“My Story” Featuring Richard J. Suarez (Retired Judge, District Court of Appeal)
Richard J. Suarez (Retired Judge, District Court of Appeal) joined JAMS following a distinguished legal career, most recently in the Third District Court of Appeal in Florida, where he served as chief judge from 2015 to 2017.
A Circuitous Journey
Judge Suarez’s career path was a bit of a circuitous journey. He got both his undergraduate and master’s degrees in music performance. After performing for a few years, he decided to pursue a Ph.D., but his brother-in-law encouraged him to try law school for a year first.
Judge Suarez found that he enjoyed law school, so he earned his J.D. and was fortunate enough to be hired by one of Miami's best litigation firms where he did both litigation and appeals in state and federal court.
After over a decade at that firm, he and a friend formed their own firm. He enjoyed their work there, but 11 years later, he was contacted about an opening on the trial bench.
Judge Suarez was later appointed to the Third District Court of Appeal, where he served as chief judge and presided over 2,000 cases of all types and authored approximately 600 opinions.
Mentorship and Words of Wisdom
Judge Suarez credits several great mentors for his success.
“My mentors led me to an understanding that the most important part of being an attorney or judge, as well as being a mediator, is be courteous and kind to everybody that you deal with—the attorneys as well as the parties.”
Another important piece of advice that has stuck with him came from one of the senior partners at his first firm.
“He taught me that you have to be concerned with what’s going on in the world and what’s going on in the community to understand how people are thinking and what affects them.”
The Importance of Integrity
Integrity and honesty are two of the values Judge Suarez feels most strongly about when it comes to the practice of law.
“What I always try to impart to law students is that the most important thing, whether you want to stay in the practice of law or become a judge, is to create a reputation of integrity and honesty. You want the people you work with to understand that what you tell them is the truth. It’s easy to destroy your reputation, and you can’t build it back.”
Setting Up the Next Generation for Success
When it comes to barriers in the legal profession, Judge Suarez feels strongly that he and others in similar roles in the legal community can encourage the next generation to continue pushing forward to achieve any goal that they set.
“If you want to become a lawyer, you can do it. If you want to become chief judge of a court, you can obtain it. It’s all there.”
He is passionate about guiding and mentoring the next generation.
“We who are the tail end of our careers, need to keep pulling them forward and pushing them up. That is how we get equality.”
Judge Suarez’s reputation for integrity and his extensive legal experience have made him a valuable addition to the JAMS panel.
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