From Leadership to Legacy: How to Scale Your Firm
How do you grow your law firm, carry on a legacy, and generate success year after year?
Following in the footsteps of his father who fled Cuba and became a compassionate attorney, Alex De Castroverde had some big shoes to fill. As Alex learned early on, success doesn’t happen overnight. However, a few key principles will help you get there and continue scaling your firm.
The first step is staying true to your core values. Instead of trying to make the most noise in the busy city of Reno, Nevada, Alex and his team continue to win clients by treating them like family — something his dad had done from the start. Staying true to who you are will have a positive snowball effect.
As a leader, a key step to growth is letting go of the “hoarding” mentality. Oftentimes, leaders think that they’re the only ones who can get a job done correctly. They think they’re the only ones who can sign up a client, take a deposition, and try the case. But the hoarding mentality is an enemy of growth. If you want to see extraordinary success, you need an extraordinary team.
So how do you create an outstanding team? Alex says you need to surround yourself with attorneys who are better than you. Invest in your people, give them opportunities to gain experience, and shape them to become the best leaders possible.
Listen to this episode of The Judd Shaw Way Podcast with Judd Shaw featuring Alex De Castroverde, Attorney at De Castroverde Law Group. Together, they discuss how Alex is upholding his father’s legacy, how you can create a strong team, and the best tips to scale your firm.
In this episode:
- [0:37] Judd Shaw introduces his guest, Alex De Castroverde
- [01:11] Alex explains how the De Castroverde Law Group began
- [05:45] How Alex’s dad helped the community through his law firm
- [10:23] What makes De Castroverde Law Group stand out from the crowd?
- [14:39] Why it’s important to provide a culture of excellence and allow your team to grow
- [16:28] What Alex does to elevate his team and help them gain experience
- [20:03] What’s on the horizon for De Castroverde Law Group?
- [24:57] How Alex is creating strong leaders within his team
- [27:34] Alex discusses his firm’s specialties
Hey everyone, welcome to the show. I’m Judd Shaw. I’m here today with Alex De Castroverde, of the De Castroverde Law firm out in Nevada. Alex, first of all, welcome to the show.
Thanks, Judd. Thanks for having me on.
I got to say, funny, I came out here in Vegas. I’m here in Vegas, myself, for a couple different events, including this podcast. I think we were going to hook up at your office and it didn’t happen, but I really still appreciate you coming on today. So, thanks so much.
Tell us a little about De Castroverde Law.
I’ll tell you where it all started. It’s going to be a little bit of a story, but it’s who we are. It all started with my dad.
My mom and dad were born in Cuba. My dad’s dad was actually an attorney in Cuba, as well.
My dad left Cuba because of Fidel Castro, in the late fifties, when he started showing his dictator self, dictatorship in taking over private business and taking over the free press.
Came to the United States and signed up to become a paratrooper in the Bay of Pigs. He invaded Cuba. It was not a success. They got captured. It was about 1,500 individuals got captured. Served almost two years in prison in Cuba. He had the benefit of being released and moving to the United States.
My mom was also from Cuba, Judd. My mom and dad ended up in Reno, Nevada in the late seventies. There was another Bay of Pigs veteran, who was the casino manager of the MGM Grand at the time, and convinced my dad, who moved to Reno, Nevada, so he could learn how to deal cards.
My dad’s friend says, “Hey, I’ll move you up in the casino business. Come to Reno and I’ll teach how to deal cards.”
So my dad moved his family of four kids and his wife to Reno, Nevada to deal cards. Certainly, one of the few Hispanic, Cuban families in Reno, Nevada at the time. His friend being one of them, but one of the few overall Hispanic families in Reno, Northern Nevada at the time.
My dad got a job working at a casino. His best friend ended up getting fired, about two years later. My dad goes, there goes my future in the casino business. He thought he had his path moving up.
But when his best friend gets fired, shortly thereafter, fortunately a law school happened to open up in Reno. They had night school.
My dad dealt 21 in the daytime and went to law school at night, while he was raising four kids. Ended up graduating law school, passing the bar exam, the first time he took it, even though English was his second language and he had a very heavy English accent.
Then my dad worked for the attorney general’s office in the capital of Nevada, for about a year.
Shortly thereafter, was after Ronald Reagan passed the amnesty, which made the pathway for residency a lot smoother for a lot of the Hispanics immigrants around the country.
My dad saw that there was a need to help the Hispanic community with the immigration papers, in Northern Nevada.
He opened up an office, one of the first offices in the state of Nevada, for sole purpose of serving the Hispanic community. That’s where it all started for us.
