–By Clara-Meretan Kiah ’15
After FIU Law alumnus Abraham “Abe” Ovadia graduated in 2009, he found himself in a bit of a rut. The nation was experiencing the worst economic recession since the Great Depression and the legal profession was retrenching.
At the time, FIU’s College of Law had only graduated four classes and was just beginning to establish its reputation, and Ovadia found building a professional network challenging.
“Back then, it seemed like employers either weren’t hiring or only hiring graduates from schools they attended themselves,” Ovadia said.
Instead, Ovadia used the skills learned from law school and working in the legal profession to hire himself. And so began Ovadia Law Group, P.A. – out of the spare bedroom in his mother’s apartment. His first employees joined him at mom’s, and later they would find themselves poring over case files at desks crowding the living room of his first apartment.
Ovadia’s firm handles personal injury claims, and his now 70-person, multilingual team focuses on helping his Spanish-speaking clients navigate the American legal system. In just 12 years, the firm has expanded its offices to four major Florida cities: Miami, Boca Raton, Orlando, and most recently, Fort Myers.
In August 2021, his firm launched a podcast discussing contemporary issues everyday people face in the legal field. “Legally Exhausted” is available weekly on YouTube.
As Ovadia’s firm grew, so did his conviction to pay it forward and support future, aspiring lawyers.
It’s how he decided in 2013, at age 29, to make a $400,000 gift to his alma mater – the first six-figure gift the college received from a graduate.
The gift benefits the college’s Career Planning & Placement Office, now named the Ovadia Career Planning & Placement Office in his honor. Among other things, it supports career services programming and helps fund summer public interest work experience outside South Florida. The office guides students in every step of their professional development journey, including maintaining a pipeline of employment opportunities and providing comprehensive programming to help students develop the tools needed to secure successful careers .
FIU Law has certainly established its reputation over the years and continues to achieve top employment rates. According to data published by the American Bar Association, in recent years, 90 percent or more of its graduates have found employment within 10 months of graduation. And the college regularly outperforms Florida’s other law schools on the Florida Bar Exam – in fact, FIU Law has achieved the highest bar passage rate in the state on last seven consecutive mid-year bar exams.
Ovadia remembers fondly the guidance he received from the college’s career advisors. He intends for his gift to help maintain a robust program so that current and future students have the resources they need to successfully navigate post-graduation life and jumpstart their careers.
“The Career Planning & Placement Office was a great resource for me when I was getting ready to graduate,” he said.
FIU Law Dean Antony Page said he’s grateful that alumni like Ovadia are stepping up to support programs and scholarships that make a difference in the lives of FIU Law students. He hopes more alumni will follow Ovadia’s example and get involved with the college, whether by making a gift or by networking with, mentoring and hiring FIU Law graduates.
“We greatly appreciate Abe’s generosity and commitment to FIU Law, especially so early in his career. His generous gift has permitted the law school to do so much for our students that otherwise would have been out of reach. As the first graduate to make a six-figure gift, Abe is an inspiration to our alumni and the FIU Law community, and his example will encourage others to support FIU Law however they can,” Page said.
Ovadia encourages every FIU Law graduate to connect back to the university and see how they can engage with its students, fellow alumni, and the community. Ovadia serves as a member of the Dean’s Leadership Council and personally champions the FIU Law Dean’s Alumni Circle, a program which makes giving back to FIU Law accessible to everyone by allowing alumni to split an annual gift of $150 into 12 payments per year – “about the cost of a monthly streaming subscription,” as Ovadia likes to say.
“It’s easier than you might think to give back to FIU Law,” Ovadia said. “Every dollar helps make a difference for law students.”