Cuba in 1980: A young Raul Cabrera, 8 years old, shipped out on a boat with his family and a number of other refugees to reach the shores of Florida and start a new life.
His life began once his boat touched the U.S. Raul took his life in stride as it was presented to him, even at such a young age, attending primary schools in Miami once his family had settled down after immigrating. His first experience with the public school system immediately showed his promise as a student.
“They wanted to hold me back a year,” Cabrera recalls, “but because the schools were better in Cuba I ended up skipping a grade.”
His expedited education did not stop there. Raul went on to get his undergraduate degree from the University of Florida, continued on to Florida International University, and finally to Nova Southeastern University to obtain his degree to practice law in Florida, feeling an urgency to start working for communities that found it difficult to stand up for themselves.
Raul’s upbringing and passion for his fellow Floridians explains why he has focused on helping the communities that are often forgotten and ostracized, much akin to his own experiences growing up as an immigrant. Being from Cuba and growing up in Miami, he has chosen to position himself in Ybor City and the surrounding areas to lay down the framework of his practice.
“I’m not just here for the short term, I’ve been in Ybor now since 2011 and I plan to [stay] in communities that have strong bonds… You have to build and you have to grow together,” says Cabrera, stressing the importance of “being an attorney for the community, for everybody, and not just for the higher-ups… I think it starts at the bottom. The foundation is the most important [part].”
That mindset has helped Raul make a name for himself as a community advocate, specifically with Ybor’s and Tampa Bay’s Latin and LGBTQIA communities. He specializes in personal injury, bankruptcy, criminal & immigration law.
“You can’t bring somebody that’s been raised on a silver platter that has never had to struggle, and say ‘I can recognize your struggles, I know your plight,’" he points out. “If you’ve actually lived, and you’ve actually started from that, and were able to dig your way out of it, I think you appreciate it more.”
Believing there is no excuse not to immerse oneself in local culture, Cabrera never takes a back seat. He sponsors local events and partners with local businesses to make a lasting connection with those he hopes to serve.
“I think community is very important,” he explains. “Community is where people get their ethics and their morals and values from. You have to dive in and believe in the community where you’re at in order to help people.
“If I was someone who would just come to work and then go home,” he continues, “there’s no connection. There’s no strong ties or association with the people that you’re actually helping. If you come in, and become involved, you become that plus one, not just there sometimes. You’re here, you’re involved.”
A down-to-earth and genuine, personable lawyer is hard to find sometimes, but Raul Cabrera really tries to make connections and be an attainable source for anyone looking for help. He even gives out his personal cell phone number and responds himself to start the trust and relationship before any discussions about a case have begun.
Cabrera thinks the most important quality to have is “being straightforward, telling people what the truth is and not what they want to hear… I like to listen to people, a lot of what we do is solve problems and help people.” He adds, “That’s what sets me apart. The one-to-one connections and the ability to be straightforward, be honest, and don’t bullshit people. People can smell that.”
Though acting as a champion for generally misrepresented communities in Tampa Bay has given his practice purpose and a realness that is more than he could ever ask for, Cabrera hopes that his reach can extend to anyone in our local area looking for legal advice.
He currently hosts a Facebook Livestream every Monday night in which he answers legal questions to give peace of mind to viewers and followers. He also likes to give away tickets to events around the Tampa Bay area as a thank-you for interacting.
You can also catch him Sundays on the radio from 10-11 a.m. on AM 1300 Hispanic Radio.
Starting soon, keep a lookout for Raul Cabrera’s weekly legal tips called, Ask The Know-It-All, to be printed weekly in Creative Loafing. Please email us your questions starting now at [email protected] or visit raulcabreralaw.com.