Jeff Cazeau, JD '02, can be found practicing law, attending board meetings or training for his first marathon, often in the same day. Born in Haiti, he was three when he moved to New York. Accepted to the prestigious Bronx High School of Science, he traveled by train three hours a day because his parents wanted him to have the best possible education.
He attended the State University of New York at StonyBrook and spent his last semester studying in England. Traveling under a Haitian passport, Cazeau felt American. He became a citizen when he returned from Europe and then joined the military. "It was the summer of Operation Desert Shield," he explained, "and I wanted to do my part. I enlisted in the navy."
Cazeau's Commanding Officer recommended him to Navy Officer Candidate School. "I was very, very fortunate to get selected since it was during a period when the military was downsizing," he said. From there he went to Surface Warfare Officer School and Legal Officer School. Cazeau actually practiced law before he had a law degree. In the military, the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) governs the law, and Cazeau was the legal officer on a U.S. Navy warship. After working as Caribbean Regional Analyst for the United States Southern Command with diplomats who all had law degrees, he decided to apply to law school. "I wanted to be like those guys," he remembered.
The time-management skills Cazeau developed in the Navy served him well in law school. "I spent nine years in the Navy working hard and wanted to see what would happen in the civilian world if I kept up that work ethic," he explained. He was president of the Student Bar Association and a member of multiple honor societies including the Society of the Bar and Gavel and the highly selective Iron Arrow Society. "I just went all out," he said. "I remember thinking when this is all over, I want to be able to say I did everything I could. UM's a great school for that."
He is currently the Law Alumni Association vice president for regional programs, and he and Josh Spector, JD '02, have returned to talk to students about the South Florida job market. "I really love the school and the opportunities they gave me," he said. "I try to give back as much as I can."
Cazeau opened his own practice last year. He represents individuals and companies in federal, state and local matters such as procurement disputes, land use and zoning. He helps his clients secure government contracts, including firms interested in reconstruction work in the aftermath of the tragic earthquake in Haiti. Cazeau wants to make sure the firms hire locals for the rebuilding efforts. He recently visited the devastated country for the first time since the earthquake. "It's cliche," he said, "but it's worse than what you see on television." In Miami, he participated in the Haitian Lawyers Association earthquake relief efforts and worked on the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) drives for Haitians living in the United States.
Cazeau is past president of the Haitian Lawyers Association, Vice President for Fundraising for the Law Alumni Association, Chair of the Florida Bar Grievance Committee, and an appointed member of the Miami Bayside Foundation. He manages his schedule by relying on his military skills. "I often get work done early or late," he said. He enjoys spending any free time with his wife and three daughters.