When I was a kid growing up in San Jose, one of the highlights of my year was spending a few weeks each summer with my grandparents in Arizona. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, my grandfather was a giant in my life. Frank H. Estavillo was born in 1911, before Arizona was even a state, and grew up dirt poor, sharing a bed with two of his siblings. To compound that financial difficulty, he lost an arm in a train accident when he was 18. Still, he never let adversity slow him down.
Grandpa was the first in his family to go to college, and he went on to get his masters and to become one of the first to teach a bilingual curriculum in the country. In 1974, two years before he retired, he was named Arizona Teacher of the Year. He was so dedicated to helping the children of the community that even after retiring, he would take me with him to local parks to pull cans and newspapers out of garbage cans, which he’d redeem for money to donate to the school. I remember joining him one summer at the unveiling of a new play structure built with the money he’d raised that way. He wasn’t embarrassed about how he’d earned the funds, just proud of doing what he could to help others.
You don’t realize how much people affect you until you look back and reflect on your own choices. In retrospect, I think my grandfather was one of the most important people in my life, and his influence had a big part in making me the man — and the lawyer — I am today. While he helped kids get a leg up in life through education, I help people facing financial difficulty avoid foreclosure and win other important real estate battles in the courtroom.
When I was a kid, I wanted to be a Navy pilot, but my eyesight wasn’t sharp enough. That turned out to be a good thing because my stubborn streak and a fortuitous choice of college classes led me to law. I immediately fell in love with the courtroom, and as a law clerk, I got the opportunity to work on a big land dispute case that piqued my interest in real estate law. I quickly made that my niche.
I loved the work but ended up at a firm where I didn’t feel so warmly about my boss. It’s important to me that in addition to being a great lawyer, I also try to be the best husband I can to my wife Lyn and an attentive father to my three daughters, 13-year-old Emmie and 7-year-old twins Gigi and Sloane. So, when my boss made snide comments about the week I took off work when Emmie was born and the hours I missed when I had to rush her to the hospital, I knew that when the time was right, I would strike out on my own.
At first, I wanted to focus my firm on construction defect litigation, but the foreclosure crisis of 2008 changed my plans. A seminar about the crash opened my eyes to all of the horrible things happening across the country, and it frustrated me that while good people were losing their houses because of bad bank loans, no one on Wall Street was in jail or even in trouble. From that point on, I made it my mission to help people who were down on their luck — just like my grandfather had done.
My staff and I can’t always keep people in their homes, but we do our best to ensure they leave our firm in a better position than they came. I’m proud of our 90% success rate when it comes to protecting clients from immediate foreclosure and of the work we do in real estate litigation, helping people with easements, breach of contract cases, and more. I’m also happy to say my employees can always take time off to attend to their families — even if I have to work overtime.
I hope my grandfather would be proud of how far I’ve come. I aim to leave a legacy for my children and grandchildren as weighty as his.