City of Miami Commissioner and 2017 Miami mayoral candidate Francis Suarez has left GrayRobinson to join Carlton Fields Jorden Burt, where he will work in the firm’s real estate and commercial finance practice group.
Suarez’ arrival at Carlton Fields as of counsel comes just a few weeks after the firm hired Brian Hart to boost its real estate practice, which lost six real estate lawyers in May.
The firm said hiring the two lawyers underscores its commitment to expanding the practice, which was one of the firm’s financial bright spots in 2016.
Suarez, who started at Carlton Fields on Monday, said some of his clients have multistate work and he decided to leave GrayRobinson, which is primarily a Florida firm, because moving to Carlton Fields presented him with an opportunity to expand his own real estate practice nationally. In addition, he said he has over the years formed personal and professional relationships with lawyers at Carlton Fields, where his sister, Olga Suarez Vieira, is a shareholder.
“The firm is committed to growth and sound business practices — but not at the expense of the people who work here,” Suarez said. “I feel comfortable that the understanding that we have is that obviously I will have the liberty to fulfill my public duties to the maximum extent necessary to represent my residents effectively, as I always have as a commissioner and, hopefully, will in the future as a mayor.”
Suarez, who started as of counsel at GrayRobinson just a little over a year ago,in May 2016, is a transactional lawyer with more than 13 years’ experience in real estate and corporate finance. His work has included acquisitions, financing, sales and joint ventures, and he has served as outside general counsel to a number of companies.
Suarez is the son of former Miami Mayor Xavier Suarez. He is a mayoral candidate in the November election. He was elected District 4 Miami city commissioner in the fall of 2009.
“Francis has great legal practice skills and deep roots in the community — exactly the right combination to enhance our successful real estate practice,” said Robert Freedman, co-chairman of Carlton Fields’ real estate and commercial finance practice group. “We anticipate that Francis will be a key player for us as we continue to expand this practice across the region.”
The firm said Suarez didn’t foresee any potential ethical issues or conflicts and would be alert and diligent about avoiding any such problems in the future.
Suarez noted that he is sensitive to appearances that affect public confidence and said he would recuse himself if there were a real or perceived conflict on land use or other matters.
Suarez said he had chosen to work at GrayRobinson and Carlton Fields in part because neither firm did a large amount of work dealing with the city of Miami. In the little more than a year he was at GrayRobinson, Suarez said he has had to recuse himself from votes where GrayRobinson represented a party only a few times.
“As mayor, I would assign the veto prerogative to an independent official in any matter where there could be the least imputation of a real or perceived conflict or favoritism. And I would simply not participate in land use matters where there might inevitably be a perception of potential conflict,” Suarez said. “The public must be confident that its elected officials will never act based on self-interest of any sort.”
Suarez began his law career at the Miami law firm of Haley, Sinagra, Paul and Toland, focusing on commercial litigation cases and general transactional matters. He went on to serve as general counsel to Doctors Management Group, a consulting services firm.