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More and more minority lawyers in Texas are going in-house these days for a variety of reasons, among them greater chances for advancement, more sensitivity to diversity issues and the ability to make an immediate difference in their companies. According to the State Bar of Texas, about 10 percent of Texas’ 66,000 active lawyers — roughly 6,600 — consider themselves in-housers. Of that number, 8 percent — about 528 — are minorities. Below are profiles of five minority lawyers who’ve found their niche by going in-house. GENORA K. BOYKINS Principal Attorney Reliant Energy Inc., Houston When Genora K. Boykins came to the legal department at Houston Lighting & Power Co. more than a decade ago, she was young, a woman and African-American. At times, Boykins says she got the sense people in the field, such as linemen and engineers working for the Houston-based electric utility, were somewhat shocked to see her. “I would get a look like, ‘I thought they were sending someone from the legal department,’ ” Boykins recalls. “I never felt like I wasn’t taken seriously, after people got over the initial shock. When I first got there I was in my 20s, if you can imagine advising a 55-year-old white male,” she says. In 1987 when Boykins came to HL&P, now Reliant Energy Inc., she was just two years out of law school at South Texas College of Law. She was working at a small firm in Houston, but wanted more trial experience and heard about an opening at HL&P from a lawyer friend in the legal department. At first Boykins got plenty of litigation experience. She worked in the department’s general litigation section doing civil work on both sides of the docket. She also did a lot of bankruptcy work since an electric utility is a frequent creditor when individuals and corporations seek refuge from creditors in bankruptcy court. But with the economic downturn in the early 1990s, Reliant downsized its legal department. She says the company cut support staff for the litigation section, and the department began to farm out more of the big suits. Boykins began to do more transactional work, although she says she has no interest in doing mergers and acquisitions or regulatory work. Her current assignment is working as the inside lawyer for two internal clients — Reliant’s retail electric business and a communications subsidiary that sells local telephone and Internet service. Her job has evolved with Reliant Energy’s expansion into new areas in the wake of deregulation. “That’s one of the reasons I’ve stayed,” she says. Boykins, 40, says Reliant Energy general counsel Hugh Rice Kelly is not a hands-on manager who expects his lawyers to adhere to a rigid schedule of responsibilities. She says she never has felt stagnant in her job and doesn’t expect to return to private practice. That said, Boykins concedes there’s a glass ceiling at Reliant Energy that she blames on the industry, not the corporation. “The reality is it’s still a white, male-dominated industry,” she says. “To me when you talk about the whole concept of diversity, all things exist to a certain extent. Could it be better for women? Yes,” she says. Boykins believes minority lawyers have more chances to advance within corporate legal departments than at firms. But she says it’s often difficult to get a foot in the door because corporate legal departments are more likely to hire laterals than recruit out of law schools. While Boykins may have experienced only a few raised eyebrows at Reliant Energy in her early years at the company, she had a couple of disturbing experiences outside the corporate walls. She recalls a hearing before a district judge in Texas in the early 1990s. She represented Reliant, and another African-American lawyer represented the defendant. The judge stopped proceedings to clarify who was representing the parties. “It was just a matter of perception,” she says. “In a district court, this particular judge was probably not accustomed to seeing someone of color.” REUBEN C. C�SAREZ Senior Counsel Wells Fargo & Co., Houston Reuben C. C�sarez made partner at Houston’s Butler & Binion in the days when it was downright tough for minority lawyers to move into the ownership ranks of large Houston firms. C�sarez, who joined Butler & Binion right after law school and made partner in 1988, says he was only the second minority partner in the firm. But with that accomplishment, C�sarez came to feel a bit pressured. He not only had to tend to a busy transactional practice, but he also felt an interest and obligation to spend time on the Hispanic Bar Association of Houston and other minority-lawyer groups and to do some pro bono work. Put simply, C�sarez had a lot of demands on his time. C�sarez decided to leave the firm in 1995 to take an in-house job with a client, First Interstate Bank of Texas. C�sarez says it was a good opportunity and a job that would provide him with more flexibility. “Minority lawyers are sometimes pulled in more directions than other lawyers,” he says. “There are expectations in the minority community that you continue to support community activities, and the requests to be on committees or in activities come from a broader group … so that can be a bit difficult to juggle.” C�sarez, 47, says it’s much easier to fit extracurricular activities into his life, along with his family, because he doesn’t have to worry about billable hours or about bringing in clients. C�sarez’s employer became Wells Fargo after the San Francisco-based banking company acquired First Interstate in 1996. He maintains responsibilities in commercial lending — what C�sarez calls the good side of the deal — following Wells Fargo’s merger with Norwest Bank in 1998. Management at Wells Fargo cares about diversity issues within the legal department and when hiring outside counsel, C�sarez says. According to Wells Fargo, 16 of its 120 lawyers (13 percent) are ethnic minorities and 58 (48 percent) are women. C�sarez is one of five lawyers at Wells Fargo in Houston. C�sarez believes opportunities for minority lawyers