Alumnus leads international legal transactions in Mexico, philanthropic efforts at home

January 10, 2024

Open to interpretation

by Jennifer R. Lloyd (M.B.A. ’16)

Many may see Alex Pérez (J.D. ’96) as an international attorney, a tax law expert or a leader in San Antonio’s philanthropic efforts as the San Antonio Area Foundation’s board chair. But he views himself, fundamentally, as an interpreter.

His Chilean father arrived in the United States at age 16 before joining the U.S. Army, gaining citizenship and meeting Pérez’s American mother. Pérez grew up in a Spanish-speaking household, moving between Chile and the United States before finishing high school in Mexico City.

Pérez described a childhood of frequent moves as his family looked for economic opportunity in the U.S. When Chile’s economy faltered, many of his relatives joined his parents, living under one roof in the U.S.

“I grew up as a bridge between cultures, as an interpreter of cultures between my family and the outside world,” Pérez said. “As a 10-year-old kid, I would interpret the world for my grandparents, who did not speak English, and go to Kmart to ask about my grandmother’s stockings if she had a question.”

“I grew up as a bridge between cultures, as an interpreter of cultures between my family and the outside world.”

Alex Pérez

Pérez grew comfortable navigating the liminal space between American culture and his family’s cultural background. This skill proved key to his career journey, both as a German linguist in the U.S. Army Reserves, during a break from his undergraduate studies at Purdue University in Indiana, and in his current international legal expertise.

As an attorney at Clark Hill and the member-in-charge of the firm’s Mexico City office, Pérez represents Latin American businesses and high-net-worth families in their investments and expansion of operations into the United States.

“That’s the tie to what I do as a lawyer: I, essentially, serve as an interpreter between two cultures, two legal systems and two languages,” Pérez said.

Birth and taxes

Alex Pérez (J.D. ’96) pictured in the Clark Hill office in San Antonio.

For Pérez, the draw to study law arose out of a combined love of rhetoric, argumentation and logic he discovered during high school debate and Model United Nations, along with a touch of romanticism for trial law from reading John Grisham’s A Time to Kill.

Pérez decided to attend the St. Mary’s University School of Law to be closer to his mother who lived in the area and because of the law school’s approach to ensuring the success of its Latino students. A nontraditional student, Pérez married and welcomed his first of three children during law school.

“I have fond memories of bringing my son in my papoose strapped to my front, going into class and burping him in the middle of the professor’s lecture when my wife couldn’t take him,” Pérez recalled.

Though, initially, he practiced trial law after graduation, two tax law classes with Professor of Law Mark Cochran, J.D., LL.M., planted a seed that later propelled him to earn an LL.M. in Taxation from the New York University School of Law.

“I always enjoy following the achievements of former students, and it is especially gratifying to know that Alex’s remarkable journey in tax law began in my introductory course,” Cochran said. “His intellectual curiosity and his demonstrated commitment to public service provide an inspiring example to current and future students.”

Equitable transactions

Pérez became a tax and corporate lawyer at the San Antonio firm formally called Cox Smith for many years, often representing Mexican and Latin American clients, and worked as a corporate lawyer handling international business matters in Amsterdam for a medical device company.

“I always knew I had this international component that was built into me in my upbringing and heritage,” Pérez said. “I wanted to go into transnational legal work, and transactional work lends itself to that.”

“I always knew I had this international component that was built into me in my upbringing and heritage.”

Alex Pérez

He later co-founded Sañudo Pérez, PLLC, in Mexico City and San Antonio, to handle Mexico-U.S. transactions before joining Clark Hill two years ago. His work now focuses on nearshoring, which he defines as a “switch in a multinational corporation’s manufacturing operations from Asia back to, in this case, Mexico and the United States.”

Threaded throughout his career lies a commitment to service in keeping with the St. Mary’s University mission, which included joining the board of the San Antonio Area Foundation in 2016. In January 2023, Pérez became chairman of the Area Foundation’s board of directors, which oversees the philanthropic powerhouse with a balance sheet of more than
$1 billion in assets.

“It has been great to have Alex contribute to our board in general and in the chairmanship this year in particular,” said Lisa Brunsvold, interim CEO of the San Antonio Area Foundation. “It’s never easy to lead during times of transition, so Alex has really stepped up in his role as board chairman in providing constructive feedback to senior staff and making himself available to the entire Area Foundation team. We look forward to his continued leadership as we gear up for our 60th anniversary in 2024.”

The Area Foundation gave out $57.6 million in grants to nonprofits throughout San Antonio and Central Texas in 2023.

“All the grants that we give have one thing in common, and that is that they’re devoted to our concept of equity,” Pérez said. “That is the idea of closing the gaps among those who need it the most, devoting our resources to some of the poorest zip codes in the country that are all, unfortunately, in San Antonio. So, I’m very proud of that mission.”   

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