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Hiring 23 lawyers from a midsize Houston firm, Dallas-based Godwin Gruber apparently is poised to compete head-on in the Houston market against a litigation-only powerhouse. Two name partners and 21 other attorneys are leaving Houston-based Dunn, Kacal, Adams, Pappas & Law to open a Houston office for Godwin Gruber on July 1. The move will create what Godwin Gruber calls the largest litigation-only law firm in Texas. It also strips Dunn Kacal of about one-third of its attorneys. Though it remains uncertain exactly where Godwin Gruber will locate its new Houston office, it is clear that another Houston firm also touting itself as the largest litigation-only practice in Texas is headed for some competition. And it seems the competition has already begun. Godwin Gruber’s press release issued at the time of the hire stated that it was now the largest litigation-only firm in Texas. Godwin Gruber Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Donald E. Godwin said last week that 154 of its 158 attorneys are “pure litigation lawyers.” But Houston-based Beirne, Maynard & Parsons, with 115 attorneys, identifies itself on its Web site as the biggest law firm in Texas that practices only litigation. Beirne Maynard managing partner Martin Beirne said last week that his firm was the biggest of its kind and that he believed Godwin Gruber had nonlitigation work in real estate and tax. Although the debate over size may be inconsequential, the similarity in both firms is not, said Maria Boyce, head of the litigation department for Houston-based Baker Botts. She said that Godwin Gruber may be replicating Beirne Maynard’s litigation-only formula as it pushes into the Houston market, where commercial trial work is abundant. “If, in fact, Godwin Gruber is taking a litigation-only approach, then Beirne Maynard & Parsons would appear to be the direct competition in Houston,” Boyce said. However, Chris Pappas, a former name partner with Dunn Kacal and now the managing partner of Godwin Gruber’s Houston office, said his new firm has “its own brand and style.” He also said the philosophy at Godwin Gruber is “more competitive” than at his previous firm. Joining Pappas in Godwin Gruber’s Houston office is Charles “Bob” Dunn, also a former name partner with Dunn Kacal. Daniel King, Darrell Greer, Andrew Sarne and Amy Dunn Taylor also are making the move as partners, in addition to 17 associates. Houston’s litigation market is heavy in commercial work that encompasses the energy, corporate and technology sectors. Recent “tort reform” legislation in Texas has cut the number of small cases, Boyce said. But other areas such as pharmaceuticals, toxic tort and intellectual property are busy, she explained. Beirne said that it “was not beyond the realm of reason that firms would have more subspecialties” as they maneuver to slice up Houston’s client pie. “To a certain degree, that’s already happening,” he said.

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