped before.”
He says this philosophy comes from his training. “I was taught that the other side will always be able to see whether you know your client well. And, we are thankful to our repeat clients who have helped us build our reputation and our resources.”
JAB&P extends their work not only to neighborhoods close to Dade City, like Wesley Chapel and New Tampa, but throughout and beyond the five counties surrounding the Tampa Bay area. The firm represents clients all around the state of Florida, from Miami to Pensacola.
“Our commercial clients have interests all over the state,” Pratico explains. “But, most of our work for individuals comes more locally.”
Since foreclosure is still very much a concern today, Pratico says he does his best to help people in those tough situations. “I will help them if they want to avoid foreclosure, like working on mortgage modifications,” he says. “But, I can also help if they feel the best thing is to leave the house without the debt following them.”
Brock specializes in personal injury law along with Walden (who came on board two years ago). “I am proud to say Hutch is my mentor in all things lawyering,” Walden says. “Everyone in the firm is really close, and we like to celebrate each other’s achievements, especially when we win a case for client. There’s no rivalries here.”
The cozy building that houses Johnson, Auvil, Brock and Pratico, P.A., is located at 37837 Meridian Ave. in Dade City, Suite 100. Call JAB&P at (352) 567-2500, or visit at JABPLaw.com.