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Most successful plaintiffs lawyer: Attorneys surveyed pointed to the attorneys at Smith & Carlson in Killeen as the leaders in this category. They have one of the largest practices in the area and five attorneys that handle personal-injury cases. Best judge: Attorneys were split on this question, depending on what kind of cases they handled. Lawyers who mostly deal with civil cases named Judge Rick Morris of the 146th District in Bell County, and those who dealt in criminal law named Judge Phillip Zeigler of the 52nd District Court in Coryell County. Morris was cited as experienced and knowledgeable: “He doesn’t seem reluctant with his rulings, and he is not afraid to ask his own questions.” While an attorney who likes to appear before Zeigler said, “He always treats you with respect, and he’s very careful with his rulings. “ Most skilled civil defense lawyer: Bob Burleson, a partner in Temple’s Naman, Howell, Smith & Lee, was overwhelmingly cited as the top civil defense lawyer. “He’s tough,” one attorney noted, while another attorney said, “He tries to make you think he’s not too bright, but he’s one of the smartest attorneys I know. “ Go-to criminal defense lawyer: Attorneys surveyed were pretty clear in their choice. James Kreimeyer, a solo in Belton, was noted for his experience. Since he is a former assistant district attorney in El Paso and Bell counties, he has knowledge of how the system works, one respondent said. “He keeps abreast of the appellate decisions and has excellent rapport with the prosecutors. “ Best prosecutor: Murff Bledsoe, first assistant district attorney for Bell County, was named for his fairness and toughness. “Murff makes that office work,” one attorney said. Biggest misperception about practicing in Coryell and Bell counties: Attorneys from both cities said the biggest challenge for them is convincing residents there that they are just as competent in the law as their counterparts from larger cities. “People think that small-town attorneys aren’t good litigators,” one attorney said. Another attorney said that misperception is not limited to potential clients; experienced out-of-town lawyers also view them as sub par. “I think they take our kindness and willingness to get along for incompetence,” the respondent said. “They try to intimidate us. They mistake our kindness for weakness. “ Biggest drawback to practicing in Coryell and Bell counties: Killeen is home to Fort Hood and a majority of the people who live there have ties to the military. The recent deployment of troops to Iraq depleted the population, one attorney said. “It’s not as bad as the Gulf War because families would leave town and live with other family members. This time the military is . . . making it easier for families left behind to stay in place.” Another attorney said dealing with clients who have been deployed or are who are waiting to be deployed can be difficult. Most interesting thing about practicing in Coryell and Bell counties that outsiders may not know: The majority of respondents talked about the Coryell County Courthouse that was built in the late 1800s. The courthouse was restored in 1988 in time for its centennial celebration. Attorneys who appear in the second-floor district courtroom say it’s just like being on the set of the movie classic “To Kill a Mockingbird.” “It’s not unusual to see out-of-town lawyers walking around the courthouse with a camera,” one attorney said. Biggest change about practicing law in Coryell and Bell counties over the past five years: The increased number of people affiliated with Fort Hood is the biggest change, attorneys said, making their potential client pool larger. The increased population also means an increase of attorneys setting up their practices in the area. “There are a lot of young litigators now,” one attorney said. Source: anonymous survey of 12 attorneys who practice in Gatesville and Killeen

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