Growing up, I watched my father fight hard to get his small business up and running. He hadn’t gone through quite as much schooling as other people, which made them think they had an easy advantage over him. Unfortunately for them, my father definitely had the ambition and natural intelligence to make sound business decisions. One of the smartest ones he made was asking a great attorney for advice.
Many people have a negative impression of lawyers, and from what I’ve seen in TV shows and movies, I can understand where this distrust comes from. But for me, my understanding of what a lawyer does came from the interactions I saw between my father and his legal counsel. He felt safe despite threats of lawsuits because his attorney was able to stop the opposition before they carried out their threats. When I saw how much appreciation and respect my father had for his lawyer, I started dreaming early of making that same kind of positive impact for people.
This is where my interest in law began. In high school, that interest only grew as I discovered I had a natural knack for debate, drama, and writing — each of which helps me in my practice even today. The farther I went with my education, the more I realized that a career in law was going to fit like a glove. Then one day, that dream turned into reality. I became a real lawyer.
My first impression of practicing law was a ‘David against Goliath’ scenario.
I knew then that I wanted to help people fight for justice the way my father’s attorney had helped him.
MY TRANSITION TO PROBATE AND ESTATE LITIGATION
After law school, I started working at a big law firm that handled commercial disputes. As the new guy on the block, I was assigned to the cases that the veteran staff didn’t care to take — namely, the cases that involved clients in extremely confrontational, emotionally charged situations. I remember vividly a couple of the first clients I worked with. They were small business owners who wanted to take their case to trial against the advice of one of my colleagues. When the case was passed to me, the clients were so frustrated that they were practically yelling at me during our initial consultation. Without thinking, and without wilting from the heat of the moment, I responded with a bit of dry humor, and there was a long pause. After a moment, the clients chuckled. The tension was broken, trust began to build, and we went on to resolve their dispute.
Now the lesson in this story isn’t that I’m a good comedian. In reality, I take my clients’ cases very seriously. But this experience showed me something very important — something that would define my career. I realized that I was made to handle difficult cases for emotional clients. I understand where clients are coming from, I’ve seen my own father go through unfair and infuriating legal struggles, and all I’ve ever wanted to do is help. This early case showed me that confrontation is not something to shy away from, and that if I stick with my clients through the difficult emotions, I can build trust and understanding. Over the years, my ability to handle emotionally charged cases and clients led other attorneys to refer cases to me when a contested case became uncomfortable for them because, in their opinion, either the parties on the other side or even their own clients were too emotional. That’s one reason why, a few years down the road, a significant percentage of my practice was made up of the cases that involve some of the strongest emotions of all--contested probate and estate litigation.
Since I decided to focus my practice on contested estate and probate issues, I’ve handled cases at all levels of complexity and seen countless conflicts between family members. Although I can’t always resolve those conflicts for my clients without going to trial, I encourage civil settlement discussion. When the civil, rational approach doesn't work, though, I do not hesitate to get aggressive, take a case to trial, or continue the fight on appeal if that's what it takes to protect my client's rights.
U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas, 1986
U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas, 1986
U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Texas, 1986
U.S. District Court, Western District of Texas 2016
U.S. Court of Appeals 5th Circuit, 1986
U.S. Supreme Court, 1986
J.D., University of Texas School of Law, Austin, Texas, 1986 (High Honors)
B.A., University of Texas at Permian Basin, Odessa, Texas, 1983
PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATIONS & MEMBERSHIPS
State Bar of Texas (Section memberships: Alternative Dispute Resolution, Antitrust and Business Litigation, Appellate, Environmental and Natural Resources Law, Labor and Employment Law, Litigation), Member, 1986 - Present
Federal Bar Association, Member, 2013 - Present
Bar Association of the Fifth Federal Circuit, Member, 1994 - Present
Corpus Christi Bar Association, Member, 1986 - Present
The Hon. Reynaldo G. Garza American Inn of Court, Barrister, 2004 - Present
Padre Little League, Inc., Board of Directors and Secretary, 2013 - 2014
Corpus Christi Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers’ Project, Volunteer, 1988 - Present
Corpus Christi Literacy Council, Board of Directors, 2001 - 2003
Better Business Bureau of the Coastal Bend, Board of Directors, 1991 - 1994
Corpus Christi Texas Exes, President, 1996 - Present
Corpus Christi Texas Exes, Vice President, 1991 - 1992
Corpus Christi Texas Exes, Scholarship Chair, 1991 - 1994
Texas Law Alumni Association, Texas District 14 Director, 1992 - 1994
Carroll High School Mock Trial Team, Non-faculty Advisor, 1992 - 1993
Padre Little League Board of Directors Director, 2013-Present
HONORS & AWARDS
Legal Research Board, 1984-1985
Texas Law Review 1984-86
Chancellors (Most Prestigious Honorary Society at Univ. of Texas School of Law) 1985-86
Order of the Coif, 1986
Graduated Law School with High High Honors (top 5%)
CERTIFIED LEGAL SPECIALTIES
Civil Trial Law, Texas Board of Legal Specialization