are greater in corporate legal departments than in firms, in part because companies are expanding their business globally. “There may be more immediate opportunity for minority attorneys in-house because it’s very easy to show bottom-line results if you are doing business in a Latin American country or in a Pacific Rim country and you have business people and attorneys who can respond to those communities,” he says. “A lot of colleagues of mine have been able to go in-house in various ways and make an immediate difference in their companies and progress in their careers,” he says. C�sarez says that’s a new situation. He says when he graduated from the University of Texas School of Law in 1979 after getting his undergraduate degree from Stanford University he was sure the route to a big career was through a firm and not through a corporate legal department or in government service. “I’m not sure that was ever the case, but it certainly isn’t the case right now. The work [in-house] can be just as challenging, just as demanding and in some instances … can be as financially rewarding,” he says. He says becoming a partner in Butler & Binion, once one of a six-pack of large firms in Houston, opened doors for him. He can’t point to any discrimination over his years as a lawyer, but notes that it’s difficult to know sometimes if race harmed his chances at getting work. “There have been, in my view, some unfortunate situations. For example, it was kind of assumed [at the firm] that I would be interested in doing immigration work, which I did for a while, but … that wasn’t for me,” he says. He also recalls a few instances of a poor choice of words. “In terms of, �No, I’m not going to give it to you because you are a Hispanic or a minority,’ that never happened to me face to face. Whether that happened out of sight, I really couldn’t tell you,” he says. CORALINA RIVERA Senior Counsel Enron Global Markets, Houston Coralina Rivera has transformed herself more than once during her career. After graduating from law school at the University of Puerto Rico in 1983, she worked at firms in Puerto Rico and in Houston. Now she’s working in-house at Houston-based Enron Corp. Rivera started doing corporate work in Puerto Rico, then moved into international work in the United States, got an advanced degree in international business law along the way, and is shifting her practice to the trading area. She believes Enron, a corporation known for its entrepreneurial culture, is a good place to advance her career. “I’ve had to reinvent myself several times. Enron is always offering the opportunity to reinvent yourself. I don’t want to be considered like just any other lawyer,” says Rivera, a 41-year-old transactional lawyer. Rivera was born in the United States, and grew up partly in the states and partly in Puerto Rico. She’s bilingual and knows how business is conducted in Latin America and in the United States. She finds Enron a good fit because of its global reach. “Here at Enron, I’ve felt very comfortable with what they’ve offered persons like me in terms of experience with different backgrounds,” she says. “Enron has offered me a great opportunity to be myself.” Rivera suggests corporate legal departments at internationally oriented companies such as Enron are doing a better job at diversifying their workforces than firms. “Since I work with an international company, it’s geared more to accept different groups and thoughts and diversity within its ranks. And companies also tend to have more active programs in that sense, and probably because of that fact I tend to see that companies are more hands-on with respect to diversity,” she says. Rivera suggests the fact she’s a woman and Hispanic has worked in her favor, instead of against her. “I don’t have a chip on my shoulder … . I felt I had the same opportunities, equal pay and equal treatment,” she says. Rivera moved to Houston in 1989 because of her husband’s job. (She’s now divorced.) Before that, she practiced at a firm in Puerto Rico, doing corporate work for U.S. companies with business in Puerto Rico. After passing the Texas bar exam, Rivera took a job in 1990 at Houston’s Chamberlain, Hrdlicka, White, Williams & Martin. The firm was recruiting Spanish-speaking lawyers, she says, and trying to leverage its international tax practice into a broader international practice because of the North American Free Trade Agreement. In 1994, Rivera jumped to Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld for the chance to work on international transactions across Latin America. She did privatizations, capitalizations and project finance in the energy industry. She traveled widely throughout Latin America, going to places ranging from Bolivia to Peru to Colombia, Ecuador, Chile and the Dominican Republic. In the meantime, she earned her LL.M. at the University of Houston Law Center. Rivera says she had a great job as a senior associate at Akin Gump, but she was lured to Enron in late 1999 by geography. Enron wanted her to do work in the Caribbean, including Puerto Rico. “That’s when I decided to go in-house. I have a 5-year-old. It gives me a lot more control of my schedule, although I travel a lot and the hours are just as brutal,” she says. Working in-house, Rivera feels more committed to the deals. “Your opinion is very valuable because you are a part of the project from the day it’s kicked around until closing,” she says. “As an outside lawyer, you were just probably contributing in one part of the deal.” She is learning the commodity trading business for a new assignment with Enron Global Markets. “I’m trying to brush up again on trading skills, derivatives and how that fits in with the international maritime law, for instance, and keeping the international flavor to it, which is my skill and what I have to offer,” Rivera says. JULIA SIMON Director, Global Legal Resources Mary Kay Inc., Dallas Julia Simon sees a bit of irony in her accomplishments as a woman and as a minority. A litigator, she was the first minority to make partner from the associate ranks