With the law in his bloodline, Cuba-native Raul Valdes-Fauli has served a myriad of roles in his flourishing career, from the management of international legal affairs to local mayor and city commissioner
“In Latin American countries, law is an honorable profession. A lawyer is a trusted confidant and advisor.” This is how Raul Valdes-Fauli explains his career of choice. But, really, he didn’t choose a career in law; it chose him. A fifth-generation lawyer, the firstborn son in his family had always gone into law.
“Since I can remember I wanted to be a lawyer,” Valdes-Fauli says. “It wasn’t a decision. I never wanted to be anything else.” And he’s never looked back. Valdes-Fauli has worked in private practice since 1971. A graduate of Harvard University Law School, he currently is a partner at Fowler, Rodriguez, Valdes-Fauli in Coral Gables, Florida. Born in Cuba, Valdes-Fauli moved to the United States when he was 17.
Raul Valdes-Fauli’s tips for succeeding in law worldwide
Local regulations may not be similar to what we have in the United States; many have nothing to do with what we consider to be important here.
The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act regulates how payments to local advisors and officials can be handled. Always hire a local lawyer who knows the local laws, as well as laws of jurisdiction and where they are formed.
Be aware of tax implications when two or more countries do business. Tax codes and treaties have many levels; be sure you are following these properly.
During his 45-year career, he has seen the practice of law change; he explains that in Latin American countries, most lawyers are generalists. On the contrary, “In America, you almost always have to specialize,” he says.
After studying in Paris, Valdes-Fauli came to the United States as a tax lawyer for Standard Oil Company in New Jersey. He moved to Venezuela to be the senior tax attorney for Creole Petroleum Corporation, one of the largest oil producers in the 1970s and a subsidiary of Exxon. In 1971, he moved to Coral Gables and set up a private practice, working in corporate law, securities and finance, banking, and domestic and international litigation. After serving as a partner at Gunster, Yoakley, Valdes-Fauli and Stewart, and Steel Hector & Davis LLP, he joined New Orleans-based Fowler Rodriguez in August 2005, just one day before Hurricane Katrina hit the gulf coast.
“That was a hectic time,” Valdes-Fauli recalls. “Fowler Rodriguez has many specialties, including maritime, oil, and gas. I was working in the firm’s Miami office, where we cover general, corporate, real estate, tax, estate planning, litigation, and immigration.” Valdes-Fauli frequently travels internationally, and many of his clients are located in Latin America, Spain, and France.
“These are corporate clients engaged in mergers and acquisitions,” Valdes-Fauli says. “Miami is a multinational city with a lot of banking, real estate, and corporate work. The city attracts many foreign clients. Given the current economic situation in Spain, many are looking to do business in the United States.”
In addition to servicing clients, Valdes-Fauli is involved in his community. He has held the elected public offices of mayor, vice mayor, and city commissioner in the City of Coral Gables. “In the ’80s, I was involved in many community and cultural activities,” he says. “I decided to run for city commissioner and, to everyone’s surprise, I won. In 1993, I was elected mayor and served four consecutive two-year terms. If I ever decide to run for office again, my friends have contributed $70,000 to a bank account to pay for a psychiatrist!” Instead, Valdes-Fauli gives his time to civic affairs, serving on the board of directors for organizations that include the Miami Symphony Orchestra and Florida Memorial University. “People should get involved in community affairs,” he says. “It’s important for improving and maintaining a community. In Latin America, many people choose to not get involved, but they complain when bad things happen.”
Valdes-Fauli also believes in honoring heritage. He was an organizer of a conference held in October 2012 that celebrated the 200th anniversary of Florida’s first constitution—Spain’s Constitution of Cadiz, which was drafted 1812. “This was the first liberal constitution in Europe and established freedom of the press and habeas-corpus rights, among other liberties,” Valdes-Fauli says. “It had a great deal of influence in the Latin American constitutions. I’m always getting involved in things that interest me, and hopefully they benefit the community.”
Valdes-Fauli says he’s found his career—from legal to political to philanthropic—to be fascinating. “Governance relationships and standards of conduct provide us with the rules of game,” he says. “Within those rules, we can be as creative as possible. Law provides the structure and learning the rules of the game is the most fascinating field in the world.”