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For lawyers, the leap from associate to partner is the culmination of years of dedication, hard work and self-sacrifice mixed in equal parts with favorable economic conditions conducive to expanding the firm partnership, a winning attitude and, no getting around it, good luck. To achieve the rank of “member of the firm” is the ultimate vote of confidence by the partnership, the business equivalent of Darwin’s survival of the fittest. So is life at the top all that it’s cracked up to be? Are there many surprises? Any disappointments? Five Texas attorneys, each of whom made partner one year ago, took time to look back at the last year and share their insights and aspirations. Their responses appear below, edited for length and style. Julie E. Blend Strasburger & Price, Dallas Practice Areas: business and commercial litigation Biggest surprise: I have been impressed by the true camaraderie that exists within the partnership. Firm relationships among employees and between associates and partners are extraordinary at Strasburger, but the partnership takes it to a higher level. I have observed even greater respect and friendship with the partners. Greatest accomplishment in 2001: Considering that I had a new baby, keeping my practice together was personally my greatest accomplishment. Professionally, I was pleased to be able to help a significant client close a piece of large litigation. Biggest challenge or disappointment: I did not have any disappointments. My biggest challenge was maintaining my law practice while raising two toddlers, ages 4 and 2, along with the new baby. Projects or suits worked on during the year, quarter to quarter: My year was atypical for a first-year partner, due to my pregnancy. In the first quarter of the year, I was busy wrapping up some major pieces of litigation that settled. One matter that resulted in a confidential settlement involved real estate litigation, with allegations of several million dollars in damages. In the second quarter and into the third quarter, I handled several pre-litigation matters that were successfully resolved, involving covenant not to compete, non-solicitation and confidentiality agreement issues surrounding employee departures and new hires. I gave birth to my third child late in the third quarter and took maternity leave during the fourth quarter. Any particular period of working around the clock on a particular project and how being a first-year partner was different from being a senior associate in relation to your home life, e.g., were you able to dump work on an associate’s desk, instead of missing a family weekend? As far as being able to leave work and have an associate stay to complete a project, my experience at Strasburger has been that it is a function of which attorney is in charge of the project, partner or not. My experience at Strasburger, both as a partner and before, has been that the firm encourages and welcomes a healthy balance between home life and work obligations. Describe the perks as you experienced them: The perks I experienced of being a partner were primarily in the form of the immediate confidence of clients. Clients tend to accept your competence by virtue of your title as partner. Goals for Year Two: I plan to grow existing client satisfaction and bring more new clients to the firm, specifically in the areas of securities and real estate litigation. Particular practice area — commercial litigation, business torts — in light of the current economy: Commercial litigation appears to have been on the rise due to the economic slowdown. Businesses with poorer financial performance and downsizing issues have fueled the increase. As clients are forced to tighten their bottom lines, lawyers are increasingly faced with demands to handle matters more efficiently and cost-effectively. The year in 30 words or less: It was wonderful, thanks to Strasburger being so progressive. The firm launched a branding campaign this past year that emphasizes the tag line “stress relief,” which underscores the fact that Strasburger has a strong track record of handling all aspects of a difficult matter to allow stress relief for clients. While the primary focus is stress relief for clients, the firm also has the vision to focus on the big picture and provide greater client service by allowing some stress relief for the lawyers. Andr� Brunel Hughes & Luce, Austin and San Francisco Practice Areas: transactional intellectual property, Internet transactions, traditional intellectual property, trademark Biggest surprise: My biggest surprise was that I enjoyed much more than I anticipated the collegial nature of our partnership. The partners here get along exceptionally well together. It has been a very pleasant surprise to find out it was for real. Greatest accomplishment in 2001: I was most pleased with bringing in some new clients to the firm and laying the groundwork with potential new clients. What was particularly gratifying was that I was able to apply much of the transactional Internet experience I had to the Web operations of traditional companies, such as hotels and publishing. During the Internet bubble, I spent virtually all of my time working on many, many deals for Internet companies. I feel that I have gotten a real-world MBA equivalent in the proverbial trial by fire. I am now able to use that new technical and business skill set to help traditional companies working on their Internet strategy. Biggest challenge or disappointment: Last year, the Web portal NBCi, an affiliate of NBC, was shut down. During the Internet bubble we did hundreds of deals for them — even though they were based out of San Francisco. After working so hard putting the company’s business together, it was hard to see it dismantled. We ended up renegotiating and often renegotiating renegotiated deals over a six-month period. Shutting down that many deals over such a short period of time was a completely new experience for me and one that gave me new insight into the pressure points when deals go sour. My biggest challenge remains finding new quality technology transactional work to replace NBCi. Fortunately, our firm has many other technology clients that existed before the Internet bubble and will exist long after it, such as EDS and Ericsson. We also have Internet survivors in our client mix, such as Vignette and CNET. Projects or suits worked on during the year, quarter to quarter: See above description of winding down NBCi. Any particular period of working around the clock on a