at Dallas’ Locke Purnell Rain Harrell. And in her second stint as an in-house lawyer at Mary Kay Inc., Simon recently was promoted to director of Global Legal Resources. She is in a position to hire other women and other minority lawyers as outside counsel for Mary Kay, the largest direct seller of skin care products in the United States. But because of what she perceives as a greater — or at least more immediate — opportunity for women and minority lawyers in corporate legal departments, many of the friends she could hire also have left firms and aren’t available for consideration by Mary Kay. She expects that situation to change over time. Simon, 33, says she worked hard to make partner and doesn’t consider her race a factor. But she believes ethnic minorities and women have a more difficult time than white males in maintaining business as a partner in a firm. “It scared me to death,” Simon says. “If I was patient, I probably would be doing OK.” Simon believes opportunity is greater for minority lawyers in corporate legal departments because the rules of the game are easier to understand and play than at a firm. “It’s far more based on your skills as a lawyer. Certainly there’s that political aspect. To reach the top you’ve got to make people happy, [but] I’ve really only got one set of people to make happy,” she says. After graduating from the University of Texas School of Law in 1991, Simon started working at McGlinchey Stafford in New Orleans, where she practiced general and employment litigation. She got married and moved in early 1993 to Dallas, where she started working at Locke Purnell. (The firm is known as Locke Liddell & Sapp since its merger in 1999 with Houston’s Liddell, Sapp, Zivley, Hill & LaBoon.) As an associate with Locke Purnell, Simon did employment work and general litigation. After getting a call from a headhunter looking for a lawyer to do employment work at Mary Kay, Simon left the firm and started working in-house in September 1995. “I was back in eight months, not because I didn’t like Mary Kay, but because I realized I was going to get a broader depth of knowledge at Locke,” she says. Simon was promoted to partner at Locke Purnell in 1998 while she was out on maternity leave after the birth of her daughter. She returned to Mary Kay in early 2000 as a senior attorney to do employment work. But Simon says she handles everything from tax litigation to employment litigation to giving employees advice and counseling. “It’s a wide breadth,” she says, adding that she’s one of only seven lawyers at the company. Simon says her workload is heavier at Mary Kay, but she finds it easier to manage her time and set priorities because she’s working for a single client. And she isn’t pressured to bill hours. “It’s the difference between project-based work and hours-based work. If I’ve got to leave at 6 o’clock or 6:30 [p.m.] to go relieve the nanny, I can do it guilt free,” she says. LAMONT D. WALKER Legal Counsel Dell Computer Corp., Austin LaMont D. Walker is a lawyer with a past life as a programmer and systems analyst. And in his job as legal counsel at Dell Computer Corp., he considers himself a mini-general counsel. Walker is the sole lawyer at Dell responsible for giving advice to the education and health-care customer segments. He’s so involved in the business of those internal clients that he sits in on staff meetings of the employees responsible for selling Dell products and services to customers in the education and health-care arenas. “I’m a part of that team,” says Walker. That involvement in Dell’s business, along with what Walker considers a positive working environment for minority lawyers, is what’s keeping him in-house and at Austin-based Dell. Dell’s legal department recruited him in 1998. “It’s so diverse that you don’t see any type of negative or hindrance that you are a minority,” he says. “That’s a positive.” Walker, 30, says he believes he’s judged by the quality of his work at Dell and race isn’t a factor. He says he felt more conscious of his race in law school at the University of Texas School of Law than on the job — he says students tend to stick with students with similar backgrounds, particularly in the first year. On the job, Walker says he has not encountered any problems that he would blame on race or prejudice. Even on those occasions when he can see from someone’s face that they have a bit of an issue with the thought of dealing with a minority lawyer, Walker says he quickly disarms any doubt in his abilities once he starts talking and shows he knows his stuff. Walker went to law school at UT after graduating from Howard University in Washington, D.C., where he majored in computer-based management information systems. He did some programming and systems analysis for the Internal Revenue Service. During law school, he clerked at Jenkens & Gilchrist in Austin, but clerked in the summers at AT&T Global Information Systems in Dayton, Ohio, (now NCR Corp.) and joined AT&T’s legal department after graduation in 1995. That experience sold him on a corporate legal job. “I felt I would have more impact, to be more included in the decision-making process, by going to a corporation,” he says. At Dell, Walker says he serves as a kind of mini-general counsel for the education and health care business segments. He helps negotiate sales agreements with the customers, but he also has to wade through state procurement laws, which can be “slippery” in Walker’s view. “Because of Freedom of Information Acts, any exchange between Dell and this state entity is subject to public inspection, so especially in a high-tech environment, we have to be careful about the information we provide,” he says. He also is responsible for antitrust issues and for monitoring disputes with customers or their claims. Because Walker works so closely with business people, he says he can be more creative in his lawyering than if he were an outside counsel handed an assignment. That’s very appealing to him, and he expects to stay in-house.

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