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When Steven Stodghill battles in court, he’s armed with a sharp mind and a raft of legal knowledge. At the office, his weapons are even more imposing. The Dallas litigator owns a collection of swords, spears, knives, battle-axes and a blow dart gun that could frighten the fiercest legal warrior. Fortunately for his opponents, Stodghill leaves his weapons unloaded and unsharpened, restricting his fights to battles of wits. Stodghill, 41, a principal in the Dallas office of Boston-based Fish & Richardson, a national firm that practices intellectual property, complex litigation and technology law, juxtaposes his weapons with collections of modern art and Batman items. The result is a unique look in his office on the 50th floor of the Bank One Building at 1717 Main St., known by other lawyers in the firm as the “Stodg Mahal.” A Batman lithograph announcing “Welcome to Gotham City” is posted outside Stodghill’s office. Inside, the office features a 360-gallon aquarium with African fish, black marble floors, wood paneling, huge windows that arch up 30 feet to form a skylight and an impressive view of downtown. Stodghill’s favorite piece, “Rite of Spring,” a large painting of a composer being tossed out the window after provoking a riot at a musical performance, is probably the most valuable piece in his collection and dominates one side of the office. The painter is Christian Vincent, husband of actress Peri Gilpin, Stodghill’s childhood friend who plays Roz on “Frasier.” Another favorite, a cast bronze sculpture by Michael Bergt of a chubby, one-winged angel wearing a bomber helmet called “The Fallen Angel,” stands by the window. “I didn’t pose for it,” Stodghill jokes. Around the office, other artwork sits alongside the weapons. Four small Picasso etchings of mythological creatures adorn one wall, and a stand holding eight ceremonial spears from Vietnam graces another side of the office. Batman memorabilia, including a rubber mask and small statues of the Caped Crusader, sit near a blow dart gun. Swords and knives line the ledge in front of one window. The weaponry is a conversation piece, and his clients like to handle them, sometimes taking a gentle poke with a sword or blowing through the dart gun. “They like the weapons,” Stodghill says. “I’m a litigator. They like us being well armed.” The attorney also displays a Chinese incense urn; a large globe made with stones indigenous to each nation displayed; and photos of family members and celebrities — including Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, Jay Leno, Elizabeth Hurley, Matthew Perry, Chris Tucker, Jerry Hall and Tony Bennett — he’s met through his work or his charitable activities. Stodghill received his first weapon from his then-fianc�e and now-wife Anne Stodghill, an in-house attorney for TXU Corp., and began collecting more. The art bug bit him five or six years ago, and he also began gathering modern works. He picks up new pieces from antique shops and art galleries in town or places he visits when traveling. His love of Batman began at age 5, when his father gave him subscriptions to superhero comic books, and the Caped Crusader became his favorite. A MINI-MUSEUM Stodghill hasn’t added up the money he has spent on his collections, saying he has no plans to sell it. He finances some pieces, while picking up others, which are virtually worthless to anyone but a collector, for very little. He’s accumulated such big collections that some of the items spill over to the rest of the firm. Some of the 30 other lawyers in the office have made space for Batman memorabilia in their offices, and the walls throughout the firm hold paintings from his modern art collection, including works from well-known artists such as Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein to lesser-known artists such as Traian Alexandru Filip. Stodghill displays two dozen pieces of artwork at home and about the same number at the office. He says clients enjoy looking at the artwork and that the mini-museum helps give Fish & Richardson the right look. “We wanted an image of an up-to-date, cutting-edge firm,” he says. Thomas Melsheimer, managing principal in Dallas of Fish & Richardson, houses a collection of Stodghill’s sports memorabilia in his office. A Superman lithograph, a companion piece to Stodghill’s Batman work, hangs outside his office. “It’s great stuff,” Melsheimer says. “I love having it. It lends a nice quality to the office.” Stodghill agrees: “It makes you more excited about coming into the office because it’s visually exciting.”

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