Porter Hedges is in a comfy spot. As a law firm in Houston focusing on the energy sector, the 105-attorney shop routinely gets calls from bigger firms courting it for a merger, according to managing partner Robert Reedy.
So far, the 30-year-old firm has fended off the proposals, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t thinking about its future. With big law firms, including Sidley Austin and Paul Hastings, elbowing their way into Houston, Reedy is determined to hold tight to his talent and remain competitive on pricing.
Recent deals include Porter Hedges’ representation in December of Gulfport Energy Corp.’s board in the $372 million acquisition of Utica Shale acreage from Windsor Ohio LLC. In September, the firm represented EPL Oil & Gas Inc. in the purchase of oil and gas assets in the Gulf of Mexico from Hilcorp Energy Co. for $550 million.
The firm’s practice areas include corporate, litigation, energy, finance and bankruptcy.
The National Law Journal spoke with Reedy about Porter Hedges’ position in the robust oil and gas industry and what he sees in the pipeline for the firm.
The National Law Journal: Describe Houston’s legal market right now.
Reedy: The truth is that it’s unbelievably good. Houston has exploded. People don’t realize how well this place is doing compared to other places in the country. It’s already added back all the jobs lost in the recession plus 10 percent more.
NLJ: So doesn’t your firm need to get bigger to compete with larger law firms trying to get some of that business?
Reedy: When we get an inquiry about a merger, the first thing that I say is that it’s extremely flattering. But mergers happen because people feel the need. We’ve been here such a long time. We know the market and we have deep relationships here. We’ve decided to continue our strategy and remain independent.
NLJ: That said, a year from now, will I be hearing that you’ve caved and decided to merge?
Reedy: We may decide differently as we go along. We’re always happy to talk to people, but we’re not the person calling.
NLJ: Does Houston’s legal community feel different because big firms such as Paul Hastings, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, Winston & Strawn and Latham & Watkins have opened offices in recent years?
Reedy: No one, to my knowledge, is shipping in talent. People are moving around. It’s the same old people. They’ve just changed their phone numbers. We do lose associates, like everyone else.
NLJ: If a merger is off the table for now, what are your plans for the future?
Reedy: We’ve grown by about 20 lawyers in the last five years. We continue to find ourselves involved in bigger deals, and we have a lot of people coming up through the ranks, but I’m not satisfied. I don’t have a magic number of how big we should be. Our plan is to keep doing what we’re doing, focus on Houston, focus on our strengths, raise people up through the firm and hire successful laterals.
NLJ: Is that all?
Reedy: We’re careful to listen and careful to analyze. We’re constantly discussing our strategy.
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