Black man elected to lead major law firm

Albert Dotson Jr. is the next managing partner of Bilzin Sumberg Baena Price & Axelrod

Black law partners account for just 1.7 percent of partners of large law firms in the U.S.

Despite the odds, attorney Albert Dotson Jr. has been named the managing partner of a major Miami law firm.

Dotson was unanimously elected to serve as the next managing partner of Bilzin Sumberg Baena Price & Axelrod, a leading business and real estate firm in December 2017.

“It is a humbling experience to have my partners put in me their confidence to lead our law firm, and it is a point of reflection for me,” said Dotson. “Thinking about people like Henry Latimer who was the managing partner of Fine Jacobson and others that I’ve known over the years who have had a similar position.”

The late Henry Latimer was the first Black lawyer to head a firm in South Florida and the first Black Broward Circuit Court judge.

Latimer and Dotson are two members of the small exclusive club of people of color who have been selected to manage or chair a law firm.

Dotson started his law career 34 years ago at Latimer’s firm, Fine and Jacobson. He started as a real estate transactional lawyer, spent a few years as a litigator and now focuses on land development and government contracting at Bilzin Sumberg.

The firm’s current leader, John Sumberg has been the managing partner since its inception 20 years ago.

Sumberg said he was confident in Dotson’s judgment and “deep knowledge” of the community.

“I am very excited that Al will be next firm leader, and I am convinced his leadership will keep the firm nimble and adaptive to our clients’ needs,” said Sumberg.

Dotson founded Bilzin Sumberg’s public-private partnership and land development practice, which oversees the legal proceedings of some of Miami’s biggest infrastructure projects.

The governmental relations practice has spearheaded more than $34 billion in government contracts, according to Dotson. His team works on projects related to transit, public housing and public works.

The firm is involved in the $3.5 billion Brightline rail and the $300 million Liberty Square renovation project.

“I am most proud of those projects that I had an opportunity to participate in where we have been able to achieve our client’s objectives and also provide transformational opportunities within the community,” said Dotson.

Dotson’s said his most memorable accomplishment was representing the developer Cutler Ridge Mall, now known as Southland Mall, after the devastation of Hurricane Andrew.

“Our entire community was focused on getting that mall back up and operational as a beacon of hope for South Dade,” said Dotson. “And being able to help achieve everyone’s objective and playing a role in that was a proud moment for me.”

In addition to being the chairman of the governmental relations and land development practice, Dotson also serves as a member of Bilzin Submerg’s executive committee. He will remain a member until he assumes his two-year term as managing partner on January 1, 2019.

During the next year, Dotson will work closely with Sumberg as he makes the transition to the top of the firm.

“Bilzin Sumberg’s success is the result of having top talent, understanding our clients’ businesses, deep community engagement, and being counselors and trusted advisors,” said Sumberg. “Recognizing that a seamless transition to new leadership requires a thoughtful long-term vision, we began our planning for this move several years ago.”

In addition to land development and governmental relations, the firm’s practice areas include corporate financing, environmental law, bankruptcy, tax, technology and telecommunication.

Even though the firm is based in Miami, the firm’s lawyers work with clients throughout the United States, Europe, Latin America, Canada, the Middle East and Asia.

Dotson said he wanted to be a corporate lawyer way before he understood what the position entailed.

Originally from Detroit, Dotson and his family moved to Miami when he was a teenager. He graduated from Palmetto High School and then went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in economics and history from Dartmouth University in Hanover, New Hampshire.

While in college, his internship with former attorney general Janet Reno was the confirmation he needed to continue to pursue the field of law, Dotson said. He went on obtain his juris doctorate from Vanderbilt University’s Law School in Nashville, Tennessee.

“I later decided to go to law school based on what I clearly realized was an opportunity to combine my education with doing those things that I felt I could to help improve the community for which I live.”

Throughout his career, Dotson has served the local and Black community.

Dotson is the chairman emeritus and a board member of 100 Black Men of America, and a past chairman and board member of the Orange Bowl Committee and Alonzo Mourning Family Foundation. He currently serves on the Federal Judicial Nominating Commission of Florida. In 2014, he was elected by former President Barack Obama to serve on the White House Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for African-Americans.

Stephen H. Johnson, president of the South Florida chapter of 100 Black Men of America said that they are proud of Dotson’s accomplishment.

Johnson said he admires the fact that Dotson has been successful in merging the “business space with caring for society.”

“He is a pioneer in making sure his clients have participated in making Miami specifically, but America, a better place,” said Johnson.

This story was originally published in the Miami Times on Jan. 26, 2018.

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