My brother, Orlando, was in high school at the time. We worked at my dad’s office when he started his office. I remember when he got his very first computer. My sister, our older sister was his secretary, Judd.
He started it without having any mentors, not having a guidebook, just with a desire to serve the Hispanic community and with a deep feeling of pride, to have the privilege of being able to do so.
What a story. First of all, a real family story. I know that De Castroverde Law Group says, we treat our clients like family because we are family. I can’t think of anything that’s more telling than that story.
The other part that’s really resounding on me, is that the American dream. The real story about the obstacles that your father had faced, when he left Cuba and became a lawyer in the United States of America, opening up an office to serve the Hispanic community in Reno, Nevada.
What a story, but the story didn’t end there. I mean, you and your brother are partners of this amazing law firm.
I’ve had the pleasure of being there. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing how you guys serve your clients. I think it’s really special.
I think there’s something also to be said about, I think if I recall, your father almost went bankrupt several times. He nearly put his law firm out of business, because as it turns out, he was offering free legal services, if they couldn’t afford it or pay for it.
I mean, this is the kind of guy he was. He not only became a lawyer. He then gave back to the community. Am I right about that?
Oh absolutely, Judd. I always say, the opportunities that my brother have, I really feel like we have the wind in our back. It’s due in large part or in all part, due to the sacrifices that my dad laid before us.
When he started his practice, as I mentioned earlier, he didn’t have a roadmap. He didn’t have a roadmap for success. He just took the opportunity to help people when they needed help.
He would’ve been the first to tell you, “I’m a great lawyer. I love being a lawyer, but I’m a horrible businessman.”
With that came, the just not knowing. It’s not possible in the long term, to take on cases, let’s say for $500, when it’s going to cost you $3,000 to serve that client.
Time and time again, my dad took on cases for $500. Where at the end of the day, years later, he realizes, oh, wow. It literally cost me to hire people, $4,000 to serve this client. He did have adversity and it was a struggle.
When my brother and I graduated from law school, it was still just him and one assistant. This is 15 years later.
My sister graduated from college and became a teacher and she moved on. It was another legal assistant helping my dad.
He never had the benefit of scaling. So, we had the benefit of learning through his mistakes, Judd and seeing what worked.
That’s another thing we realized, Judd, how lucky we were to have an opportunity to go join what he started, because what we saw, Judd, his lobby was always full. The lobby was always full of people who wanted help and to be treated with respect.
So we saw opportunity, even though we knew our dad wasn’t making a lot of money. Our dad, oftentimes was struggling to make ends meet.
We saw opportunity, if we learned from his mistakes, that we can build something and grow something very special.
It started with continuing what he started, treating our clients like family, treating each other like family. Treating each other like family was easy because we were a family. It was my brother, my dad.
Treating our clients like family was also easy because that’s who we were. That’s who my dad was.
The next part was investing in our business, investing in our people, investing and learning systems and processes and investing in technology. Figuring out a way, if we surround ourselves with more people, better people than us, if we invest in systems and invest in technology and really focus on the systems and processes, that’s where the magic begins to happen.
That’s how we started being able to scale our office, from literally a mom and pop shop, into a real business.
Yeah. I think, now 15 years later, you have multiple offices. I think there are three locations. Right?
About 15 years later, Judd, I’m happy to say we have close to a hundred team members, if not a hundred team members already, 20 lawyers.
We have three offices in Las Vegas. We have an office in Reno, Nevada. We also have an office in the Bay Area. We’re looking to expand into other states and continue our growth.
I think that your dad may have been a bad businessman, but he was a wonderful person. I’m sorry that I didn’t have the privilege of meeting him, but is that what makes De Castroverde stand out?
I mean, Nevada is a very competitive market in personal injury. I mean, it doesn’t take anyone, much to travel from the airport to a casino, to see the billboards and the type of advertising that personal injury attorneys are doing in here. So, it’s really heavy.
To stand out for the crowd, is that what it is? Instead of making the most noise, it’s that De Castroverde continues to serve clients like family?
Absolutely, Judd. I think what makes us stand out is just to remain true to our principles, our core principles. Remain true, where it all began.
Never forget, like you said about my dad and mom, they had the ability to live the American dream.
Never forget that my dad, I mean, when he became a lawyer, he was almost 50 years old. He was working at a casino.
When he had the opportunity to open that office, it was just an immense sense of privilege, to be able to serve the community.
We have never forgotten that. It’s a privilege to do what we do. We get paid to help people, to be there for people at a time of need.
As you know, Judd, a lot of personal injury attorneys will tell you the same thing. Our office core DNA is, never forget that sense of privilege and to treat them as such and to really treat them as family.
