Seven Years, Seven Lessons
by CAB on July, 2014
Ricardo Casellas sits down with Hispanic Executive to share his top takeaways from his years thus far in his private practice, Casellas Alcover & Burgos, P.S.C.
As told to Zach Baliva
1. Craft your own identity
I learned that clients hire the lawyer, not the firm. My partners and I were working together for another firm. When that firm terminated pension plans, we decided to go out on our own. We wanted to create our own identity and brand. This would involve picking our employees and developing our own way to manage a practice. We were encouraged when most of our corporate clients followed us. I learned through this process that America truly is the land of opportunity. If you are ethical and do good work, your clients will support you.
2. Don't be a follower, be a leader
We have a saying in Spanish: más vale ser cabeza de ratón que la cola de león; it is better to be the head of a mouse than the tail of a lion. We all worked for a very large firm before starting our own and agree that it is infinitely better to lead a small firm than to be a cog in the wheel of a large organization. You are able to carve your own path by choosing the work that is important to you. Coming to work is different each and every day, and it's endlessly rewarding.
3. Stick to what you know
In building this firm, I've found that it's important to develop one area of expertise, instead of trying to be everything to everyone. We try cases in local courts, federal courts, and administrative agencies. We do both domestic and international arbitration cases, but we stick to the basics of what we're good at. We are experts at commercial litigation and counseling in corporate matters. We can adapt to change, but keep the focus on these areas. You don't learn this in any textbook, but developing a focused expertise makes you different from any other good lawyer out there. The best way to serve clients is to be excellent in just a few areas. That's your best calling card.
4. Believe in your abilities
Over the years, I've also realized how important it is to have confidence in yourself. We've represented PETA, Kellogg, Bacardi, Welch's, Pfizer, NBC/Telemundo, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, and other major organizations. We're also very active in litigation involving distribution law issues, First Amendment defense, and health laws. It is crucial to be certain of your abilities when representing big companies on high-profile cases. For me, that certainty was acquired during a mid-'90s case I handled for the Miami Heat. Their mascot was sued in federal court for his actions at an exhibition game in Puerto Rico. He grabbed a woman out of the stands against her will and pulled her across the court. She was the spouse of a Puerto Rican Supreme Court justice, so nobody wanted to take the case. I believe everyone is entitled to a defense, so I represented the team and the mascot. They received a fair jury trial and eventually reached a favorable outcome after two jury trials and an appeal. During this case, I proved to myself that I could overcome adversity in order to defend a client. I earn respect by taking on sensitive cases, and I always enjoy the challenge.
5. No case is a lost cause
A lawyer has to analyze a case on its nose. From the facts and the law, you can predict success or failure. However, I never reject a case simply because I believe the client has a probability of losing. Over the last seven years, I've seen some unlikely outcomes. I'm always open with the client about the probabilities, and again, everyone deserves a defense. If a client is truthful about their version of events, I will represent them.
6. Law is a business
Many of us get into this line of work because we want to contribute to a just society and do work we believe in. But when you open your own firm, you also have to manage it well. You need great partners, great associates, and a great staff. And you have to treat them fairly and with respect. For the firm to operate at high levels, you must make sound business decisions. Being a good lawyer isn't enough—you have to be a good businessman, too.
7. Find a balance
While lawyers are notorious for working long hours, the past seven years have shown me how important it is to have a healthy balance between work and life. I have more flexibility now since I manage my own schedule and hours, but I have to work harder to manage the business. Technology is a huge help. I can work with all of my firm's resources from home if necessary, or I can use FaceTime or Skype from almost anywhere in the world. I don't always have to be in the office to get things done.
Three CAB lawyers selected for The Best Lawyers in Puerto Rico, 2014 edition
by CAB on October, 2013
Ricardo F. Casellas Sánchez was recently selected by his peers for inclusion in the First Edition of Best Lawyers in Puerto Rico in the practice areas of: Appellate Practice, Arbitration and Mediation, Franchise Law and Intellectual Property Law by Best Lawyers (Copyright 2014 by Woodward/White, Inc., of Aiken, SC). Ricardo was also named Best Lawyers’ 2014 San Juan Appellate Practice "Lawyer of the Year". Only a single lawyer in each practice area in each community is being honored as the “Lawyer of the Year".
César Alcover and Heriberto Burgos were named in the practice area of Litigation.
Since it was first published in 1983, Best Lawyers® is regarded as a definitive guide to legal excellence. Because Best Lawyers is based on an exhaustive peer-review survey in which almost 50,000 leading attorneys cast nearly five million votes on the legal abilities of other lawyers in their practice areas, and because lawyers are not required or allowed to pay a fee to be listed, inclusion in Best Lawyers is considered a singular honor. Corporate Counsel magazine has called Best Lawyers “the most respected referral list of attorneys in practice.”
