Cesar Ornelas was born in Corpus Christi, Texas, and is the son of Cesar and Belia Ornelas. In Mr. Ornelas’s early years, he was raised in a mobile home park in Kyle, Texas. It was during this time that Cesar Ornelas and his father would go around selling watermelons in order to provide for his family. Through this life lesson, Cesar learned the value of hard work and discipline. These values translated through to his education through both college and law school, during which Cesar Ornelas supported himself by successfully starting and operating multiple companies.
Cesar Ornelas started to practice law after graduating from St. Mary’s Law School. He has been handling catastrophic personal injury and death cases since his first day in practice. Since becoming a lawyer, Cesar Ornelas has done significant work for his clients throughout the state of Texas.
In addition to being a member of the State Bar of Texas, and the Texas Trial Lawyers Association, Cesar Ornelas has been named as a life member of both the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum. Established in 1993, the Million Dollar Advocates Forum (which includes the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum) is one of the most prestigious groups of trial lawyers in the United States. Membership in the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum is limited to attorneys who have won million and multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements for their clients. Fewer than 1% of lawyers in the United States are members.
In the spring of 2021, Cesar was selected to be a part of The National Trial Lawyers Top 40 Under 40. The National Trial Lawyers: Top 40 under 40 is composed of the top trial lawyers from each state or region who are under the age of 40. Membership is by invitation only and is extended exclusively to those trial lawyers practicing civil plaintiff and/or criminal defense law.
We had the chance to sit down with Cesar Ornelas to hear how and why he went into personal injury law.
How did you get started?
I started as an entrepreneur at a very early age. I was involved with business ventures with my family that ranged from selling items in my local area to non-profit organizations in South Texas.
As soon as I graduated from law school, I began working on opening my own practice. My first office was run out of my apartment, with my kitchen table serving as an office space.
What inspired you to start a law practice?
I was always interested in starting my own business, but my desire increased when I was inspired by my cousin, Joey. He’s someone I’ve looked up to him for as long as I can remember. His drive and motivation helped encourage me to reach for the stars.
Joey was a phenomenal baseball player and was on the road to get drafted. One night, as he was driving home, his tire de-treated and his vehicle rolled over. The rook on his truck collapsed, leaving him paralyzed. Joey’s accident was preventable, had the tire company manufactured the tire properly.
It was at that moment that I knew I wanted to be an advocate for victims like him. Today, I am passionate about holding big companies accountable for their actions and ensuring that accidents like Joey’s do not happen to others.
How does Cesar Ornelas Law make money?
I am proud to say that we rise and fall with our clients. Most attorneys charge a retainer and will bill by the hour, but our firm works solely on a contingency fee basis. This means that we only make money when our clients make money. This is the driving force of our business. We are always focused on putting the needs of the clients before making a profit.
How long did it take for you to become profitable?
With personal Injury, you invest a lot of money in marketing and advertising upfront. It’s common for the cases to take six months to two years to settle. As a result, we did not start becoming profitable until our second year in business.
When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?
Starting from scratch right out of law school was difficult. There were definitely many doubts that went through my mind as to whether I made the right decision. A couple of weeks went by, and I still did not have any clients. However, I knew I couldn’t give up, so I started going to other law firms and pretty much begging them to send me cases that they didn’t want. This allowed me to show the clients and referral lawyers how hard I am willing to work.
How did you get your first client?
My first client was one I took on a pro bono basis.
I was promoting my services at an event when a woman who was a victim of domestic violence reached out to me. I decided to take her case on for free and get her the proper documentation so that she could stay in this country legally. I’m proud to offer free immigration services to all my clients.
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
I work around the clock. I am a firm believer that you have to outwork your competition. Not only that, but I know that my clients rely heavily on our firm. I want to make sure that we work extremely hard for them.
I believe the biggest reason that I am successful is due to my tenacity, determination, and ability to overcome adversity.
What has been your most satisfying moment as an attorney?
In personal injury, you are given the opportunity to connect with members of the community on an intimate level. I have had the pleasure of getting to know and advocating for many wonderful families.
What has truly been satisfying is the fact that we can not only change a family’s life but bring justice to their loved ones.