“To be honest, I think I have this eternal chip on my shoulder. I never feel like I’m doing enough.”
The fact that Matthew Valdez is the associate general counsel for the San Francisco Giants should be enough to allay any doubts professionally. The lawyer does business from a sacred realm that’s been blessed by the likes of Willie Mays and Willie McCovey. What’s more, Valdez is no newcomer. He is a child of San Francisco, having come up in a neighborhood that tech transplants have yet to gentrify decades later. A beneficiary of the best the city has to offer, Valdez has given back to his community in a number of ways. Still, the lawyer says it doesn’t ever seem to be quite enough, which is a testament to his commitment to create better lives for San Francisco’s next generation.
The associate GC doesn’t diminish his difficult circumstances as a kid, nor does he use them as a crutch. “When I grew up, I didn’t really ever think about being a lawyer,” Valdez says. “Like many families in my neighborhood, some of the issues my family and I faced didn’t naturally fit with becoming a lawyer.” Valdez grew up mainly with his mother, who was very active in the community, and whom he describes as an amazing person. His family—mostly made up of immigrants and farm workers—dealt with alcohol abuse, drugs, and incarceration.
He could’ve easily given up before he had the chance to start. “I was always of the mind-set that I wanted to give back to my community and do something good,” he explains. In college at California State University, Northridge, Valdez pursued a degree in urban studies and planning. He wound up as a community liaison for the Los Angeles Housing Partnership (LAHP), developing housing and running social programs, food banks, children’s programming, and senior and family outreach. Valdez worked in LA’s infamous MacArthur Park neighborhood, the birthplace of the gang MS 13 and a nerve center for the community-focused Rampart Division of the LA Police Department.
“I have a tremendous amount of pride for this city. While it was once a much different place than the land of tech that it is today, I still never thought I’d have the opportunity to be part of such an iconic landmark.”
After about four years at LAHP, Valdez decided to give law school a shot. “Initially I thought I could go to law school and start my own organization—but my law school debt just sort of piled up,” Valdez says, laughing. Having worked in housing development, real estate law seemed an ideal place to start practice, and Valdez spent three years doing deals at the firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman prior to coming to the Giants in January 2017.
“Joining Pillsbury’s real estate practice directly out of law school, Matt demonstrated to us that he is an exceptionally gifted young lawyer,” says Bob Herr, senior partner at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman. “He immediately began to represent our most important clients, including the San Francisco Giants—which he was delighted to do as a lifelong Giants fan! At Pillsbury, he became thoroughly familiar with the complex legal landscape occupied by a modern sports franchise and stadium complex. We were sorry to lose Matt but are delighted to continue to work with him as a client as he continues to grow and succeed.”
While Valdez’s tenure at Pillsbury certainly contributed to his maturation as a lawyer, the civic work he does also deeply informs his practice. “Dealing with people from all different walks of life is why I’m able to be especially effective,” Valdez says. “I have a lot of experience negotiating agreements between often very difficult parties, so it’s become my strong suit.” Valdez says that while coming in-house with the Giants is certainly a change of mentality from working as outside counsel, it does offer him a different perspective. “I’m fortunate because as an outside lawyer, you’re given as much information as they think you need—and you’re told to run with it,” Valdez explains. “Here, I’m part of the business team and part of a lot of things that aren’t strictly within the purview of the legal department.”
One of Valdez’s biggest transactions thus far is the renovation of Scottsdale Stadium and development of the Giants’ new minor league spring training facility in Arizona. “The team has been looking to make our players feel like our facilities are on par with the best in the world,” Valdez says. He notes that the negotiation between the Giants, the city of Scottsdale, and the nonprofit Scottsdale Charros was complex but ultimately successful. “There are a lot of moving parts to those transactions, but we’re going to be able to provide world-class facilities to both our major and minor league operations.”
“Here, I’m part of the business team and part of a lot of things that aren’t strictly within the purview of the legal department.”
As professionally successful as Valdez has become, his community involvement also remains a keen area of interest. Valdez volunteers regularly with Peer Resources, a nonprofit that partners with the San Francisco Unified School District to develop youth by providing opportunities to practice leadership while fostering personal, civic, and social responsibilities. The organization not only makes a real difference in kids’ lives, but also in their schools and communities. The lawyer also sits on the board of the nonprofit Imprint City, which offers arts and music education for children of San Francisco’s Bayview neighborhood. It’s a contribution to the community that’s especially rewarding for Valdez.
“This is my hometown. I have a tremendous amount of pride for this city. While it was once a much different place than the land of tech that it is today, I still never thought I’d have the opportunity to be part of such an iconic landmark,” he says, referencing his work with the Giants, and, ultimately, San Francisco as a whole. For Valdez, it means one thing to acknowledge loyalty to a city, but another to give back in response to that loyalty.