By Jessica Borsi
Before graduating from FIU Law in 2009, Abraham “Abe” Ovadia hadn’t considered starting his own business, let alone a law practice. His ambitions were straightforward: graduate, pass the bar and join a law firm where he could learn from his peers and find a sense of community, similar to the one he had experienced at FIU Law.
But Ovadia graduated at the height of the Great Recession when law firms were hiring few new lawyers—if any at all. He quickly realized that if he wanted a place where he could belong, he would have to build it himself.
“I wanted to work at a place that valued me,” he said. “I fell into starting my own practice, but I love it because I get to create things the way that I think they should be to benefit my employees and clients.”
The swift progress of FIU Law and Ovadia’s practice mirror each other. He started his law firm out of a spare bedroom in his mother’s apartment, transitioned to his own apartment, and then opened permanent offices for himself and his employees. Today, 12 years after its founding, Ovadia Law Group is not just in Miami, but also in Boca Raton, Orlando and Fort Myers, where it represents clients who have been injured in car accidents and homeowners whose properties have been damaged.
Since its founding in 2002, FIU Law has also rapidly built its reputation. From its early years when law classes were offered in Green Library while a physical space was being built, the college has vaulted its way into the national rankings, with seven of its programs ranked in the top 50 among public institutions by U.S. News & World Report. Additionally, FIU Law has achieved the highest bar passage rate in the state on the last seven mid-year bar exams.
Ovadia’s impactful experience at FIU Law and subsequent success inspired him to stay connected through his philanthropy. His gifts extend a hand to younger versions of himself, helping students overcome similar obstacles that he had once encountered.
Ovadia made his first major gift in 2013: $400,000 to the college’s Career Planning & Placement Office, the first six-figure gift from a law alumnus. The office, now named in his honor, helps students secure jobs or internships, enabling them to explore different specializations and find what best suits their interests.
This year, Ovadia made a $750,000 gift to establish the Abraham S. Ovadia Scholarship, which assists promising students from South Florida who have passed their first year of law school and show an interest in following Ovadia’s footsteps as leaders and business owners. This scholarship is not only a method for him to lift up students economically but also a way of availing himself to them as a mentor.
“Abe’s continued involvement with FIU Law helps us do what we do best,” said Antony Page, the dean of FIU Law. “Our culture has always been student-centered, and this new scholarship as well as Abe’s expertise will help our students forge their own paths. We greatly appreciate Abe’s generous support.”
Looking back on his time at FIU Law, Ovadia noted how his peer’s support defied stereotypes about ruthless competition in law school. Instead of students jockeying for positions, upperclassmen set the tone for the community by sharing their outlines and encouraging underclassmen to collaborate. There was, Ovadia recalled, a real sense of everyone rising together and bringing the reputation of FIU Law up with them.
And FIU Law wasn’t Ovadia’s first experience at FIU. That came many years earlier when he was just 7 years old. His mother, a single parent, earned her bachelor’s degree from FIU when she was in her 40s. She had no access to a regular babysitter, so young Ovadia was a regular guest in her classes.
Today, Ovadia’s impact in his community continues to grow through his law practice and other businesses with the support of his wife Katie and two children, Jordan and Brooke. He now sits on the Dean’s Leadership Council and develops programming for FIU Law, supporting the college both from within and without. He loves what he does, and wants to do more for future generations of FIU Law graduates.
Ovadia’s scholarship will allow deserving students to thrive and build their own futures. By investing in these students today, he carries the collaborative spirit of the FIU Law community forward, an act that he hopes will inspire more alumni to give to the college.
“Don’t be shy,” he advises fellow alumni who are considering making gifts, “because where students are standing now, we were there before, and they need our support and our know-how.”