During his 43-year career with Greenberg Traurig, LLP, Cesar L. Alvarez has watched the firm grow from 12 to more than 1,900 lawyers in 39 locations around the world.
Much of this growth, including ranking as a top 10 firm, occurred during his tenure as CEO from 1997 to 2010. In his current role as senior chairman, Alvarez continues to provide leadership and support, and is more involved in the firm's strategic and financial operations.
Though initially interested in becoming an investment banker and earning his MBA from the University of Florida, Alvarez decided to pursue law at the University of Florida's Levin College of Law where he and his brother Arthur were among three Latino students in their class.
He credits his father for making his legal career possible. After arriving in the U.S. from Cuba, 13-year-old Alvarez and his family moved to a non-Cuban neighborhood so that they could learn English and assimilate into the culture more easily.
"As painful as it was at the time, it really turned out in the long run to be the right thing," he says. Alvarez believes that having better fluency in English than many of his Cuban peers gave him an educational advantage. His business and law degrees have benefited him--and the firm--tremendously. "My business degree was very helpful in my ability to be a business lawyer and to be CEO of a firm this size," he says. "Greenberg Traurig has annual revenues of approximately $1.4 billion so it is a large legal business." One reason Greenberg Traurig has been successful as a business is because the lawyers running the firm do not practice law concurrently, allowing them to focus on business needs, he says.
"We have a CEO with final say, but a few of us in senior management work as a team and help each other out. Sometimes I take the lead, sometimes someone else does, so that we can manage the firm with the least number of people in the most effective way possible."