MIAMI — A Miami businessman has learned more about legal ethics and rules by serving on a Florida Bar grievance committee.

The Florida Bar relies on grievance committees in each judicial circuit, made up of lawyers and community members who review complaints against members of the bar and determine whether there’s reason to think a lawyer violated state rules of professional conduct rules.

Marcelo Castro Alves, founder of Focus Investment Advisor, was appointed to serve on the Florida Bar’s Eleventh Judicial Circuit Grievance Committee "J" for a three-year term as a non-lawyer member. He’s one of three public members on the committee.

Alves founded his investment advisory company in 2011 after working three years as an advisor with another group in Miami. He’s also worked as an investment banker for companies in Miami, as well as Switzerland, where he managed investment portfolios for wealthy individuals, private foundations and small to mid-size corporations.

Alves told the Florida Record that a friend who is a lawyer serving on a different grievance committee recommended him for the position. Because the Florida Bar relies on volunteers willing to meet once a month, it can be difficult to find non-lawyer members.

“I’m interested in helping the community,” Alves said, adding that he wants to help with these kinds of cases because he understands there are lawyers who are more interested in making money than acting ethically — something he has experience with. “I believe, in the past, I was the victim of an unethical lawyer practice, but I did not file any Florida Bar complaint.”

His goal is to glean as much as he can and to ensure attorneys aren’t abusing their position and taking advantage of clients. It’s an unpaid position, but the reward is seeing the high standards set by the Florida Bar enforced.

“I can also help other civilians that may feel they are not being correctly handled by lawyers and help guide them in appropriate actions to protect themselves, such as, how to file a Florida Bar complaint against their lawyers,” he said.

Members of the committee don’t receive any special training, but they’re introduced to how proceedings will go. So far, Alves has attended two meetings. During the first, the committee recommended an attorney retake an ethics course. He believes his business background, as well as his non-legal perspective, will be valued on the committee.

“I can bring a point of view of a regular civilian person… and common sense about a situation we are analyzing,” he said. “I don’t give a point of view as a lawyer, but I try to question the ethical rules and practices to give my opinion.”

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