by Jessica D. Smith
The dictionary defines justice as “just behavior or treatment; a concern for justice, peace, and genuine respect for people.” Who better personifies this definition than this year’s 2018 Martin Luther King, Jr. Justice Award recipient—Florentino “Tino” Ramirez.
The DBA MLK Justice Award recognizes area leaders whose service to the community embodies the example of Dr. King. Described by his peers as a zealous advocate for his clients, a trusted counselor, and a reflection of graciousness, Tino exemplifies the qualities for which the award is presented.
“For decades, Tino has embodied the fight for social justice in a firm but calming manner. I have looked up to Tino since I was a young lawyer for his leadership, professionalism and his role in paving the way for Hispanic lawyers throughout the State. I am proud to see Tino receive the recognition for all that he has humbly accomplished,” said DBA President Michael Hurst.
From dishwasher to prominent international attorney, Tino’s life experiences helped him develop his work ethic, strong character, and determination. Three traits that would help him complete college, law school, and then open his own law firm in Dallas—becoming only the seventh Hispanic lawyer to practice in the city.
Born in Dallas in 1940, he spent his early years in Laredo, but Tino’s family moved back to Dallas when he was in elementary school. He spent his teen years working as a dishwasher and cook in the restaurants owned by his family. Hard work and responsibility were engrained in him from his father, and reaffirmed by his grandmother, with whom he often worked and was a driving force in his life.
After graduating from Texas A&M University, he went on to law school at The University of Texas, where he obtained his law degree in 1965. Always a hard worker, Tino worked full-time while carrying a full load in law school, determined to fulfill his dream of becoming a lawyer. However, after graduating he found the city’s law firms unwelcoming to a newly licensed Hispanic person. While he knew he wanted to practice corporate law, he could find no job with a firm, so he decided to hang out his own shingle. He took every case that came to his door, met as many lawyers as he could, and he managed to stay afloat as a young solo attorney.
On a visit to Mexico with a fellow Dallas attorney who hired him to interpret for a purchase the attorney was making, an idea began to take form—with his skills as a bilingual attorney he could transform himself into an international lawyer. He worked on marketing himself this way, while still taking any case he could get. In 1968, a defining case came through that door—he was asked by the Under Secretary of State for Mexico to represent a Mexican government-owned airline connection with the seizure of airplanes by a U.S. bank because of a default on a loan. With no hesitation, Tino took the job. His success with the case earned him recognition and referrals. He soon developed the reputation as “the” go-to attorney for Mexican businesses needing representation in Dallas. More than 50 years later Ramirez & Associates, P.C. is still one of the leading law firms in Dallas, representing U.S. and foreign individuals and businesses.
An international counselor, author, and adjunct professor, Tino is also active in the legal community. He was one of the founders of the Mexican-American Bar Association (now known as the Dallas Hispanic Bar Association), whose purpose is to promote the social, economic, educational, and civic advancement of the DFW Metroplex Hispanic community by making the legal system more accessible to the Hispanic community and more responsive to its needs. He was also the first president of the Dallas International Lawyers Association, the predecessor to the DBA International Law Section.
In addition, he has been an extremely active member of the Bar, having served on numerous DBA Sections and Committees, and currently active in the International Law Section, Professionalism Committee, and Senior Lawyers Committee. He is on the board of numerous non-profits and commissions in Dallas, and has won too many awards to name, including the DBA Morris Harrell Professionalism Award and the Maestro Award for Leadership from Ferraez Publications Latino Leaders Magazine.
While proud of his work throughout his long, prominent career, Tino is most proud of his family—his three children and his many grandchildren. And while retirement may be attractive to some, Tino plans to stay where he is as long as he can—why stop when you enjoy what you do?
Members of the DBA and community are invited to attend the 2018 Martin Luther King, Jr. Justice Award Luncheon on Monday, January 15, noon at Belo. For reservations, contact Biri Avina at firstname.lastname@example.org. A plated lunch will be served at a cost of $14.96.