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Winstead Sechrest & Minick of Dallas will pick up 16 lawyers and a strong real estate practice when it merges on Aug. 1 with Houston’s Dow, Cogburn & Friedman. The combined firm, which will bear the Winstead name, will have about 300 lawyers, and more than 60 of them will practice exclusively in real estate. The merger was announced on July 18. The deal helps Winstead Sechrest boost its real estate practice, a cornerstone of its strategic plan, W. Mike Baggett, the firm’s chief executive officer, says. “Real estate is a significant core competency for us, but up until this time, we had more depth and breadth in Dallas. Houston is a hot, good real estate market, but we didn’t have the breadth and depth in Houston,” Baggett says. “It’s a great match because they are a very well-run real estate boutique.” Melvin Dow, chairman and chief executive officer of Dow Cogburn, says the deal will expand services for clients. He also notes that there’s a trend of consolidation among firms. “We felt the emphasis Winstead has on real estate fits very well with our emphasis on real estate,” he says. “We felt they had capacities that go beyond real estate that we didn’t have that would be helpful to our clients.” The Dow Cogburn attorneys joining as shareholders are Melvin Dow, Paul Easterwood, Greg Erwin, Warren Hoffman, Jeff Lefkowitz, Vincent Marino, Barry Putterman and Clarence West. Erwin is Dow Cogburn president and chief operating officer. Joining as of counsel are Ed Cogburn, Irene Cruden, Abe Friedman, Lauren Friedman, Phil Lehmber and Paulette Wolfson. Alamdar Hamdani and Hong Irwin are coming aboard as associates. All the attorneys are in Houston, except for West, who joins Winstead in its Austin office. UNDER DISCUSSION The union of the two firms was under serious discussion for three months, Baggett says. Winstead, which was founded in 1973 and currently has 274 lawyers, has been on a little bit of a growth spurt recently. It opened offices in Fort Worth in 2000 and The Woodlands — near Houston — and Washington, D.C., in 2001. In addition to its Dallas headquarters, the firm has offices in Houston, Austin and Mexico City. Seventy lawyers are in Houston and 12 in The Woodlands, according to J. Robert Fisher, a shareholder who heads Winstead’s real estate practice in Houston. Baggett has said that the firm, which developed a new vision statement and a new business plan last year, is attempting to pattern its growth after the nation’s growth. Results of the 2000 Bureau of the Census survey show the highest population increases in the West and the South, and Winstead has eyed places such as Atlanta, Miami, Phoenix, Denver and Los Angeles. The firm concentrates on business law, and its practice areas include bankruptcy, construction, corporate and securities, environmental, government relations, insurance, intellectual property, labor and employment, real estate, taxation and zoning. In an annual survey by Texas Lawyer, Winstead was ranked as the 12th largest Texas-based firm this year. It also tied for 12th in Texas Lawyer‘s 2000 Profitability Index. The formula for the index, developed by affiliate The American Lawyer, is profits per partner divided by revenue per lawyer. Dow Cogburn, which was founded in Houston in 1924, emphasizes real estate, business law and commercial litigation. Its lawyers also do work in the areas of environmental law, tax, sports and entertainment, telecommunications, mergers and acquisitions, trust and estate planning, arbitration and mediation. The firm currently has 36 lawyers on its roster. It came in as the state’s 72nd largest Texas-based firm in the annual survey.

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