Name: Esteban Rivera
Title: Managing partner, Rivera Law Firm; Hennepin County Bar Association president
Education: J.D., Hamline University School of Law; law degree, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador
Esteban Rivera looks for the positive, even as the George Floyd killing and the pandemic have redirected his plans as Hennepin County Bar Association president.
The 9,000-member bar’s response, Rivera said, included creating a Racial Equity Committee to address inequities in the profession and the justice system and shifting to online meetings and legal education.
“We are very adaptable and can thrive even with adversity,” Rivera said.
Rivera moved to Minnesota 14 years ago from his native Ecuador. He had earned a law degree there in a five-year program after high school, before going through law school a second time at Hamline University School of Law.
A former Minnesota Hispanic Bar Association president, Rivera focuses on investment-based immigration, helping foreign nationals launch businesses in this country, and employment- and family-based immigration and removal defense as managing partner of Rivera Law Firm. His experience as a Spanish-speaking immigrant helps him relate to clients.
Q: What’s the best way to start a conversation with you?
A: Introduce yourself. I’ll be happy to talk about anything and everything. I like travel. I like sports. I like boating. I like business ventures. I like the law. I like politics, current events.
Q: Why did you go to law school?
A: A law degree allows you to help people in a lot of different ways — or businesses — and it’s a very versatile career.
Q: What books are you reading?
A: The last book I read was “Becoming Steve Jobs.” He said if you’re in a meeting and don’t say anything, you don’t contribute, you probably should not be there. It’s true. If you’re not contributing, why are you there?
Q: What’s your pet peeve?
A: Being on time. I always like to be on time. I like my clients, my employees to be on time and things to happen on time.
Q: What’s the best part of your work?
A: Every day is different. I help people: A family gets reunited or gets to stay in the U.S., a company gets a great employee or an entrepreneur gets to come to the U.S., invest money and generate jobs for people here.
Q: Least favorite?
A: The “admin” part, not legal part of my job, is probably not my favorite. At the same time, I’m doing well with my business and I’m happy about what I’m doing where I am.
Q: What’s a favorite activity away from work?
A: Traveling is one of my biggest passions. I would like to visit 100 countries and the 50 states. I’m at 27 states and 54 countries. The pandemic put a damper on my trips.
Q: Where would you take someone visiting your hometown?
A: I consider Minneapolis my hometown and Quito, the city where I’m from in Ecuador, my hometown. The historic center in Quito was the first UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s super well-preserved with amazing churches and cobblestone streets. In Minnesota, I would bring you to Lake Minnetonka. I enjoy boating there, the houses, the restaurants, the nature. It’s peaceful and relaxing.
Q: Which legal figure do you most admire?
A: I really admire Justice Ginsburg and her fight for equal rights. And Justice Sonia Sotomayor. I had the privilege to meet her when she came here. We brought teenagers to show them that people like them can be successful and are successful.
Q: What is a misconception about your work as an attorney?
A: In terms of my clients, people demonize immigrants. I think the rhetoric especially of Donald Trump was demonizing immigrants: They’re taking jobs, they’re not paying taxes, they’re criminals. The reality is that I have seen my clients pay taxes. Studies show that immigrants commit less crime. A lot of them are doing jobs that nobody else wants to do.
Q: What is your favorite novel, movie or TV show about lawyers?
A: I like “Suits,” although it’s not very realistic. “My Cousin Vinny” is used for a lot of teaching moments and is a funny movie.
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