Rafael Ruano

Rafael Ruano

CAO & Partner

Rafael Ruano is the Chief Administrative Officer and Senior Attorney at Goyette, Ruano & Thompsons. At GRT, Rafael is the primary contact for over a dozen of our labor association clients, providing general counsel, handling grievances and individual disciplinary matters, and serving as the lead negotiator in the collective bargaining process. He also oversees the Estate and Business Planning Department and works with individual clients on their estate and business planning needs.

“The best part of my job is getting the opportunity to help clients solve problems proactively,” Rafael says. “This is not always possible – and, like all law firms, we spend a lot of time trying to clean up messes – but, when we have the chance to plan ahead and then, something happens that ends up far better because of the planning…that is a good feeling. Just as enjoyable is the incredible opportunity to meet and interact with hard-working Californians all over the state. I try to learn something new from each of my clients and look forward to meeting with them in their workplaces, homes and communities.”

Outside of work, Rafael helps run one of the largest youth water polo clubs in the country, the American River Water Polo Club, which he founded and has developed over the last 25 years.

As President of the American River Water Polo Club Board (non-profit organization), Rafael has experienced a myriad of highs and lows that have educated and shaped his career as a legal counselor for individuals, non-profit labor associations and for-profit businesses.

Rafael also coaches youth water polo, and stays busy with his four active boys, ages 12, 14, 16 and 18. He also volunteers with the local school district in various committees and has held Board and leadership positions with the YMCA of Greater Sacramento and Rio Americano High School Athletic Boosters.

Rafael was born in Montevideo, Uruguay and grew up in Sacramento, California after 4th grade. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Relations from Stanford University in 1999, and his Juris Doctorate (Tax Concentration) from University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law in 2005.


Over the past two decades, Rafael has represented public and private sector employees with various legal needs, including disciplinary matters, harassment and discrimination complaints, and licensing issues. Rafael has become an experienced labor attorney, working with dozens of employee associations on all aspects of labor representation, form unit recognition and modification to collective bargaining and long-term planning. Rafael has also helped hundreds of California families with their estate planning needs, traveling throughout the state to meet with clients.

Rafael manages many aspects of the law firm’s administration and plays a key role in client development and marketing and growth initiative, as well as managing the firm’s talented group of professionals, ensuring appropriate workloads and being proactive in minimizing burnout and avoiding anyone getting overstretched.


  • Collective bargaining representation for California public employee associations representing teachers, firefighters, peace officers, mid-managers, professional, confidential, and general unit employees.
  • Labor representation of California public employee associations, including corporate governance, duty of fair representation issues, grievances, unit modification, and decertification procedures.
  • Advised hundreds of California couples and individuals in over 25 California Counties with their estate planning needs; drafted comprehensive estate planning documents and offer continuing legal advice to these clients.
  • Obtained limited conservatorships for parents of special needs children.
  • Represented professionals with their estate planning concerns, specifically planning for the transfer of sole proprietorships or partnerships upon their incapacity or death.
  • Represented families with interests in large family-owned agricultural businesses, helping craft estate plans and a transition plan to the next generation.
  • Business Counsel, representing small and medium sized business in all areas of management, employment, human resources, liability protection and governance.
  • Member of the Sacramento Estate Planning Council
  • Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA (1995 – 1999), Bachelor of Arts, International Relations
  • Head Manager, Stanford University Men’s Basketball Team (1995-1999)
  • University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law (2002 – 2005), Juris Doctor (with Distinction), Tax Concentration
  • Anthony M. Kennedy Fellow (member of the second Fellowship class, and recipient of full tuition scholarship to UOP-McGeorge School of Law)


  • American River Water Polo Club, President and Founder (2001-  )
  • Mission Avenue Elementary School Site Council (2017-2023)
  • Rio Americano Athletic Boosters President (2015-2019)
  • YMCA of Superior California (2004 – 2010) Board Member, served on Northeast Branch Regional Board and Greater Sacramento Regional Board
  • Rio Americano High School, Women’s Water Polo Coach (1998 – 2009) Eight consecutive CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Championships (2002-2009)
  • USA Water Polo National Youth Team Coach (2004-2006)


  • Rafael earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Relations from Stanford University in 1999
  • He earned his Juris Doctorate (Tax Concentration) from University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law in 2005
  • Sacramento Estate Planning Council member since 2008