Al Cardenas: Latino Icon of Justice
Story By: Jasmine Eppes
Al Cardenas, a Senior Partner at the international law firm of Squire Patton Boggs, came to the United States of America at the age of 12. As a young man, Cardenas knew the value and importance of hard work, which he displayed by mowing lawns and selling newspapers. Cardenas continued working throughout high school in order to assist his family with family finances. By Cardenas participating and excelling in sports in high school, he was able to more easily make friends than others who had recently arrived in America. Cardenas always had a dream to become a lawyer and he worked diligently to make that happen. In law school, Cardenas worked two jobs; one during the week and another one on the weekends. By Cardenas remaining committed and focused throughout law school, he graduated with Honors at the top of his class.
Cardenas possessed not only a passion for the law, but he possessed a passion for politics as well. Cardenas participated in the Presidential campaign of 1976, and in 1978 he ran for United States Congress. Although he did not win, Cardenas was able to make many friends and connections. Those connections proved fruitful as in 1980, Cardenas became involved in the Ronald Reagan Presidential campaign and was part of the Presidential transition team. As a result of his hard work and dedication he displayed while working on the campaign, Cardenas was asked to head transition of the United States Department of Commerce. Cardenas was also the first Hispanic elected as Chairman of the Republican Party of Florida & Chairman of the American Conservative Union. He also had the privilege of serving as a Special Ambassador to St. Kitts-Nevis when that nation became independent in 1983.
Several years later, Cardenas began practicing his first passion - the law. More specifically, Cardenas specialized in real estate and government law. Cardenas started his own law firm with a partner, becoming one of the first Hispanics to start up their own firm, and the law firm grew to about 65 lawyers on staff. That law firm was able to thrive for 24 years until Cardenas’ partner passed away from cancer. Therefore, Cardenas merged his law firm into an international law firm, Squire Patton Boggs.
This firm is one of the largest international law firms in the world. At this firm, there are 46 offices in 20 countries and Cardenas serves as a Senior Partner, overseeing the law practices in Latin America. To this day, Cardenas continues to serve and has been recognized as one of the best lawyers in the United States for almost a decade.
Cardenas remains proud of his Hispanic heritage and culture and believes that everything he has accomplished has been a result of his best efforts. “Do what you are asked to do well, and other opportunities will follow,” Cardenas states. “Learn to draw the best from everyone around you and develop your reputation as a truthful and fair practitioner. You have to be humble if you want to be good at what you do.” Not once has Cardenas viewed himself as a token Hispanic or minority. He simply wants to be recognized for doing his best.
Next steps for Cardenas? He wants to become a better mentor and help young people on their paths to success; particularly those in the Hispanic community.