Miami natives Yvette Ostolaza and Beatriz Azcuy are partners at global corporate law firm Sidley Austin’s Miami office in Brickell.
Ostolaza chairs Sidley’s management committee chair, while Azcuy is co-managing partner of Sidley’s Miami office and head of its real estate group.
Since Chicago-based Sidley — which has at least 2,300 lawyers generating annual revenue of $3 billion — opened its Miami office in July 2022, the Miami tandem has been hard at work. They are among the less than 1% of Hispanic female lawyers in the United States that have risen to become partner in a law firm.
Growing up in Grapeland Heights in Miami, Ostolaza, 59, had met lawyers in her community, but never saw a future in the field. Now a litigator, she developed a passion for law during her studies at the University of Miami. It was there that she took a business law course that would change her life.
“When I took that course, I really liked constitutional law and business law. It was just a course that you took and it came real easy and it was really interesting,” she said.
For Ostolaza’s fellow University of Miami alumna Azcuy, 54, the affinity for a career in law stemmed from a job she held after college. Her parents emigrated to the United States from Cuba in the 1960s and had a reverence for education that motivated her to attend college.
Working at a title company owned by a lawyer, she frequently worked on real estate closings and began to enjoy it.
“It’s something that I became passionate about,” Azcuy said. “He was the one who incentivized me to go to law school. He said, ‘You’re really wasting your potential and your talent if you don’t do that.’ I ended up going to law school to work in a global real estate practice.”
The significance of working at one of the top U.S. and international law firms as two Latina women is not lost upon Ostolaza or Azcuy, both of whom are first-generation Americans. Sidley has a rich history since it was founded in 1866.
“I try to spend a lot of time giving back to the community and making sure that other people know that your parents can be immigrants and you can end up running the firm that [late wife of former President Abraham Lincoln] Mary Todd Lincoln used and Barack Obama’s firm,” Ostolaza said, noting former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, worked there years ago.
Reflecting on a panel discussion she participated in last week, Azcuy said she enjoys reminding people of how feasible it is to set goals and achieve the same results that she has as a professional.
Azcuy is proud of her Cuban heritage and one experience stood out to her that exemplifies the need for people of diverse backgrounds in law. During one case working with a Mexican client, she was the only person in a group of 20 lawyers that could speak Spanish.
“There’s a certain connection that gets made and a certain understanding that happens,” she said. “You can’t have a literal translation of something from English to Spanish and assume that anybody from another country understands it perfectly because the concepts are different and the terminology is different. So that’s a huge plus.”
Being fluent in Spanish and understanding different ways of speaking the language introduced Azcuy to new clients at Sidley Austin and has allowed her to be successful in more ventures.
Ostolaza and Azcuy share a unique connection in that they are both proponents for women being able to pursue their professional goals, while being supportive mothers. Ostolaza’s oldest son Aidan is a 27-year-old entrepreneur living in New York City. Her middle son Alec, 23, works in Washington, D.C. and her daughter Elena, 20, studies at Northwestern University.
Reflecting their mothers’ friendship, Elena is roommates with Azcuy’s daughter Monica Diaz, who is also at Northwestern pursuing her master’s degree in speech pathology. One of Azcuy’s twin son and daughter, Daniel Diaz, plays college baseball at the University of South Alabama and his twin sister, Bianca Diaz, is studying law at the University of Miami.
As both women settle into their Sidley conference room chair overlooking a stunning view of Biscayne Bay, one thing is abundantly clear: They are clearing paths for other people like them to follow.
“That’s where we are in terms of Hispanic Heritage Month,” Ostolaza said. “Having people that speak the language and that have grown up in a city like Miami that’s so multicultural, that you had to learn about Latin America and Europe has been really positive.”
This story was originally published September 24, 2023, 5:30 AM.