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Dallas-Stephen D. Susman, a swaggering Texan who wears the requisite cowboy boots and rarely tones down his native Houstonian drawl, recently announced he intends to transplant himself in New York City. At 65, Susman said, he’s looking for a novel challenge and Manhattan will provide that. Partners in Houston-based Susman Godfrey met in late March and approved Susman’s plan to set up a branch office by September. His lean first-year budget for the New York office totals $2 million-including $575,000 for three associates’ salaries, Susman said, noting that his own partner compensation is not included in that figure. If his New York branch fails to bear fruit, Susman said starting out small will let him close the office quickly without disrupting associates’ lives unnecessarily or costing his firm a bundle. “It’s a Steve Susman frolic,” he said about his Manhattan project. Fun and adventure, however, hardly describe the ambitious plans of other Texas firms with Big Apple outposts. Some smaller Texas firms do have New York offices. Most recently, in November 2005, plaintiffs’ lawyer W. Mark Lanier announced that Houston’s Lanier Law Firm would open a four-lawyer outpost in New York. In August 2005, Lanier’s client won a $253 million verdict in Angleton, Texas, in the nation’s first Vioxx trial. Lanier opened the New York office because he represents a number of plaintiffs in Vioxx litigation against Whitehouse Station, N.J.-based Merck & Co. Inc., the maker of Vioxx. And eight large Texas firms plan to expand substantially their New York branches, adding at least 10% to their current New York City lawyer count by March 2007. The firms include Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld; Dallas-based Haynes and Boone, and Thompson & Knight; and Houston-based Fulbright & Jaworski, Andrews Kurth, Baker Botts, Vinson & Elkins, and Bracewell & Giuliani. Not cheap, or easy According to 11 partners interviewed for this article, doing business in New York is not cheap or easy. Office space typically costs more than double Texas prices. The partners caution that Big Apple recruiting requires much money and know-how. And several partners note that their New York outposts have not grown as quickly as they predicted. A few big Texas firms-Jenkens & Gilchrist of Dallas and Locke Liddell & Sapp-have closed their New York branches. But even with such setbacks, Jenkens and Locke Liddell won’t exclude the possibility of setting up shop there again. Locke Liddell, with 400 lawyers firmwide, was among the first big Texas firms to open a New York office. Bryan L. Goolsby, Locke Liddell’s managing partner, said, “We always are looking for opportunities in other cities, and New York would be one of those. It needs to be a good, long-term opportunity. We are constantly looking.” In 1987, the firm, then known as Liddell, Sapp, Zivley, Hill & LaBoon, launched a New York office to accommodate its major client, Texas Commerce Bank N.A. That year, the bank merged with Chemical New York Corp., and the Chase Manhattan Corp. subsequently merged with Chemical New York. In 1993, the firm’s management decided it no longer needed its six-lawyer New York office to maintain its relationship with Chase Manhattan’s general counsel, Gilbert said. At Jenkens, Chairman Thomas Cantrill said his 270-lawyer firm may re-open its New York office someday. In 2001, Jenkens launched a New York office, but closed it four years later when its 90 lawyers defected to open a Manhattan outpost for Atlanta’s Troutman Sanders. So why do large Texas firms want to bulk up their New York offices? Akin Gump managing partner R. Bruce McLean of Washington said jokingly, “Firms are in New York for the same reason John Dillinger robbed banks. That’s where the money is.” Akin Gump, with 900 lawyers firmwide, has 165 attorneys in New York. McLean’s humor, however, belies the seriousness of New York’s claim to the financial markets. The city’s status as a financial capital of the growing global economy inspires the Texas firms’ goals to build their New York practices. To participate in that global economy, the Texas partners agree, each firm’s New York office needs roughly 40 lawyers with practices in bankruptcy, project financing, corporate restructuring, finance-related litigation and mergers and acquisitions. Most of the firms are seeking experienced New York laterals, they say. Fulbright & Jaworski opened its New York office in 1989, when it merged with New York-based Reavis & McGrath. Hailed as a marriage of equals, the pairing brought together Fulbright’s litigators with Reavis’ strong corporate transactional and banking practices. At the time, the merger represented the largest joining of two law firms in the nation. It gave Fulbright, which already had a well-established Washington office, an immediate New York presence-some 80 lawyers. Since then, Fulbright’s New York office has grown to 138 attorneys with corporate law being their dominant practice area.

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