If you were a newly minted attorney in the late ’90s, chances are your prominent office décor featured wall-to-wall boxes of discovery and a splash of color courtesy of your PC’s tropical island wallpaper. It might have been a similar setting for Daniel M. Pacheco had he continued to forge 60-hour work weeks at a prestigious corporate law firm in Houston; however, after receiving an email late one evening inviting him to practice law in a place remarkably similar to that tropical island backdrop on his computer, he accepted.
So, in 1997 Dan packed his bags and flew halfway around the world to a tiny island nation in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. For the next three-and-a-half years, Dan would call this paradise home.
Daniel M. Pacheco was the son of a college administrator, so traveling, particularly around the U.S., was an early part of his life. In his formative years, his family moved between Colorado, San Diego, El Paso, and Laredo. Dan was always a very social young man and found that school came easily to him. An avid reader of Stephen King and J.R.R. Tolkien, Dan was also a competitive swimmer and captain of his high school swim team, the butterfly and freestyle being his specialty. He went on to receive his undergraduate in Political Science & Managerial Studies from Rice University in Houston. Upon graduation he lived in Seattle for a year, 1991 to be exact, the height of the grunge scene.
Dan came back to Houston in the fall, where he would start law school at The University of Houston. He remembers his law school career fondly, particularly the wealth of knowledge acquired, his time on the Houston Journal of International Law, and of course, picking up his wife – literally. Dan met his future spouse while carpooling to class at U of H, and the rest as they say, is history.
After a successful law school career, Dan was a briefing attorney for the former Chief Justice Alice Oliver-Parrott of the First Court of Appeals in Houston, and from there worked as an associate at Haynes & Boone, LLP. It was a couple of years into working at Haynes & Boone that Dan received an email from an old law school classmate who was clerking for the Supreme Court of The Republic of Palau. The Republic of Palau is a small island country that forms the western chain of the Caroline Islands in Micronesia in the western Pacific Ocean. Sound familiar? If not, think grass skirts, famous World War II plane and shipwrecks, and world-renowned scuba diving and snorkeling reefs with a rich array of internationally protected marine life. The email came just in time for Dan, who was growing restless at the firm and yearning for a change of scenery.
Starting with the Dan in the Mirror
With some thought, some paperwork, and his briefcase, Dan initially accepted a position as the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Litigation in Palau. However, a large back log of criminal cases on the island led Dan to practice environmental criminal prosecution, and ultimately take on the position of Deputy Attorney General for the Republic of Palau.
Despite the laid back 7:30am – 4:30pm work schedule, the calm ocean and temperate climate, and casual button-down shirt and jeans attire, Dan got to practice high-level, constitutional issues surrounding international maritime law, veto powers, and congressional spending limitations. The position was extremely fulfilling, as Dan recalls, because in addition to touching areas of the law and theoretical concepts law students only read about in books, he was able to actively conserve an endangered environment and make a change in the world as his day-today profession.
Dan remembers the legal community on the island as a very harmonious group of mostly expat lawyers who ran on island time and were fortunate enough to tackle some fascinating cases in paradise. One such trial that Dan was embroiled in, involving an illegal fishing expedition in which over 300 lbs. of fish was confiscated, lasted nearly three weeks and involved defense attorney Johnson Toribiong – who would later go on to become the President of Palau.
Leisure time off work was spent boating to nearby islands and taking advantage of the rich flora and fauna that the barrier reefs provided. Scuba diving and snorkeling are “bucket list items for anyone” when in Palau, Dan says. The island is known for its extremely active reef life, including endangered sea turtles, a rainbow assortment of tropical fish and coral, reef sharks, etc.
Back to the Future
However, being on the other side of the world is a double edged sword. By this time, Dan’s law school sweetheart was now his wife, and the two had been on an extended honeymoon in Palau for the better part of a year. By his third-year practicing in the Caroline Islands, the couple decided they were too far removed from the fast-paced realities of the western world and their families. So in 2001, they decided to move back to the U.S.
In January of 2002, Dan joined Shelton & Valadez and four years later would start his own practice. Three kids and two dogs later, Dan joined Crosley Law in 2018. He is still an avid reader and has added the Texas Trial Lawyers Association, The San Antonio Bar Association, and the Bexar Brewers Home Brew Club to his list of memberships. His favorite varietals to brew are Indian pale ales and Belgian ales.
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