particular project and how being a first-year partner was different from being a senior associate in relation to your home life, e.g., were you able to dump work on an associate’s desk, instead of missing a family weekend? If you had asked me this question a year ago, I could have given you many examples of working around the clock on multiple projects. Last year, that was not an issue. The upside was that I got to lead a “normal” life and see my family on a regular basis. That wasn’t really due to becoming a partner, but rather to the drastic change in the technology sector. Describe the perks as you experienced them: The biggest perk of being a first-year partner was that I was included in more of the information flow on management and financial issues. I have a much better sense of how the firm operates and have been given an opportunity to influence that. Goals for Year Two: My goals for the year are twofold. First, to return to the diversity of work I had prior to the Internet bubble. I have normally always had a very healthy diet of traditional information technology work such as outsourcing. For example, I am working on a nine-figure technology outsourcing deal right now. I have also in the past done a significant amount of trademark counseling and prosecution work. I expect to be doing more of that work also this year. My second goal is to work with STARTech Early Ventures to help startup companies based here in Texas, especially software and Internet-focused companies. Hughes & Luce recently became a stakeholder in STARTech Early Ventures after developing a very close relationship with the STARTech Foundation through the Emerging Growth Series in Richardson. Particular practice area — intellectual property, Internet transactions, Web content syndication, co-branding, software and hardware agreements, etc. — in light of the current economy? The past year has been grim for technology companies in general and Internet pure play companies in particular as they went through wave after wave of layoffs and finally liquidation. The Internet bubble is over and that is probably to the good because deals that make no economic sense should not be done. That said, the Internet is here to stay. The only question is how companies will use it as part of their overall business strategy that takes into account the now relearned business fundamentals. There are many new promising technology areas and sectors. Security and nanotechnology are currently the ones getting the most attention from the VC community. That is one of the great things about this particular practice; it is always changing and I am always learning new things everyday. The year in 30 words or less: I can actually describe it in one word: challenging. I’m sticking with the technology sector despite its volatility. I went through a mini-version of this bubble when CD-ROMs first came out. Some of my clients, from startups to the established publishers, thought they were going to make their big hit with CD-ROMs on a lot of different topics, e.g., snowboarding. And then the reality of business fundamentals such as distribution costs and no profits hit. Most of the startups went bust and the large players abandoned their CD-ROM divisions. Michael J. Newton Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue, Dallas Practice Areas: intellectual property, patent litigation Biggest surprise: One of the biggest surprises about being a partner versus being a senior associate was how quickly my new partners accepted and recognized me as one of their partners. In their minds, the transition from associate to partner was significant. This surprised me. Some of the results or manifestations of this recognition were that: 1. I was given significant responsibilities in matters from the beginning (it was assumed that I could competently handle any portion of a case in my field of expertise); 2. I was included in managerial discussions and decisions concerning the intellectual property section of the litigation group in our firm; and 3. I was involved in the associate evaluation process. Greatest accomplishment in 2001: From a legal perspective, my greatest accomplishment or success came in the form of our firm’s litigation department being named litigation department of the year by The American Lawyer, [a law.com and Texas Lawyer affiliate]. One of the cases that I successfully tried with Victor Savikas (from our Los Angeles office) in the Southern District of New York was reported as a Jones Day trial success to that publication. Another important accomplishment came in the form of a very favorable decision on claim construction in a patent infringement case I was involved in pending in the Western District of North Carolina involving television program guides and VCR technology. In patent cases, the determination of what the terms in a patent claim mean is an issue of law to be decided by a federal judge, not a jury. A favorable ruling in a claim construction hearing often leads to ultimate victory in a patent infringement case. Biggest challenge or disappointment: It was a very busy year for the intellectual property section in our firm. In particular, three of the clients that I have done significant work for during my career were involved in large patent infringement cases in 2001. My biggest challenge was giving all three of these clients superior legal services and advice. Having a physics background, I often am involved in formulating and executing the technical strategy in an intellectual property case. It was a challenge this year to determine how much of this work I could delegate and how much I should do myself to ensure that this job was being performed properly and in a cost-efficient manner. Projects or suits worked on during the year, quarter to quarter: In January, I was heavily involved in preparing for and arguing a claim construction motion in a patent case involving semiconductor packaging technology pending in the Northern District of California. In February and March, I spent time taking depositions before the close of fact discovery in that same case. In April and May, I worked closely with a number of technical expert witnesses as they prepared opening and rebuttal expert reports in the semiconductor packaging technology case. In June and July, I spent a fair amount of time preparing the opening and reply briefs in support of my client’s claim construction position in the North Carolina case and preparing for the claim construction hearing. In August, I was primarily involved in expert depositions, preparation