Meet Amida Umesh Frey of Jacobs Legal in Downtown Miami
Local Stories, VoyageMIA
March 7, 2019
Today we’d like to introduce you to Amida Umesh Frey.
So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I was born and raised in Coconut Grove in the heart of Miami. My father grew up in Brooklyn, New York and wound up attending school at the University of Florida, eventually moving to Miami to pursue graduate work in psychology. My mother grew up as the daughter of a Naval officer, having been born in Oakland, California, moved around quite a bit, but ultimately was raised in a suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio (at one point winning the Miss Teen Cincinnati Beauty Pageant). My parents opened both the Midori Gallery and the I-Ching Gallery in Coconut Grove. My mother continues to run the Midori Far Eastern Asian Art Gallery today, located on Commodore Plaza in Coconut Grove.
My educational background is actually mostly in Environmental Science and Philosophy. Prior to graduate school, I worked as a full-time carpenter and handyman, but focused on antique furniture restoration and design. I dabbled for a time in landscape design and horticulture as well based upon my background in botany and horticulture. In the earliest stages of my work life, I was active in the hospitality industry, ran a small catering company, worked in several restaurants, and as a private chef for a time. I have worn many hats, but few have fit as well as the one I wear now. Providing help as an attorney to people who often are the most vulnerable among us, and need it the most.
My current path in the area of law that I practice began when I purchased my own (and my first) home in late 2005 at the peak of market property values here in Miami, followed closely by the subsequent crash and financial crisis. The value of my home immediately began to plummet and it took almost eight years of insanely high mortgage payments for me to realize that my loan-to-value ratio was a bottomless pit I was never going to be able to climb out of. I met attorney Bruce Jacobs just as I was graduating law school and sitting for the bar exam in 2010. While I never had any interest in being a lawyer, my father was dying of stage four cancer during my last semester of law school and asked me only days before his death to do two things; he wanted me to plant a rare avocado tree he’d had in a pot for the last 20 years, and also wanted me to take the bar exam so that I would be able to represent myself if I ever needed to. He had hoped that I would never have to pay a lawyer as he had done so many times in his own life.
I wound up hiring Bruce Jacobs to represent me in a lawsuit involving Bank of America (my lender) regarding fraudulent loan activities revolving around my mortgage. After retaining him, I was called into the office several months later for what I thought was a client update on my case but turned out to be a job offer. I declined (several times) but ultimately gave in, treating the offer and opportunity more as on-the-job training for when, and if, I ever needed to represent myself in court. I gave Bruce a three month time limit and I said I would walk away after that. That was almost nine years ago.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
No question it has been a rocky road. Both of my parents came to Coconut Grove as young adults. They quickly became consummate hippies. My father delivered my siblings and I in our home in Coconut Grove (as well as the neighbor’s children). My parents separated shortly after I was born (they were never married) and engaged in a (sometimes vicious) custody battle over all three of their children for more than a decade. We all were very independent children at a very young age. My mother was married for several years to a very abusive husband when I was young (my stepfather) whom she ultimately wound up divorcing. She has always been fiercely independent and ran her own business without any assistance since I was a young child.
I worked hard to obtain scholarships to every school I went to and for every degree I earned. Neither of my parents were ever able to financially support me, particularly my father who was always burdened with litigation troubles. I at times have had to financially support my parents. After I returned from Japan and began my law school and graduate studies, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer during my first and most difficult semester of law school. She received surgery and treatment and was clear thereafter. During my last semester of law school, my father was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer and had no medical insurance. I almost completely dropped out of law school during the last semester to care for him in the hospital (and briefly at home after he was discharged). He died within a month of being diagnosed in April of 2010. Shortly thereafter my sister (who is a year and a half older than I am) was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and remains on disability. My father predeceased his own mother (my grandmother) whom I became the guardian for. I cared for her for another five years until her death at 98 years old in 2015.
Just after my grandmother died (within a few months), my mother was again diagnosed with cancer, only this time with stage four metastatic breast cancer that had spread all over her body. She had a 50/50 chance of surviving the year, and she is still fighting today, almost four years later. My mother has always been an outlier and one of the pillars of the business world in Coconut Grove.
Jacobs Legal, PLLC – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
What I currently do at my law firm is predominantly focused on consumer rights advocacy as it relates to debt defense, in particular, foreclosure defense. Through my firm we have also handled various types of civil litigation cases stemming from business and real estate disputes, and some plaintiff’s work suing for violations of federal debt collection laws. However I also do a considerable amount of pro-bono work in addition to my daily duties that is unrelated to any of our normal cases, from areas as far reaching as domestic violence, dependency, and criminal just to name a few (even cases as far reaching as assisting with historical designation of Miami neighborhoods). I am active in several local organizations that do work in Miami relating to native plants and tree canopy. For a time I was a science and English educator as well but have been working mostly full time as an attorney for about nine years. I fight with Bruce against the banks and creditors who are collecting illegal debts against homeowners, and credit card companies and third party debt buyers violating federal law to collect debts they aren’t entitled to. I continue to work with Bruce because of the small family environment we have engendered in our office and because of how patient and accommodating Bruce has been regarding my mother’s health condition and the need for me to take her to weekly hospital appointments.
We always love to ask about the support network – have there been people, perhaps mentors or advisors, who have played a big role in your success?
My mother has always been supportive of my pursuits in trying to do work helping others. I have turned down many job opportunities that would have brought me a great deal more financial success but would have been far less fulfilling because of her unceasing support for my happiness. Bruce Jacobs, whom I work with has been more of a brother to me than a coworker or boss or business partner. We have supported one another through quite a few serious hurdles. While he tends to bask in the limelight quite a bit more than I, seeking to change the world by moving it inch by inch, I am more content doing what I can to affect change in the immediate environment around me. But since day one, Bruce has never once told me that that I couldn’t help someone I wanted to in need, with no financial means or otherwise. That is what I value most about the luxury of being in a small firm. My friends have been very helpful and supportive as well. I consider my circle of friends to be extended family. And of course the incredible teachers, mentors and professors along the way (all one and the same for most of them). They have instilled in me a respect and love for not only the natural environment, but also for those underserved by a legal system often ill-equipped to assist them.
Address: Amida Frey
Senior Associate Attorney, Jacobs Legal, PLLC.
Historic Alfred I. DuPont Building
169 E. Flagler Street, Suite 1620
Miami, Fl 33131