A disagreement over expansion strategy led to Don Looper’s decision to resign from Looper Reed & McGraw, a firm the Houston lawyer helped found in 1985.
Looper’s resignation was effective on Dec. 31, 2013, and the 120-lawyer firm is now known as Gray Reed & McGraw.
J. Cary Gray, president and managing director of the firm since 2006, said Looper, a transactional lawyer, was not in favor of expanding the firm’s corporate section.
“He did not want the firm to add any lawyers that were senior partner-level people in his practice area, the corporate practice area. His view of things seemed to be that he wanted to stay small,” Gray said.
“Don never objected to us having growth as necessary to meet the needs of our clients in the other practice area, but he did not want us to add to the corporate practice area,” he said.
Looper declined to specifically discuss reasons for his departure but said he is focused on building another “great firm.”
“We built a great firm. We started with great lawyers,” Looper said about Looper Reed, which began with seven attorneys.
Prior to his resignation at year-end, Looper said, he had not been planning to leave and form a new firm, so he will not be ready until later this month to announce details of his new venture.
Looper, who does project finance, mergers-and-acquisition and international work, is officing temporarily at Beirne, Maynard & Parsons in Houston. It’s housed in the same office building as Looper’s former firm, said Martin Beirne, a founding partner in Beirne Maynard.
Beirne said Looper is a longtime friend, and he asked if he could use office space until he can launch his new firm.
“Don is a fine lawyer, and I’m sure he has his plans already made,” Beirne said.
Gray said the difference of opinion that led to Looper’s departure was not new. He said other shareholders in the firm see the value to adding corporate lawyers, because that practice is synergistic with practices such as tax, energy and health care.
“We have 30 shareholders, and 29 of them were on the same page, and one was on the other,” Gray said, noting that the firm went through a “very extensive” strategic planning process last fall that identified gaps in the corporate section that need to be filled. Part of that need was due to the death in 2010 of Lew Harpold, a real estate shareholder, Gray noted.
Gray said the firm has grown to about 120 lawyers, and it needs to build corporate strength along with other practice areas to support client needs. He said general corporate work is a growth area for midsized firms in Texas.
“We pick up a client—say our energy lawyers pick up a really good client for energy needs. The next thing you know, they have some corporate needs,” he said.
Looper Reed’s gross revenue was $58.5 million in 2012, up 27.2 percent from 2011, and profits per shareholder were $780,000, up 45.8 percent from the previous year, according to Texas Lawyer’s Annual Report on Firm Finance.
Gray said Looper’s departure is a sad event for the firm. “We were sorry and sad that we had to accept the resignation, but it was really in his best interest and the firm’s best interest,” Gray said.
Looper said he had not been thinking about leaving Looper Reed before his resignation.
“It’s painful when you leave. It’s a hard decision,” he said.