Chambers Latin America 2014 Distinguishes CAB Partners and Ranks Senior Associate Natalia Morales as an “Associate to Watch.”
by CAB on September, 2013
The prestigious international legal publication, Chambers and Partners, has once again recognized CAB as a distinguished dispute resolution boutique in Chambers Latin America 2014, including top rankings for the firm’s partners and its senior associate, Natalia Morales, in the area of Dispute Resolution.
Chambers describes CAB as “dedicated dispute resolution boutique” that “is home to a skilled team with an impressive work flow.” Natalia Morales, was ranked for the first time as an “Associate to Watch,” and lauded as “a ‘dynamic and hard-working’ associate who is carving out a reputation in the market,” for her “excellent litigation and negotiation skills.” The firm’s partners were also recognized for their expertise and dedication in their respective areas of practice. Chambers reports that César Alcover “is widely praised for his accessibility and his particular expertise in the health sector,” while Ricardo Casellas “is recognized for his experience handling distribution, franchising and trade regulation cases,” and Heriberto Burgos was acknowledged for his “significant experience in banking litigation, public contracts and procurement.”
All of the firm’s partners, and the firm itself, received Band 2 classification in the Dispute Resolution category.
The Chambers Latin America 2014 report is a directory that identifies top-ranked business lawyers and law firms in the region through independent research and in-depth interviews with peers and clients. Access the full report at: Chambers Latin America 2014.
Cesar T. Alcover serves as lecturer and moderator at 7th Annual Health Law Conference.
by CAB on April 12, 2013
CAB partner César T. Alcover was among the lecturers at the Interamerican University Law School's 7th Annual Health Law Conference, held on April 11-12, 2013 at the San Juan Marriott Hotel & Casino. Mr. Alcover gave a lecture that focused on the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005, as applied to the health care industry. He also served as moderator for a panel that discussed new tendencies in Puerto Rico regarding health care fraud, with perspectives from the private sector, insurance companies and state and federal agencies on how best to fight it.
CAB Partners Commended by Chambers and Partners in the Chambers Global 2013 Report.
by CAB on March 19, 2013
Two of the firm's partners gained recognition as distinguished Puerto Rico attorneys in the area of Dispute Resolution, in the Chambers Global 2013 report, published by the prestigious international legal publication Chambers & Partners. Heriberto Burgos "wins praise for his drafting skills", while Ricardo Casellas "is hailed for providing fast response times" and "having 'a brilliant mind, excellent negotiation skills and a practical business sense.'" Both partners, and the firm itself, gained Band 2 classification in the Dispute Resolution category.
The Chambers Global 2013 report is a directory that identifies top-ranked business lawyers and law firms worldwide, after evaluating 180 countries through independent research and in-depth interviews with peers and clients. Access the full report at: Chambers Global 2013.
CAB Obtains Reversal on Appeal of $20M Judgment Against its Client, PRTC
by CAB on December 28, 2012
CAB lawyers won the reversal on appeal of a $20-million judgment that a telephone contractor, All Systems Electronics (ASE), had obtained against its client, the Puerto Rico Telephone Company (PRTC), for alleged unilateral termination of contract.
PRTC terminated ASE's service contracts because it offered false information during the contracting and contract renewal process. The Court of Appeals of Puerto Rico ruled that PRTC had properly terminated the contracts after ASE violated an essential contractual provision requiring it to certify that it had filed income tax returns for the previous five years and did not owe taxes.
Notably, CAB lawyers were engaged in the case after the trial had begun and the trial court had entered a non-suit judgment dismissing PRTC's declaratory judgment complaint. Before the intervention of CAB lawyers, the case had been in litigation for 10 years. Cesar T. Alcover was CAB's lead counsel.
CAB and its Partners Recognized in 2013 Chambers Latin America Report.
by CAB on June 5, 2012
Casellas Alcover & Burgos was lauded with Band 2 classification in the Dispute Resolution field by Chambers and Partners in their Chambers Latin American 2013 report. Three of its partners, Heriberto Burgos, Ricardo Casellas, and Cesar Alcover, were also individually commended. The firm is described as offering "high-quality work, great results and diligent lawyers, all at competitive rates."
Chambers Latin America is a directory that exclusively lists law firms and attorneys from the region who are strongly recommended from in-depth interviews with peers and clients. The directory is based on extensive and unbiased research approved by the British Market Research Bureau. Access the full report at: Chambers Latin America 2013.
Awards in Law 75 cases in Puerto Rico
by CAB on March 24, 2012
In one of the largest awards in Law 75 cases in Puerto Rico, a three-member arbitration panel awarded a groceries distributor over $4.655 million in damages for an unjustified termination and impairment by a manufacturer of meat products of an exclusive distributorship.
Representing the distributor during the hearings was Ricardo Casellas, as lead counsel.
Microsoft names Casellas Alcover & Burgos, P.S.C. its preferred law firm in Puerto Rico
by CAB on March 12, 2012
Latin Lawyer profiles Microsoft's Latin American legal group in Fort Lauderdale, FL, and names Casellas Alcover & Burgos, P.S.C. as Microsoft's preferred law firm in Puerto Rico. View PDF