Visitors pass by a shin-high stone statue of a bulldog when entering Matthew J. Jowanna’s law office at the Windfair Professional Center, located across Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd. from Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel. The carved canine reflects Jowanna’s personal appreciation of the breed, which the domestic animal website VetStreet.com, among many, says is, “admired for the qualities of loyalty and determination;” characteristics Jowanna considers to be basic to his firm’s handling of clients’ legal concerns.
“A client hires you to be a champion, and you are for them,” Jowanna says. “The client comes before everybody.”
Jowanna lives in Tampa Palms with wife Camille and a bulldog (who, he says, also serves as a “paw clerk” in his firm) named Angelica “Geli” Bulldog Jowanna. “Angelica’s an ice-breaker,” says Jowanna.
“Geli” succeeds her sister, Brittany Bulldog Jowanna, as office mascot, after Brittany passed away last year. Our editor says that Angelica is the sweetest bulldog ever, but that alone isn’t reason enough to hire Jowanna.
The law firm handles personal injury cases, bankruptcy filings, family law issues, insurance disputes and coverage representation, as well as estate matters such as writing wills and establishing and managing estates through the probate process. Jowanna says his firm does not handle criminal cases.
Law is a second career for Jowanna, who earned his B.A. in Mass Communications from the University of South Florida in Tampa and worked in the local broadcasting industry as a television news assignment editor and on-air radio personality. His occasional media-related trips through the local courts led him to an observation.
“I saw a lot of 65-year-old lawyers around the courthouse but I didn’t know too many 65-year-old guys on the radio,” says Jowanna, whose transition from broadcast media professional to a second career as an attorney was made smoother by commonalities between the two professions — such as the need for excellent research skills and the ability to communicate and connect with people, such as jurors.
According to Jowanna, anyone interested in practicing law “should be a theatre major,” to be an effective litigator in a process he describes as, “essentially a show of conviction, and convincing.”
While Jowanna already had the delivery and presentation skills of being a lawyer, he needed the academic credentials to take the bar exam, so he earned his J.D. (Juris Doctor) degree from Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad College of Law in Davie, FL.
Jowanna eventually also received his Master of Laws (LL.M.; Legum Magister) from Notre Dame Law School, in Notre Dame, Indiana.
Before opening his own office in 2006 to serve Wesley Chapel- and New Tampa-area residents, Jowanna worked his way up in the local legal field from associate attorney at a private firm to becoming a partner at another, while learning the ins and outs of personal injury and insurance-related law.
He says that background gave him the tools he needed to serve his clients well in a courtroom when called upon to do so.
“When you go down to that big law firm you see on TV, you’re not going to see that lawyer, they’re going to shuffle you off to a case handler,” says Jowanna. “When you come here, you’re going to meet the lawyer. We give the benefit of a big-firm lawyer with the comfort of being in your neighborhood.”
Jowanna adds that his firm’s eleven years of service have given it a bit of seniority within the local legal community.
“That makes us one of the oldest law firms in Wesley Chapel,” he says, proudly.
Jowanna also says his experience of working at a firm with more than 100 lawyers also taught him what not to do.
“A lot of lawyers tend to be robotic,” he says. “People don’t pay me to follow a checklist; people want a lawyer who thinks and is original.”
Communication The Key To Client Satisfaction
One principle Jowanna abides by is to always keep his clients informed.
“My number-one goal is client satisfaction and the best way to get that is through communication,” he says.
One client who appreciates how Jowanna combines commitment and communication is Glenn Eckoff, who retained the firm for a personal injury case when he was hurt in an auto accident. Eckoff says the experience went well from the moment he met Jowanna for a free consultation to discuss his case.
“He was on time, he welcomed me with a smile on his face and he was straightforward,” Eckoff says. “From that day on, Matthew Jowanna was nothing less than a spectacular representative of my case.”
Eckoff notes that he never had to wait for a return call from the law office, and that Jowanna would personally call him with case updates.
He adds that he also was pleased with how Jowanna handled the legal opposition en route to what Eckoff calls, “a very nice settlement.”
“During the deposition, he was very much on my side; he didn’t let me get bullied and made sure that the other parties were fair,” he says. “Not only did he have a smile on his face, but he was a warrior.”
Working on insurance-related litigation on behalf of consumers and insurance industry clients has given Jowanna a perspective he says helps him deliver outcomes that satisfy whoever he is representing in a particular case.
“Having worked both sides of the fence is an advantage,” he says. “When I represent a carrier, I can give them the insights of what the average “insured” (person) is thinking. When I represent an insured (person), I can give them the insights of how insurance companies really work.”
Family law practice serves client needs such as establishing legal paternal identification of children born outside of a marriage, dealing with divorce, child custody, wills, trusts and probate matters. As his practice has grown, Jowanna has brought on board Elyssa M. Harvey as managing attorney and to handle many of the family law cases.
Harvey, who earned her J.D. degree from Western Michigan University Cooley Law School’s campus in Riverview, FL, says family law can get emotional and legal situations like divorce cases go better when civility can be maintained.
“If people can at least be polite to each other and work together, it can keep things from getting dragged out,” she says.
Whatever the specifics of a case may be, Jowanna has developed a standard that applies to the work his firm does.
“There’s the law and the rules of law, and one must stay within those rules (while still doing) the best for a client,” he says.
Another way Jowanna tries to serve his clients is through a personal injury/accident app that is available via Jowanna.com, with versions for both Apple and Android smartphones.
The Matthew J. Jowanna Accident App was developed to capture and organize basic information from an accident scene, such as photos, video, witness contact information and GPS location, as well as where nearby medical and repair facilities are located.
For readers who may be considering scheduling a free consultation with the Law Offices of Matthew J. Jowanna, the firm’s paralegal, Leah Shalna, recommends writing down relevant questions before arriving to get the most out of the visit.
“Sometimes, they’ll get halfway home and think of something they wanted to ask,” she says.
The Law Office of Matthew J. Jowanna is located at 2521 Windguard Circle, Suites 101 & 102. You can find out more about the firm’s services and schedule a free consultation by visiting Jowanna.com or by calling (813) 929-7300. The firm also has a toll-free number: (855) 2-MJJ-LAW.