When others zigged, Patrick L. Cordero zagged.
When lesser lawyers struggled, Cordero flourished. When less-creative lawyers saw failure, Cordero smelled opportunity.
It all started in the Bronx, New York, where Cordero was born to a Chilean father and a Colombian mother. He was raised in Miami, however, and he went to Killian High School before enrolling at Marquette University in 1979, majoring in Finance with a minor in Marketing.
After graduating in 1982, he moved back to Miami, where he took a chance on St. Thomas University’s new law school, which at that time was not accredited.
“You barely knew there was a school there,” Cordero said. “There were no trees or buildings like there are today.”
Cordero was one of 350 students in the law school that first year, but by the time he graduated in 1987, there were less than 90.
“I was a charter member,” Cordero said, “part of the first graduating class of STU’s College of Law. Within a year of graduating, the school became accredited.”
Still, getting a job after graduation was difficult. Cordero was competing against graduates from the University of Miami, Florida State, and other well-established law schools.
Cordero was virtually broke at that time, driving an old car with barely enough money for gas.
Desperate, he got a job with a courier service. Putting his marketing background to use, he would drop off his resume every time he delivered papers to a law firm.
One day, while delivering packages, he ran into the owner of the famed Concord Building, located across from the courthouse in downtown Miami.
“I was in the elevator when the guy said, ‘Are you Patrick?’” said Cordero, recounting the conversation. “He said, ‘You used to cut my lawn back in West Kendall.’”
When asked what he was doing, Cordero told his story of trying to get his footing as an attorney.
“He said, ‘You’re very lucky. I’m the owner of the Concord building, and I have an attorney who retired, and he left everything there in his office on the eighth floor. Why don’t you move in? I won’t charge you rent. Just pay the overhead, such as the telephone bill, and start your own practice.’”
That was the break Cordero needed.
“I moved in two weeks later,” Cordero said. “Within two years, I had a thriving business.”
How he accomplished that is a story onto itself. At that time, in the late 1980s, the most profitable and popular area of law in South Florida was personal injury.
“Every attorney was doing it, and they were highly successful,” said Cordero, now a married father of six adult children. “But I knew that by the time I graduated I had to practice an area of law that was less popular.”
In other words, Cordero had to locate a gap in the market, and he found that in bankruptcy law.
Today, Cordero is the most prolific consumer-bankruptcy-filing attorney in Florida, and one of the top three in the nation. In 2015, in Washington D.C., the Minority Chamber of Commerce recognized Cordero as the National Bankruptcy Lawyer of the Year.
Back then, however, Cordero’s colleagues practically begged him not to get into this area of law.
“They said, ‘Your clients are broke. They won’t have money to pay you,’” Cordero said. “Back then, this area of law was virtually taboo. It seemed like no one understood bankruptcy. No one wanted to even be associated with this area of law.
“At first, my colleagues were right. But I developed a business model, and, after years of practicing, I became successful.”
Today, Cordero is the managing partner of his own law firm, which employs more than 50 staff members.
“I learned that if you really want to succeed,” Cordero said, “you had to work as hard as you can … and then work even harder.”