From day one, when team members join our team, we obviously explain, this is who we are and we live it. We live it.
We spend a lot of time trying to build our brand. That’s something we learned from our dad, from a mistake. Had he invested in his brand, he would’ve been way bigger before my brother and I graduated from law school.
So we learn, invest in your brand. Live it day to day, but also invest in it, so you can share it with the community. So, we’ve invested a lot in our brand and share that with the community.
But last thing I want to say, Judd, is even though we spend a significant amount of money marketing and advertising, letting the community know who we are, 70 to 80% of our clients are past clients or referred by past clients, friends, family members, coworkers of past family.
If you do the little things right, and if you stay true to who you are… and it’s not overnight, it has not been overnight, but the snowball just continues to grow.
Well, it strikes me that when you’re looking at your lead source, your biggest lead source that generates the business, is that word of mouth. That passing on the experience with your law firm, from one person to another, very powerful.
I’ve said that in my other podcast, about creating walking cheerleaders. At the end of the case, this is a person who should be at Thanksgiving, raving about their lawyer or suggesting to a family member who may been hurt in an accident, you’ve got to use these people. They’ll be there for you.
That’s a very powerful marketing source, is just providing great client service, great legal representation, and doing the promise that… keeping to your word, keeping your promise.
It also strikes me with you guys, that core of your company, the heart and the pulse of it is helping, the word helping.
Your dad’s story about helping the Hispanic community, that wasn’t personal injury. That was just so they could meet an American dream, that they would have a chance at opportunity and success in their own life. His version of helping was in that.
At some point, you and your brother realized you can help even more people, not only just in immigration, through personal injury, in accidents. They need help too. So, I think that the idea of helping is in your core, as well.
Yeah, absolutely true, Judd. To take it a step further, now, to provide the help that they truly deserve, means we as a team, we as attorneys, need to continue to get better.
We need to continue to surround ourselves with smarter attorneys than us, better attorneys than us. We need to continue to provide an environment to our attorneys, to grow, to learn and to have expectations and a culture of excellence.
To be able to help, we need to provide that excellence in our service. We need to provide that culture of excellence in the results.
So, it’s not just helping. Hey, I’m going to treat you like family. I’m going to answer the phone right away. I’m going to call you back right away. I’m going to be really empathetic. I’m going to be very kind.
Alex De Castroverde:
It’s about the results. Because at the end of the day, that’s what matters. So the results is, how do we get better results? Have higher expectations for us as a team. That’s been just a mission of ours, over the course of our growth.
Let me ask you about that, because that’s really great. You don’t know what you don’t know.
Part of attorneys, they master their skills, one, primarily through their experience. You’d like to make less mistakes. There are ways to do that, by training and mentoring and education and continuing courses, but primarily is experience.
You draw up the complaint. You do it enough times, you get better at that. You do an opening. You do enough openings, you have enough trial cases, you get better at that.
But other than experience itself, what are some of the things that you’re doing with 20 lawyers, to make them the best lawyers possible?
It starts with what you said, experience. We’re giving them the opportunity to get experience, early on.
This is amazing to say. I think we have 12 personal injury lawyers now. They all started at our office as law clerks.
If they all started at our office as law clerks, they early on, the day they passed the bar exam, they’re head and shoulders ahead of most of their colleagues. Because they’ve already worked on discovery responses, helping prepare a complaint and helping prepare oppositions and motions.
They’ve already sat through appearances or trials, when they have opportunity to sit through trials and just observe, while a lawsuit entered our office.
Once they become a lawyer, give them an opportunity. Jump in, early on. Not sit and watch us for three years, before you sit in a deposition. I think it’s really important. Give them an opportunity to just run with it.
What we’ve been doing over the last three… it’s probably three years now, Judd, is really relying heavily on focus groups. Our office is doing focus groups, probably twice a week.
My brother’s the one who’s taken the lead with this, but it’s a great opportunity for the young lawyers in our office to practice, to constantly practice.
The focus groups, oftentimes is just stimulating like you’re picking a jury. So once the trial happens, they’ve already done it over and over and over again. Those are just a couple examples.
I had the honor of watching your brother, Orlando, do one of these focus groups. I was blown away by it. I thought it was incredibly impressive.
He was in the conference room. I mean, you guys had… if we’re talking equipment, it was the best of the best, the audio, the video stuff, the ballot system, the engagement of it.
There’s an opening argument. Now, your lawyers are practicing that opening argument. And then you’re talking to real people. People that would be in that jury box, to say, we buy this part. We’re suspect of this. This helps your case and this hurts your case.
