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CROSS BORDER LAWYER

Antonio Maldonado's Specialization in US-Mexico Cross Border Business, Transaction and Probate Disputes Puts Maldonado Law Group in a Class By Itself

There are few lawyers who can say they’ve been to law school twice, in two different countries. There are also very few who are licensed to practice in two countries. Of those who do have offices in two countries, almost none practice law in cross-border business and probate disputes and transactions. Antonio Maldonado, founder of the six-attorney firm Maldonado Law Group, is that rare attorney who can say that he has done all of the above.

21More importantly, to hear him tell it, it is precisely the unique and exquisitely complex nature of his work in USMexico cross-border disputes, cross-border probate disputes, and cross-border transactions that keeps him interested in his work, and makes his job so rewarding.

“I’m dealing with two very different legal systems. Sometimes they have similarities, but just as the US has Federal and State Laws, Mexico also has Federal and State Laws. In addition to the differences in substantive and procedural rules, the practice of law is different. It is challenging, but fascinating to be a part of how two different legal systems work,” Maldonado says.

DEVELOPING DUAL LOVE OF LAW

“While I was in high school in San Diego, I spent two summers working for my uncle, Jose Roman Leyva-Mortera, who is a notary public in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico. Notary publics in Mexico are attorneys who have been appointed by the state government to not only attest as people who appear before them are, but to prepare and approve public deeds in which legal transactions such as real estate conveyances and corporate charters are memorialized. I was usually very busy working alongside close to twenty staff members including four staff attorneys. It was my experience during those summers that made me realize that I wanted to become a lawyer,” Maldonado recalls.

Maldonado set about to earn his legal degree not once, but twice. “I went to law school first in Mexico to the Tec of Monterrey (Instituto Tecnologicio y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey), where I graduated in 2000. And then I went to law school again in the US to American University’s Washington College of Law in Washington D. C., where I graduated in 2002,” Maldonado says. By 2003, in addition to being licensed to practice law in Mexico, he was licensed in New York. He briefly took a position with an immigration law firm in Washington D.C., before opening a solo practice in Tijuana. However by 2004, he was ready to return to San Diego. Upon being licensed by the State of California in 2005, Maldonado opened a firm in San Diego with William Markham.

“Bill Markham and I founded Maldonado & Markham LLP in 2005, which grew from a two-attorney firm to have seven attorneys in two offices, one in San Diego and another in Tijuana, at one point we had a third office in Los Angeles,” Maldonado says. After seven years, however, Maldonado says that he kept coming across similar issues, which weren’t the focus of his firm.

“I kept facing the same cross-border issues over and over in my practice. This helped me realize that the focus of my law firm should not be on typical disputes or transactions where there are no cross-border aspects involved, but rather that I should focus on those matters where we can deliver truly exceptional value and results to our clients,” he says. At that time, Maldonado made the decision to use his unique position as an attorney licensed in both countries, towards very specific, in-demand practice areas.

“When I started focusing on cross-border litigation matters, cross-border probate matters and cross-border transactional matters, my business began to flourish,” he says. It was his desire to devote the law firm to cross-border matters, as opposed to just working on matters in either the US or Mexico, which caused the amicable dissolution of his then law firm Maldonado & Markham LLP. By 2012, Maldonado had launched Maldonado Law Group PC, which was dedicated to representing and counseling clients in US-Mexico cross-border business litigation and arbitration; US-Mexico cross-border business transactions; US-Mexico cross-border probate litigation; and US-Mexico cross-border real estate transactions.

CULTIVATING A NICHE: CROSS-BORDER

LAW “It is interesting how the legal systems in the US and Mexico work. In some cases Mexico law says one thing, whereas US law says another,” says Maldonado. To that end, often one of the biggest initial determinations Maldonado must make is whether it is more beneficial to his clients to handle the matter in the US or Mexico, if that is an option. For example, he explains “Tort law is more developed in the United States than in Mexico, so tort cases, generally speaking and if the circumstances allow it, should preferably be filed in California, whether in State or Federal Court, instead of filing them in Mexico. That is not necessarily so in breach of contract cases,” he says.