of dispositive motions, and in the preparation for oral argument on these motions, which occurred in early September, in the California case. In September, October and November, I prepared for trial in my California case and prepared opening and reply briefs on the issue of claim construction in a case involving modulation technology used in cellular phones pending here in the Northern District of Texas. In late November, I went out to try the case involving semiconductor packaging technology and at the pretrial conference the judge continued the case until January 2002. In December, prepared for my January trial and caught up on all of my other cases. Any particular period of working around the clock on a particular project and how being a first-year partner was different from being a senior associate in relation to your home life, e.g., were you able to dump work on an associate’s desk, instead of missing a family weekend? The time commitment in being a young partner was similar to being a senior associate. However, I was able to delegate more work than I had in the past, which was nice. At times, delegating work created more pressure and work because I occasionally provided a poor description of the delegated assignment, which made the process of editing the draft work product an arduous and time-pressured task. Describe the perks as you experienced them: The obvious things: increased pay, bigger office, access to more information about the firm and its long-term plans. Goals for Year Two: I would like to: 1. become more organized; 2. improve my case management skills; and 3. improve my ability to make sound decisions without having to know every detail concerning a particular issue. Particular practice area — intellectual property law and patent litigation — in light of the current economy: Patent litigation is alive and well. My caseload has not changed in the past year. If anything, it looks like 2002 will be busier than 2001, and 2001 was a very strong year. My discussions with others focusing on patent litigation suggest that the field as a whole is growing and not significantly slowed by the current economy. The year in 30 words or less: It was a year of transition. Partnership was a significant goal and having attained it I took the opportunity to look back at my career to this point and to think about my career going forward. While it seems like I have done a lot already, it is clear that there is still much to do. Mitchell A. Tiras Locke Liddell & Sapp, Houston Practice Areas: taxation and general business Biggest surprise: There were not many surprises when I became a partner at Locke Liddell & Sapp. I had many friends at the firm who were partners and I had a good understanding of any differences. As a younger associate, my responsibility to the firm was to develop my practice and skills to become an attorney that other attorneys in the firm and clients will continue to utilize. As I gained more experience, I began to focus on other matters such as client development and business community involvement to establish stronger ties to the community. As a partner, I am an owner of a business. It is my responsibility to maintain and generate clients, assist younger lawyers in developing their practice, continue my involvement in the community and firm activities. Greatest accomplishment this year: I am pleased with my continued involvement in the legal and business community and business development in a difficult economic environment. Our firm encourages these activities and I believe that, through my committee work and charitable activities, I have worked hard to assist various business groups and charitable organizations in their efforts. In addition, I have been a productive member of our firm and have had success in attracting clients and projects to our firm. Biggest challenge or disappointment: I was very fortunate that I did not have many disappointments this year, but this year was very challenging for business due to the recession. In the last few years, law firms, especially firms with a transactional practice, had been accustomed to having as much work as they can handle. The difficult economic environment, especially for securities, mergers and acquisitions, caused many lawyers to work harder on business development. Our firm worked on many transactions relating to financings, restructurings and bankruptcy tax matters. Locke Liddell had a very good year financially, which is attributable to our lawyers and our focus on practice development. Projects or suits worked on during the year, quarter to quarter: Although I am in the tax section of our firm, my practice involves tax and corporate legal issues. In the beginning of the year, I had several projects involving investments in, or acquisitions of, existing partnerships or limited liability companies, many of which were energy-related. On these projects, I focused on drafting and negotiating documents from a corporate as well as a tax perspective. During the next four months, there were two projects that encompassed the majority of my time. The first project involved the development of a power plant. We were negotiating the construction of the power plant, the purchase of power generators and the gas supply contracts necessary for the power plant. The second project involved the financing and the acquisition of certain properties for another client. On both projects, I drafted and negotiated partnership and limited liability company documents and focused on the financing and project development issues. These projects involved the analysis of many corporate and tax issues as well as the securities issues. Toward the end of the year, I was involved in several year-end acquisitions and state tax planning projects. I often work with the Big Five accounting firms on the state tax planning projects. Any particular period of working around the clock on a particular project and how being a first-year partner was different from being a senior associate in relation to your home life, e.g., were you able to dump work on an associate’s desk, instead of missing a family weekend? Locke Liddell is a working partnership. We do not have a system where partners develop clients and associates do all of the work. We work in a team environment where, depending on the project and the expertise required for the project, I may work with more partners than associates. As a senior associate and partner, it becomes one of your responsibilities to assist in the development of younger attorneys. To facilitate attorney development, I