Judge Scales Mount Rainier

Just days before six climbers on Mount Rainier went missing, U.S. District Judge Rob Junell of the Western District of Texas in Midland was making a similar ascent. Junell, two other climbers and a guide were 800 feet from the summit on May 25 when bad weather turned them back, he said. Five days later, on May 30, a group of six climbers went missing on the Washington mountain and are presumed dead, according to news reports. Junell, an avid mountain climber who has scaled the summits of numerous peaks across the world, said his group took a different path up the 14,410-foot-high Mount Rainier than the missing climbers did. “We were 45 minutes to the summit,” Junell said of his climb. “As we’re about to start up to the summit, we get hit with 40- and 50-mile-per-hour winds, and snow is going sideways,” Junell said. Seasoned mountain climbers are well aware of the dangerous nature of their hobby, taking pride in and even joking about it. Junell, who plans to take senior status in February 2015, heard from Western District Chief Judge Fred Biery on June 2 about his love of mountain climbing. “I talked to him this morning. I said, ‘If you want to die on a mountain, do it after you clean up your docket,’” Biery said with a laugh. But Biery said he doesn’t begrudge his colleague’s choice of leisure entertainment. “It doesn’t matter; that’s what he wants to do. And I want to play basketball,” said Biery. He’s played the game avidly, well into his senior years—a decision that earned him a warning from his mother that he’d “drop dead of a heart attack,” he said. “And that would be a great way to go: on the last jump shot,” Biery said.

Moving on Up

Karl Stern, a litigation partner, is the new managing partner of the Houston office of Vinson & Elkins. Stern, who led the firm’s global litigation and regulatory department since 2010, succeeds Marie Yeates, a cohead of the firm’s appellate group and a member of the management committee. Yeates had managed the Houston office for nearly seven years. Stern said his immediate goals are to focus on lateral hiring, particularly in the litigation area, and to evaluate how the office serves the Houston community. “We’ve been very involved in the community, and our clients are very engaged in the community, and we want to focus on how we are deploying our resources,” Stern said. Stern said he will continue his trial practice while also managing the office. Yeates said she decided to step out of the managing partner role in the Houston office because she’s done it for several years and believes it’s important for many partners to participate in management. “We have so many partners across the world, and we need to have the opportunity for various partners to serve,” Yeates said. James Thompson, a partner in Houston, succeeds Stern as head of the global litigation and regulatory department. Stern said he assumed the managing partner duties on May 19, but the firm announced it on May 30.

Most Diverse

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld posted the highest diversity score for 2013 among large Texas firms on The American Lawyer’s Diversity Scorecard 2014. Akin Gump, based in Dallas, tied with Cooley for 29th place on the chart, with a diversity score of 28.9. The American Lawyer calculated each firm’s diversity score by adding the percentage of minority lawyers in U.S. offices and the percentage of U.S.-based minority partners. Minority lawyers include African-American, Asian-American, Hispanic and multicultural/other lawyers. The higher the score, the higher the ranking. Akin Gump was also 28th for Asian-American lawyers, with 18 Asian-American partners and 62 Asian-American lawyers. Houston-based Bracewell & Giuliani was the large Texas firm with the highest ranking for African-American lawyers, coming in at 27th place. Bracewell had seven African-American partners and 15 African-American lawyers in 2013. Jackson Walker, based in Dallas, had the highest ranking among large Texas firms, at 11th place, for Hispanic lawyers, with 15 Hispanic partners and 27 Hispanic lawyers. The Diversity Scorecard 2014 ranks 223 large firms. Gardere Wynne Sewell of Dallas is one of 12 Am Law 200 firms that did not provide diversity information for the scorecard. Overall, the largest law firms were slightly more diverse in 2013 than in 2012.