The fact that Maldonado is licensed to practice law in both countries is just the first reason his firm has built a thriving business, with more than 75% of his cases coming from referrals from other attorneys. In addition, Maldonado’s firm also employs a team-based approach to each case. “Most of our work is the result of collaboration between the lawyers within our firm and on occasion, with outside lawyers that bring us into a matter, or those that we bring into a matter when expertise in another practice area is needed or local counsel is hired,” he says. With such a team-based approach, Maldonado’s firm is able to “deliver value to our clients by being creative, efficient and effective on both sides of the USMexico border,” he says.

In particular, Maldonado is predominantly skilled in three major areas of cross-border practice. “I primarily focus on cross-border business disputes. I also have expertise in crossborder business and real estate transactions and in a crossborder probate,” he says. “I am not involved in cross-border tax, cross-border family law or cross-border criminal defense.” Cross-border disputes that Maldonado sees regularly include those that involve the application of the substantive law of the other country; those over the choice of law between US or Mexico law; disputes over the jurisdiction by the court in which the case was filed; disputes regarding the convenience of a court in which a case was filed; the service of process of defendants located in the other country; discovery of evidence that is located or originated in the other country; the admissibility and authentication of evidence that originated from the other country; and the enforcement of a judgment from the other country.

Examples of these types of disputes include helping a US bank to have its US court judgment recognized and enforced in Mexico, upon the Mexico real estate assets of a US judgmentdebtor who had fled to Mexico. In this case, Maldonado successfully represented the plaintiff, and the judgment-debtor’s real estate in Mexico was sold though judgment enforcement proceedings to pay the US judgment. Maldonado has also helped a client’s trial counsel prevail in a California court over what the law should be used in the case involving a contract that was entered into in Mexico.

Maldonado also has extensive experience in cross-border probate matters. “I represent clients that involve wills which are prepared in the US or where the probate was initially filed in the U.S., but the real estate is located in Mexico. We have also assisted US-based probate attorneys as co-counsel in matters in which the will was prepared in Mexico, or where the original probate occurred in Mexico. We have also represented US-based estates in connection with the collection of personal assets located in Mexico for which an ancillary probate in Mexico is not possible.” For example, in one case Maldonado represented the administrator of a California-based probate, to request the proper letter of request from the California court, so that the courts in Mexico could then order a Mexico-based bank to open a safe deposit box and turn over its content to the executor.

That safe deposit box contained personal property belonging to the estate, and Maldonado represented the administrator before the California court as well as the Mexico court in connection with the requests and orders needed to get the safe deposit box to be opened. Maldonado Law Group also handles business and real estate transactions that involve parties in both the US and Mexico, and usually have issues involving the laws of both countries. “We’ve represented many US-based sellers and buyers of real estate located in Mexico, especially in the Baja California peninsula. We also have a lot of experience representing US-based lenders in connection with securing loans for real estate located in Mexico.”

MULTINATIONAL EXPERTISE

“The best advice that I was given as a young attorney was to communicate with clients as often as possible and always be upfront as to what is happening in a case. This builds trust and is invaluable in the attorney-client relationship, which is the foundation upon which all else is built,” Maldonado says. As such, he built his firm upon those principles. Focusing on hiring and developing the best staff possible, while focusing on core competencies, Maldonado is proud of the success of his firm since its inception in 2012. Today, Maldonado Law Group has built its reputation on their commitment to a client’s success, taking into account and seamlessly overcoming differences in laws as well as procedures, language, culture and the legal environment in which its attorneys practice.

