BY JASON SILVER
As the first Cuban-born dean of a U.S. law school at the St. Thomas University School of Law in Miami, Fla., Alfredo Garcia (JD 81) takes great pride in being the first in his family to graduate from college and law school.
Garcia, who was president of the Hispanic and Latino Law Student Association at UF Law, remembers the school giving him an opportunity to be successful by working hard.
“It was a distinct honor for me because I was a first-generation college and graduate school student,” he said. “UF Law gave me an opportunity to further my education and represent my heritage and roots, which is a privilege.”
After graduating UF Law, Garcia became an assistant state attorney under Janet Reno during Miami’s infamous high-crime “Cocaine Cowboys” era. During that time he handled felony and narcotics-related cases, gaining experience working against the best criminal attorneys, he said.
“Being an assistant state attorney was an incredible experience because I got great on-the-job training against the best criminal defense lawyers like Roy Black,” he said.
“It really sharpened my criminal litigation skills, which prepared me go into private practice in criminal defense law.”
There was never a dull moment in Miami during the 1980s as a criminal attorney, Garcia said.
“I always tell my students that five years of the Miami Vice days gave me all the excitement I needed for a lifetime of practicing criminal law,” Garcia said. “I had scary clients who even smashed in my car windows, but I have no regrets.”
Garcia’s first love was always academics, and there’s nothing else he’d rather do than teach his students and learn from them as well, he said.
“Your work should be your hobby and your hobby should be your work,” Garcia said. “I always wanted to be a teacher since I was a kid, and it’s great to see your students develop and then teach you things.”
When Garcia arrived at the St. Thomas University School of Law 20 years ago, it had only 14 faculty members and was newly approved by the American Bar Association. Now, under Garcia’s leadership, the school boasts 40 faculty members and more than 600 students. As an attorney and leading legal scholar, Garcia says students need to know the key to success is hard work and preparation.
“My favorite quote from Chuck Close is ‘Inspiration is for amateurs, the rest of us just show up for work,’ ” Garcia said. “The best attorneys I see in action are the ones who prepare better than anyone, and a lawyer who works harder than his opponent is the most successful.”
Garcia, who has Gator football season tickets, said the most rewarding aspect of being the dean of St. Thomas University School of Law is what he gets back from students.
“You learn a lot from your students; it’s a two-way street,” he said. “I’m very proud and excited because my background mirrors the mission and the values of the law school.”