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When Paul Koenig argues a case, it’s not unusual for his mother to be in the courtroom. In fact, she probably will be sitting beside Koenig as his co-counsel. Koenig and his mother, Reba Eichelberger, are partners in the Baytown, Texas, firm of Eichelberger & Koenig. “We’re general practitioners,” Eichelberger says, noting that the firm handles mostly family law, personal injury and probate cases. Koenig says he and Eichelberger work on every case together and frequently disagree, at least initially, on what approach to take. “Do we fight like cats and dogs? Yes, we do. We very rarely agree on an approach until we’ve fought over it for several days,” he says. “We almost come to blows sometimes,” Eichelberger says. “We approach things from a different way. We see clients from a different side, a different way.” But Eichelberger says there is “give and take” in the arguments and that they finally reach an agreement on how to handle a case. The mother and son � aged 68 and 45, respectively — began careers in the legal profession after working for years in other fields. Eichelberger says she was a registered nurse and an assistant hospital administrator when she told her husband, P.T., a Baytown physician, that she needed a change. “I told him, ‘I think I’m going to do something where I can be off on Wednesdays,’ ” she says, noting that Wednesday is her husband’s day off. When her husband suggested that she consider becoming a lawyer, Eichelberger took the LSAT and started at South Texas College of Law in January 1981. For the first year and a half, Eichelberger says, she went to law school at night and continued to work full time in hospital administration. She says she finally decided to give up her day job and focus on the law. After graduating in 1984, Eichelberger hung out her shingle in Baytown, a town of about 70,000 near Houston. She worked as a solo until Koenig joined the firm after graduating from the same law school in 1997. Koenig says he was a plumber when the price of oil plummeted in the 1980s, and he suddenly couldn’t find work. His mother and stepfather offered to pay his college tuition and fees if he would supervise the removal of materials from their home, which was damaged by a fire in 1989. Although Koenig had attended college for a short time after graduating from high school, he had dropped out, Eichelberger says. With his parents’ encouragement, Koenig says he returned to college at the age of 35. Eichelberger says Koenig originally intended to take heating and air conditioning courses at San Jacinto College in Pasadena, Texas, but an instructor persuaded him to go into academic courses. He later transferred to the University of Houston at Clearlake, where he graduated summa cum laude, and went on to law school, she says. When Koenig decided to join her in the firm, Eichelberger says she was pleased but also a little apprehensive. “I love him, and he loves me, but we come from different ages,” says Eichelberger, who has nine grandchildren. “I didn’t know whether it would work out or not, but it has.” MEMORABLE MOMENTS While the partnership has worked out, there have been moments that Koenig would rather not relive. Koenig recalls one embarrassing moment at the Harris County Family Law Center when he stopped to talk to a female lawyer who had been a former law school classmate. As a plumber, his typical attire had been jeans and a T-shirt, but he switched to a suit and tie when he became a lawyer, he says. When his mother spotted Koenig, she pointed out his new look. “My mother grabbed me by the arm and said, ‘Doesn’t he look so cute?’ at the top of her voice,” Koenig says. Koenig says about 25 lawyers were close enough to hear her remark. “It was embarrassing,” he says. Another memorable moment occurred when Eichelberger and Koenig appeared before the Texas Supreme Court to argue Lozano v. Lozano, a case brought by a Baytown woman who accused her former husband’s family of aiding him in abducting their daughter and concealing the child’s whereabouts. The mother-son team represents Deana Ann Lozano, the woman whose child has been missing since April 1995. Koenig says he had been out of law school only two years when the firm got the notice that oral arguments had been scheduled in the case, and he was nervous about arguing before the high court. At his mother’s urging, Koenig says he agreed to sign up to present the rebuttal argument. “Mom said, ‘Go ahead and put down that you’re going to do the rebuttal. If you get nervous when we get there, I’ll do it for you,’ ” Koenig says. While Koenig says he had “lived” the case for months and knew the issues well, he was concerned about the consequences for the firm’s client if he faltered in the rebuttal. “She needs this money or she’ll never get her daughter back,” he says. On the day the case was argued, Koenig says he became more nervous and told John Adams, the court’s clerk, that his mother would present the rebuttal. But Adams explained that once a lawyer is designated, that lawyer has to argue. “I was stuck,” Koenig says. Koenig says he has never been quite sure that his mother didn’t know the court’s rules when she encouraged him to designate himself for the rebuttal. However, he says the experience of arguing before the nine state supreme court justices has cured him of getting nervous when he appears before any district judge. CLOSE QUARTERS Lozano, the source of Koenig’s concern, remains pending in the courts. In mid-December, the supreme court ruled that there is some evidence to support the jury’s determination that three of the five family members had assisted Deana Lozano’s ex-husband in taking and concealing the child. That part of the case was remanded to the 14th Court of Appeals for a factual review of the evidence. Eichelberger and Koenig get good marks from Judge Carroll E. Wilborn Jr., who says the pair appears fairly often before him in the 344th District Court in Chambers County. “They’re usually very prepared and easy to work with in the courtroom,” says Wilborn, who swore in Koenig as an attorney. P.T. Eichelberger, who had encouraged his wife to go to law school, can keep up with his family’s legal practice. The firm, located in a medical and professional building, is next door to the doctor’s office, and the same receptionist sometimes answers the phones for both operations. Reba Eichelberger says she and her son practice law in Harris, Chambers, Brazoria and Galveston counties. “When we take a client, I always say we take them from birth to death,” she says. “When we take them, we usually keep them.”

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