20In addition to the majority of the firm’s business stemming from referrals from all over the United States, the Maldonado Law Group has worked as co-counsel in countless cases. “We work with other lawyers and law firms, when we are retained for our core expertise, or when we are hired by clients directly to work with their existing attorneys in connection with crossborder issues that come up in their matters. We also bring in other attorneys or firms for issues that are outside our core competencies or to serve as our local counsel in litigation matters.” Maldonado admits that his practice is very busy these days, and as such the firm is fortunate to be able to be selective on the cases it takes on. However, he is more than happy to be flexible when it comes to billing clients. “Several years ago we started to move away from only billing clients on an hourly fee basis over to alternative fee arrangements,” he says.

“Although many of our cases are billed on an hourly fee basis, we often propose and have clients accept alternative fee arrangements such as flat fees, structured flat fees, milestone flat fees, hybrid flat fees plus reduced hourly fees, hybrid flat fees plus hourly fees

after a cap, contingency fees, reverse contingency fees, reduced contingency plus reduced hourly fees, and reduced hourly fees plus milestone fees,” he adds. The reason for being so flexible is simple: “We believe that our law firm’s interest should always be driven by our client’s best interest.” In addition, the firm is typically handling a couple of pro-bono cases at a time, for clients including nonprofit organizations, or those involved in probate cases in Mexico who cannot afford an attorney.

FISHING, FATHERHOOD & THE FUTURE

As far as the future is concerned, Maldonado is happy with the practice he’s built over the last decade. With a 10.0 superb rating from Avvo, and inclusion amongst San Diego’s best attorneys in international law, Maldonado has every reason to be proud of what he has accomplished.
But he’s not just a busy, binational attorney. He’s also a husband and father of three. “I met my wife Karla in Monterrey, Mexico. She has been a great support, both when I was preparing for the bar exam for New York and California, as well as in the formative years of my own practice. No one else could have been as patient, loving and supportive through that very difficult time, when I was working 70 hours/week. That still happens occasionally, but not as often,” he says.

When Maldonado does have free time, he enjoys spending it with his wife and their three children. “We like to take family vacations several times a year. I also like to fish. The week before Hurricane Odile hit Los Cabos in September 2014, I was there for a court appearance and to fish. It was my 10-year-old son’s first fishing trip in Los Cabos. Although we didn’t catch any billfish off of Cabo San Lucas, we did catch many yellow fin tuna east of San Jose on our second day,” he says proudly.
In regards to the future of Maldonado Law Group, Maldonado expects his firm to grow by one or two more associates who fit specific criteria. They must have lived in both the US and Mexico so they understand cultural differences, and they must be fluent in both English and Spanish. If they aren’t licensed in both countries, they must have a strong interest in cross-border law. Maldonado’s criteria for new hires is based upon his own philosophy of success, which he will continue to live by into the future. “I believe in becoming the best at what you do. The rest will follow.”

» EDUCATION19• The American University, Washington College of Law Washington, D.C., 08/2002 Master of Laws (LL.M.), Concentration in International Business Law

• Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey

- Monterrey, N.L., México, 06/2001

- Certificate in Constitutional Law

• Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey

- Monterrey, N.L., México, 12/2000

- Certificate in Tax Law

• Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey

- Monterrey, N.L., México, 12/2000

- Licenciatura en Derecho (LL.B.)

» LICENSURE/BAR ADMISSIONS

• Supreme Court of the State of California

- Admitted 05/2005

• Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of the State of New York - Admitted 06/2003, 3rd Judicial Department Country of Mexico - Admitted 12/2000

» AWARDS

• Recommended Attorney, business law, Our City: San Diego magazine, 2009, 2010 and 2011

• San Diego's best attorneys, international law, San Diego Metropolitan magazine, 2011 and 2012

• Avvo.com rating 10/10 "Superb"

 


Contact:
Antonio Maldonado
www.maldonado-law-group.com
Am@maldonado-law-group.com
1 (866) 414-7627
US
550 West C Street, Suite 2040
San Diego, California 92101
Mexico
Gob. Lugo 3, Piso 3, Col. Dávila
Tijuana, Baja California 22046

Jennifer Hadley

Jennifer Hadley is a Staff Writer for Attorney Journal

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