will delegate projects to associates and have these associates become primarily responsible for the project. I will then supervise the project and make sure that I am available for consultation, if necessary. If a project or work conflicts with a family weekend or event, I do not hesitate to involve another lawyer at the firm to assist in the negotiation or closing. The person that may assist me or even take over a project may potentially be at any level, whether an associate, partner or the head of our section, depending on the experience needed and availability. Describe the perks as you experienced them: When I was elected as a partner, I was told that you get one promotion in a law firm, and becoming a partner is it. There are several perks of being a partner. First, it is nice to be recognized for your hard work and achievements in an organization. Second, whether you believe it is deserved or not, clients and other attorneys view you in a different way; that you have officially been approved by your peers as a good lawyer. Finally, because our firm performed well last year, it was great to receive the financial benefit of being a partner. Goals for Year Two: I want to become more experienced in other areas of taxation. I specialize in the partnership tax area and have not spent as much time in the corporate and foreign tax areas. I plan to take classes and study these other areas in the next year. I currently serve as the vice chairman on the partnership and real estate tax committee for the [Texas] State Bar. I plan to become more involved with the committee and other State Bar activities. Your particular practice area — taxation and business law — in light of the current economy and/or administration? Last year was challenging due to the economic environment and the financial difficulties of certain companies in the Houston area. Generally, this type of economic environment is not helpful for a transactional practice. I believe that the economy will stabilize this year but the transactional environment will remain soft. It will be important this year to continue to provide great service to existing clients and look for opportunities for the development of new clients and projects. I believe the economy will progress slowly this year and recover toward the end of the summer, which should improve the environment for a transactional practice. The year in 30 words or less: It has been a very rewarding year. It is very encouraging that Locke Liddell had such a great year in a difficult economic environment. Kathryn S. Vaughn Baker Botts, Houston Practice Areas: labor and employment law Biggest surprise: As a self-employed partner, rather than an employee associate, I have been introduced to and surprised by the complexity of the federal income tax laws. Greatest accomplishment this year: While perhaps not a “great accomplishment,” certainly one of the more rewarding (and fun) experiences I had in 2001 was trying and winning an environmental whistleblower case. It was a challenging case in a difficult forum, and it is always gratifying to obtain a just and favorable result for a client. Much of the credit for the outcome, however, belongs to Mark Farley, a terrific associate in our environmental group who tried the case with me and did a great job. Biggest challenge or disappointment: I am still trying to become more familiar with the business side of the law firm. Associates at Baker Botts are lucky: They can devote virtually 100 percent of their time to practicing law and learning to become good lawyers, without having to bother too much with administrative matters, client development and such. After making partner, however, I wished I had spent more time trying to learn that stuff. Projects or suits worked on during the year, quarter to quarter: After eight years of doing primarily labor and employment work, I switched gears a little in 2001 and spent considerable time working with more senior partners on several sizeable commercial cases. The first half of the year was spent primarily on discovery and briefing in two of the cases, both of which were tried in late 2001. It was a good learning experience to work on new types of cases with partners and associates I had not worked with before, but I felt fortunate that I was also able to continue my employment practice. I handled several employment litigation matters, as well as continued to provide employment advice and counseling to a wide range of clients. Any particular period of working around the clock on a particular project and how being a first-year partner was different from being a senior associate in relation to your home life, e.g., were you able to dump work on an associate’s desk, instead of missing a family weekend? There was no significant difference between being a partner and being a senior associate with regard to the amount of time I spent at the office vs. home, although I have spent more time doing nonbillable work, such as client development and administrative matters, as a partner. I do think it is very important, for both partners and associates, to maintain a healthy balance between their work and home lives. So far that has not been a problem for me, although it may become somewhat more challenging this year because I am expecting my first baby in July. Goals for Year Two: I want to become more involved in several employment law professional organizations, to continue developing my practice skills and to promote the excellent labor and employment section we have at Baker Botts. Particular practice area — labor and employment law — in light of the current economy: The number of quality employment law specialists on both sides of the docket has increased significantly in recent years, which has made the market in Texas more competitive. There is no shortage of work, however. Labor and employment law is still a growing practice area, and it tends to stay busy regardless of the economy. In times of full employment, when the economy is booming, companies need advice on managing their workforce and dealing with litigation and other problems that inevitably arise. In leaner economic times, many companies are forced to downsize, and they need legal guidance on how best to do that, as well as representation in the litigation that often stems from reductions in force. The year in 30 words or less: I am sure the year was 12 months long, but it seemed to go by very quickly. It was both challenging and rewarding, as well as a great learning experience.

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