You get the feedback. And then he goes back and pitches it again, to other people. The part that they didn’t really like, now you’re not hearing anymore because you filtered that out.
I was really impressed by your focus group process. I thought it was above and beyond what most lawyers do in the personal injury community.
Yeah. We have a team and it takes a team. There’s Gianelli at our office. She’s in charge of it, Judd, and it takes a lot of work. It takes a lot of effort to make sure you have the participants.
Like I said, it’s twice a week. Then, you don’t want the same participants. You want new participants every time. So, it takes a lot of effort.
It’s a teamwork, but it’s all for the goal, so we get better. All for the goal, so we’re in better position to serve our clients, so we could end up with a better result for the clients.
But it’s just a small component, Judd, of so many things we do. That ultimate goal is, how do we get better? How do we continue to improve? And at the end of the day, how do we better provide this better service for the client?
We call our teams villages now, actual. They have village names. We say that because it takes a village.
What’s in the future for De Castroverde? What are you guys looking to do?
Continue what we started. Our dad passed away about eight years ago, in 2014. This might sound corny, but I truly… I’ve been saying a lot. It’s sad that I say it a lot, even though it sounds corny, but I truly feel like I have an obligation. We have an obligation to make the most out of the opportunity that’s been provided to us.
So I think we have an obligation to continue to grow this, continue to surround ourselves with good people. There’s no reason, in my mind, we can’t be 10 times bigger in five years.
The way we’ll do it though, Judd, it’s not going to be because of Orlando and it’s not going to be because of me. It’s going to be because of the other leaders in our team.
So what we’ve been focusing on is, continue to surround ourselves with great people and continue to build leaders.
What’s really encouraging now, Judd, at the crossroad where we’re at, at our firm right now, is we’re seeing the leaders within our firm, they’re now building leaders underneath them. It’s just really encouraging.
I think we’re positioned at the right place, to see them flourish and then make De Castroverde Law Group into a firm name that’s going to be known throughout the western United States and hopefully one day, throughout the entire United States.
That’s amazing. I always say that my job at my law firm, is to teach other people how to do their job and become leaders, so they can teach someone else to do their job and become leaders.
Real servant leadership is the idea of putting yourself behind that person, because you want them to make a leader. It’s almost like, the goal is to put yourself out of a job.
You know that’s not really happening. I mean, it’s your law firm. But you want to do that. You want to create leaders that say, Alex, we got it. We got you.
I think that’s spot on, Judd. I mean, it’s spot on. I call it the hoarding mentality. The hoarding mentality is like, well, I’m the only one who can do this. I’m the only one who could sign up a new client. I’m the only one who can negotiate a case. I’m the only one who could take this deposition. I’m the only one who could try this case.
It’s actually an enemy of growth, enemy of scaling. It’s not in the best interest of your clients. The best interest of your clients is have a team of the best possible people, helping them in the pursuit of excellence.
When you get rid of that hoarding mentality, as you just conveyed, Judd, and you rely on others and you build other leaders, that’s where it puts you in a position to scale and truly maximize the potential.
Every year, I come out with a theme for the firm to follow, generally trying to address a bottleneck or something I want to improve.
We’ll rally around that theme for the year. We roll it out in our kickoff. A couple years ago, I rolled out a theme that was upstream, downstream. That was the theme.
The picture of it was the salmon that was going up the river. The idea behind it is, if I could get everybody in the office to identify one thing that they can push downstream and teach someone, that means that person is going to go upstream, because someone else above them is pushing something downstream.
I love it.
What we’ve found was, over the year, people felt that they could move up, take on more responsibility, that was certainly well within their lane and their capability. And also, give an opportunity for people who were hoarding, to realize that the more you push downstream, the more you create another leader, the more important you actually become, because then you can take on something more.
And then I can give you something more important, that was on my plate, that I can push downstream, and I can move upstream.
So true, Judd.
What are you doing to move upstream? The things that I’m challenged with, and I asked you this question, because over the last couple weeks, I’ve been finding myself training and coaching more than ever before.
Doing that, focusing on my team and coaching them to be great leaders, but that also means that I can do that through experience. I get to see what’s working and what’s not.
Also, I’m reaching out to find out, how do I become a better leader in coaching? How do I become better at what I’m trying to do?
If I want to create great leaders and the better leaders I can create, the better my company is, then I want to do it the best way and get it right. Have you thought about that?
He helps with team building, with culture, but he’s helped us with leadership training.
I mean, we have a monthly leadership meeting that D.J. Allen personally participates in. He has separate seminars and workshops, that we’ve identified certain future leaders in our firm, that have participated in workshops with D.J. Allen’s company.
