Antonio “Tony” Martinez Jr. was 28 in January 1964 when he reported for his first day as a lawyer at Shutts & Bowen’s office at the First National Bank Building in downtown Miami. Two years out of law school, Martinez was lawyer No. 15, and, as it happened, the firm’s first Hispanic.
Fifty years later, at 78, Tony Martinez still looks forward to going to work every day, sometimes commuting from his Coral Gables home on his Honda motorcycle, putting real estate deals together. The law, the firm, and the city have changed with the times. Today, Shutts & Bowen, founded in 1910, is a dynamic, increasingly diverse AmLaw 200 firm with nearly 250 lawyers and seven offices around Florida and one in Amsterdam.
“It’s so important to do what you enjoy, and real estate is a win-win for everybody,” Martinez said. “The seller’s happy, the buyer’s happy, and it’s great working together with people toward a common goal. I’ve had an interesting career. I’m not a superstar, just a regular hard-working lawyer. It has been a great ride, and I still enjoy meeting challenges every day.”
Martinez and a close circle of more than 60 family, friends and colleagues past and present celebrated his half-century at the firm’s Miami office in a gathering this month. In a time when lawyers change places and law firms come and go, Martinez believes consistency matters.
“One big reason our firm has survived is its collegiality,” Martinez said. “We don’t fight among ourselves. We never had a client that was so big that losing the client would get us in trouble. This firm has always been hardworking and dignified, and egos don’t get in the way here. When I started, Shutts & Bowen was one of the few firms at that time that had a business manager. The firm has always been run soundly and fairly.”
The son of Spanish immigrants who ran a bakery business in East Harlem, Tony Martinez had passed the competitive exam for Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan when his family moved to Miami. Martinez graduated from Miami High in 1953, and the University of Florida in 1957.
While working as a civil engineer for Esso (now Exxon) in Linden, NJ, he caught the law bug, taking night classes at New York University Law School and then returning to Gainesville, earning his law degree at UF.
After joining Shutts & Bowen, Martinez climbed the ladder quickly, making partner in three years and eventually serving on the firm’s executive committee and traveling the country, luring new talent from the nation’s top law schools. One lawyer he recruited from Harvard Law School in 1976 was William F. “Bill” Smith. Thirty-eight years later, Smith and Martinez meet for lunch regularly. Smith is a partner in the financial services practice, and Martinez is of counsel in the real estate group.
“I like the people here,” said Smith, who briefly left for Greenberg Traurig before returning to Shutts & Bowen. “Collegiality may be an overused word, but it fills the bill here. Tony and I love to disagree on things. He’s a rabid Gator fan. I’m an equally rabid Canes fan, among other things. Tony is just a very likable guy. He also happens to be a very astute lawyer.”
Martinez gives back to his profession and to the community. Early on, he got involved with the Dade County Bar Association, and is now serving his third, non consecutive threeyear term as a director.
“Tony Martinez is one of my favorite people and has always been a great volunteer. It’s been a privilege to know him 30 years,” said Matthew Ridgely, executive director of the 4,800-member association. Eight years ago, Ridgely succeeded his mother, the late Johnnie M. Ridgely, who was executive director for 41 years.
A longtime Coral Gables resident, Martinez stays active in Christ Journey Church in Coral Gables, where he serves as a deacon, and enjoys doing charitable work and finding fellowship through the South Miami/Coral Gables Elks Lodge and the Elks National Foundation, which provides $4 million in scholarships a year. In addition to his motorcycling hobby, Martinez is an expert calligrapher, and Shutts & Bowen Executive Committee chair Bowman Brown presented him with a calligraphy set at the reception in his honor.