Cristina Pereyra-Alvarez started her professional journey in Mexico City, where she earned her first law degree from Universidad Anahuac. Shortly after graduating from law school, she came to the United States and pursued a second law degree from the University of Miami School of Law.
After finishing school, Mrs. Pereyra-Alvarez worked as an assistant public defender in Miami-Dade County, Florida, for 10 years. She then served as a judge for nine years. She loved her work as an attorney, but her judicial career was a very significant time in her life. The trials that she presided over have shaped who she is and stayed with her through the years.
She retired from the bench to participate in the first international Spanish-language court television show: “Veredicto Final” on Univision. Seven years later, when the show ended, and Judge Pereyra joined JAMS.
Transition to JAMS
At JAMS, Mrs. Pereyra-Alvarez focuses on many different areas, including real estate and insurance claims, but she doesn't want to be limited to one practice area. "I believe that a competent mediator can yield or deliver a positive result, regardless of the subject matter that they are called upon to mediate,” she says.
She wants people to hire her, not because of her expertise in that practice area, but for her ability to understand the situation and what the parties want. She works hard to build trust with her clients so that they can be assured that she will help them come to an equitable solution.
Since joining JAMS, she has had some remarkable experiences. She has successfully mediated many unique cases and calls her transition to alternative dispute resolution (ADR) "seamless."
For Mrs. Pereyra-Alvarez, working with JAMS allowed her to return to working in the legal community that she loves. "I really enjoy doing mediations, arbitrations and working with lawyers," says Mrs. Pereyra-Alvarez. "Of all the things that I've done in my life, it's the thing that gives me the most satisfaction and happiness."
Because of her background, Mrs. Pereyra-Alvarez is able to conduct both mediations and arbitrations in Spanish. In addition, she performs cross-border dispute resolution, which requires her to understand the various laws of countries in Latin America.
Of her skill set in this area, Mrs. Pereyra-Alvarez says, "I have a competitive edge for cross-border matters because I have a law degree from a private university in Mexico City and I'm able to conduct mediations 100% in Spanish." This unique set of skills allows her to help a wide variety of people, both in and outside of the United States.
Listening to Understand
When approaching a mediation, Mrs. Pereyra-Alvarez believes that it's crucial to understand that the day she is conducting the mediation will be the most important day for the people coming to her for help. They are counting on her to assist them in resolving something that has been a burden in their lives. So even though it may be one of many mediations she will do, having patience and understanding helps her keep the individual importance of each case in mind.
Mrs. Pereyra-Alvarez feels it's essential to discern what people are saying and what they are trying to convey through their tone and/or expressions. Being alert to the nuances of communication allows her to come to a conclusion that yields an equitable result for all parties.
Giving back is important to Mrs. Pereyra-Alvarez. She was on the board of directors of the United Way for several years, and she is presently the co-chair of the Tocqueville Society of the United Way.
Advice for the Next Generation
When asked what advice she has for the next generation of ADR professionals, Mrs. Pereyra-Alvarez says, "Always go in with an open mind. Always believe that you are going to resolve the case, no matter what."
She calls this mindset her guiding star. "I have done mediations that lasted until the wee hours of the morning because I was unwilling to let the parties go home until we had reached a resolution.”
Diversity and Inclusion in ADR
When asked what professionals in the ADR space can do to promote equity and diversity, Mrs. Pereyra-Alvarez notes that it's helpful to keep an eye out for people who would be good at ADR work.
"Many times, we encounter lawyers, and we think without expressing it that they would be great at ADR," says Mrs. Pereyra-Alvarez. However, rather than staying silent, she believes that we owe it to ourselves and future generations to encourage those members of minority groups with the right skill set to overcome their reservations and find the confidence to follow this career path.
As a Hispanic woman, she says that people have encouraged her during every step of her journey, and she hopes to do that for others who are on their way up.
"I believe that we are collectively obligated to ensure that every member of every minority group is embraced in every respect. So nobody has to question why there aren't certain people in the room, because they are going to be there."
A Life of Perseverance
Perseverance is the theme of Mrs. Pereyra-Alvarez’s life. "I never give up. I don't let the people around me give up. I have never given up on anything or anybody."
Because of her perseverance, she has evolved in different roles in industries where she never imagined herself. From lawyer to judge to television personality to neutral at JAMS, her relentlessness has helped her achieve success every step of the way.