That’s just one example that’s been very favorable and beneficial for us, Judd. But overall, what I’m doing is relying on others.
It’s a process we started a while ago, Judd, is identifying who we think those future leaders are and letting them know, and then seeing which ones…
They don’t all embrace it. They do not all embrace it. But those few who do embrace it, that’s where the magic is.
We started that a while ago. So now I’m at the point where, Judd, I don’t think I’m personally involved in building the leaders so much. I have others in our organizations, who are taking the initiative on that.
That’s great. That’s great. For anybody listening, anybody who generally refers to another vendor or company that they would stand behind, I always like to give an idea of how to reach out to this. I think you said Xs & Os Success.
Yeah, Xs & Os of Success, D.J. Allen. If you Google, he wrote a book with Coach Lon Kruger, who is a former UNLV basketball coach, Kansas State basketball coach. Oh, most recently at Oklahoma, head coach of Oklahoma. So, D.J. Allen wrote a book called Xs & Os of Success, with Coach Lon Kruger.
Just a wonderful guy. He has clients around the country. I can’t recommend him enough. He’s helped us get to this point. Without him, we would not be where we are today.
That’s a big merit of approval for him, so that’s great. Tell me, at this point, Orlando is not only, obviously your brother, your partner, what’s just the general overall structure of the firm, your practice areas, for those listing?
Our bread and butter is injury, is personal injury cases. As I said, I think we have 12 attorneys working on the personal injury cases.
We have four attorneys working on immigration. All they do is immigration, and obviously a big team underneath them. There’s three attorneys, who all they do is criminal defense.
Like I said, our magic is treating our clients like family, treating each other like family, but also, try to surround yourself with the best possible people and give them an opportunity to grow.
For example, the two criminal defense attorneys we have at our office, one is… Of the three criminal defense attorneys we have at our office, one is a former chief of the homicide unit, retired, here at the district attorney’s office, after 25 years. Then became a US Attorney. And then came to work at our office, after he stopped working as a US Attorney.
The other was 25 years prosecutor at the Clark County District Attorney’s Office, chief of the special victims unit. Trained most of the district attorney’s office, who are there right now. Trained many of the judges, when they were at the district attorney’s office at the time.
We’ve really been blessed to surround ourselves with really elite talent. And Orlando, he’s a grinder. That’s my brother. He’s constantly at the office. He’s a lot more present than I am.
I like working out of my house and I enjoy it. Orlando is the complete opposite. He needs to be at the office at eight in the morning, until early in the evening. He likes to be there. So, it’s a nice balance. I’ve been very, very blessed to walk this path with my brother.
That’s amazing. Obviously, you are making the investment to get the best talent on your team. The type of experience that you just described on the criminal bench over there is tremendous in, both in years and status and experience and cases they can handle. So, that’s amazing. How does someone get in touch with De Castroverde Law Group?
Very easy. You call us at 702-222-9999, or go to Google and type in De Castroverde Law Group. There’s several ways to find us.
Alex, thank you so much for being on today. Sorry we couldn’t meet up at the office, but I’m going to venture out after this, in this hundred degree plus weather right now and enjoy your community, here in Nevada.
Hey Judd, it’s always a pleasure. We’ve learned a lot from you. Thank you for your time. It’s been a pleasure being on your show.
Thanks so much, man.
🎙️ Meet Your Host 🎙️
Name: Judd B. Shaw
What he does: Judd founded Judd Shaw Injury Law (JSIL) and serves as the firm’s Brand Chief. He founded the firm on the premise that clients come first. Over the years, the success he attained for his clients helped JSIL grow significantly. Judd’s clients are not just another number to him or his law firm.
Company: Judd Shaw Injury Law
Words of wisdom: “At Judd Shaw Injury Law, it’s all about high-quality representation and excellence in client service. Our clients are counting on us to win and the stakes are high. Our endless pursuit for awesomeness through our core values, the ability to WOW our clients, is in our DNA.”
🎙️ Featured Guest 🎙️
Name: Alex De Castroverde
Short Bio: Alex is an Attorney at De Castroverde Law Group, where he keeps his dad’s legacy alive alongside his brother, Orlando. He has been an attorney for nearly 20 years, striving every day to grow the firm that his dad started. While providing exceptional and dedicated legal service, Alex and his team aim to treat each client like a member of the family.
Company: De Castroverde Law Group
Connect: De Castroverde Law Group’s phone number: 702-222-9999
🔑 Relevant Resources 🔑
- The Xs and Os of Success
- The Xs and Os of Success: A Playbook for Leaders in Business and Life by Lon Kruger and D.J. Allen
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