ROBERT HILLIARD

FOUNDING PARTNER

Robert appears in the 

Top 100 Attorneys Magazine

Q&A with Robert Hilliard

Founding Partner — Hilliard Martinez Gonzales, LLP

 

Tell us about your law firm, Hilliard Martinez Gonzales.

I launched the firm in 1985 with just a Radio Shack telephone, and we now have over 100 employees. I have seven children, and two of them practice with me. We try not to be pigeonholed. We take any cases that need taking—personal injury, automotive, social justice, and other areas. We have a long track record of standing up for those who have been financially bullied or are injured by negligence. For 40 years we have made sure we’re the voice for those who don’t have one in regards to litigation, social justice, and corporate greed. Our main office is in Corpus Christi, Texas, but we represent clients all over the country.

The culture of your firm is unique, given its size, as is your approach to the law and your clients. Can you give us some insight on this, and how it has fueled the success of your firm?

We have grown over the years, and I attribute that to my personal philosophy that life and law must always blend together. I don’t keep my firm separate from my family, and vice versa, and I expect the same for all that work for me. We’re trial lawyers, so we have to learn how to tell the stories of our clients, and my own life experience taught me that you can’t tell someone else’s story until you know your own story. This is because you tell someone’s story from your own perspective, and the ability to communicate feelings, fear and pain is based on how well you know yourself—and the jury knows authenticity when it hears authenticity.

We practice law with feeling. I disagree with people who say you can’t bring feeling into the law or the courtroom. The law was created out of feeling; decisions are made out of feeling. We make an important positive footprint in this world with good decisions made from true passion and feeling. I can sense artificiality in a second, and I can see when people aren’t transparent. I walk the walk, so everyone around me sees it, including judges, partners, and my family. If you look at the various national litigation we are part of, particularly the GM ignition switch in New York, we were successful because of our philosophy, not despite it.

Can you share some of your most notable cases, and why you felt it was your duty to take them on?

Our mission statement is “Justice does not fight for itself.” I feel very strongly about social justice. There are two cases that come immediately to mind in which I felt it was my personal and professional duty to represent these clients. The first was about eight years ago, when I defended a 15-year-old boy who was shot at the U.S. border. Our firm motto is, “If it’s not right, we’re going to fix it,” so we make sure we’re the difference people need, and he needed us. His name was Sergio Adrian Hernández Guereca. He was unarmed, playing with his friends near the U.S./Mexico border, when he was shot in the head by U.S. Border Patrol. The second is the case in Minnesota involving Koua Lee, an immigrant, who was wrongfully convicted of manslaughter after he was involved in an accident which, as it turns out, was the fault of his runaway Toyota. We got him out of jail after four years.

You have a degree in English literature in addition to a law degree. How does the former inform your work and your personal life?

I do. I was a summa cum laude English lit major. In my home office, I don’t have law books; I have tons of books on poetry, autobiographies, etc. Over centuries, everyone’s trials and tribulations are similar, so I like to read about and try and understand how others have viewed their life’s issues, including the great philosophers and writers of the world who struggled with these problems and attempted to make sense of them.

You were awarded the Never Forgotten Award for public justice and you hold many national and state awards for your legal work. What other awards do you proudly display on your wall?

I received the Never Forgotten Award from The Innocence Project of Minnesota in recognition of my work to free Koua Lee. It was the organization‘s first award of its kind. I’ve won Best Lawyer in the Country by a national law journal, and I was a 2011 finalist for Public Justice's National Trial Lawyer of the Year. My home office, where I spend most of my time has a painting that says simply “LIBERTY.” I have an original Theordore Roosevelt signed description of the American boy and the values of that boy. And a photo of my wife, from whom all love in my life flows.

Robert Hilliard

Founding Partner — Hilliard Martinez Gonzales, LLP

www.hmglawfirm.com

719 S. Shoreline Blvd.

Corpus Christi, Texas 78401

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