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As head of Locke Liddell & Sapp’s litigation section, Jerry Clements is accustomed to a grueling schedule and the spotlight. But her life has been a whirlwind of media interviews since Oct. 3, the day when President George W. Bush nominated former Locke Liddell partner Harriet E. Miers for the U.S. Supreme Court. While Clements’ more than 15 minutes of fame will end when Miers’ nomination is confirmed or rejected by the U.S. Senate, life around Locke Liddell, a 389-lawyer firm based in Houston and Dallas, will never be the same. There’s good and bad to that. The firm is the focus of attention from the national media, a situation that raises the firm’s profile around the country and presumably will lead to some new business. But the public hunt for any tidbit of information about Miers and the firm where she practiced for most of her career also brings attention to past problems at Locke Liddell. Even the firm’s decision to open a branch office in Washington, D.C., with two lawyer-lobbyists and a lobbyist — coincidentally on Oct. 3 — seems more significant in the wake of Miers’ nomination. Clements, a partner in Dallas, sees opportunity for the firm because of Miers’ chance of serving on the nation’s highest court. “It’s a fairly unique experience for law firms,” Clements says. “This may be the first time any major Texas law firm has gotten a Supreme Court nomination.” Clements, who has the leading role in responding to questions about Miers, says she does it because the firm wants the public to know and understand the lawyer she first met in 1981. “I have probably done over 200 or more interviews in the last two-and-a-half weeks. Some of them have been on TV, some on radio . . . some college newspapers, some of them have been bloggers,” she says. “We have had everything you can imagine coming our way. It isn’t slowing down.” Whether or not Locke Liddell’s national exposure leads to new business, the recognition is good, Clements says. “No question this raises the firm’s national profile. Any major law firm, particularly one with a litigation and appellate practice, like we have, can only benefit from this kind of attention,” she says. “Just to have one of our alumni on the U.S. Supreme Court is something that will be a part of our institutional history from now on.” Whether it will lead to more appellate business is an open question. “I don’t think these kinds of things bring in more business just because they occur,” says Austin of counsel Mike Hatchell, who heads the firm’s appellate section. “It would have a positive effect if she adds light on the fact that Locke Liddell Sapp has always had an excellent appellate section and it demonstrates, I think, the firm’s commitment to scholarship and good writing and having an appellate section.” Miers did mostly defense work for large corporations during her career. Her clients included SunGard Data Systems, Microsoft Corp., the Walt Disney Co., and Manufacturer’s Hanover Trust Corp., now JPMorgan Chase. LOTS OF LOBBYING If confirmed, Miers, 60, would become the first Texas woman and the second Texan to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1949, President Harry S. Truman appointed Dallas native Tom C. Clark, a former U.S. attorney general, to the court. Miers’ r�sum� includes a number of “first woman” items, such as the first woman attorney hired at Dallas’ Locke, Purnell, Boren, Laney & Neely in 1972; first woman president of the Dallas Bar Association in 1985; and first woman president of the State Bar of Texas in 1992. But Miers, a commercial litigator, also became the first woman president of Locke Purnell Rain Harrell in 1996, which draws attention to the firm. Locke Purnell merged on Jan. 1, 1999, with Houston’s Liddell, Sapp, Zivley, Hill & LaBoon, to become Locke Liddell & Sapp. Miers and Liddell Sapp’s Bruce LaBoon became co-managing partners of the firm. The firm, which had about 400 lawyers when it formed, is close to that size today and is the fifth largest firm in the state. In 2004, gross revenue at the firm was $192.9 million. Profits per partner averaged $649,000 in 2004 — up 15.7 percent from 2003 — and average revenue per lawyer came in at $622,000, according to Texas Lawyer‘s annual report on firm finance, published in June. In 1999, the first year the firm operated as Locke Liddell, gross revenue was $161.1 million. That year, profits per partner averaged $363,000, and revenue per lawyer averaged $397,000, according to numbers compiled for the annual report on firm finance in 2000. Prior to the merger, Miers’ firm, Locke Purnell, was known for its litigation, and Liddell Sapp was known for transactional work. But opportunities for cross-selling between the two predecessor firms, which were near equal in size, was a main reason for the deal. Locke Liddell’s gross revenue and net income improved in 2004, despite a loss of 7 percent of the firm’s lawyers during the year, primarily due to an exodus of about a dozen lawyers who left the firm’s New Orleans office to join another firm. Bryan Goolsby, the firm’s Dallas-based managing partner, says transactional and litigation lawyers were busy in 2004, and mergers and acquisitions work gained steam as the year went on. MIERS, BUSH AND LOBBYING CONTRACTS Miers has a long relationship with Bush. In 1994, she served as general counsel for then-governor-elect Bush’s transition team. In 2001, after serving as co-managing partner of Locke Liddell for a little more than two years, she moved to the White House as Bush’s assistant. In 2003, Miers became deputy chief of staff, and she became White House counsel earlier this year. While the firm says there’s no link between Miers’ public service for Bush and the firm’s lobbying practice, the maximum value of the firm’s Texas lobbying contracts jumped to $4.95 million in 2003, compared to $1.9 million in 1999, the year Locke Liddell was created. Those statistics were compiled by Texans for Public Justice. Texans for Public Justice, a public interest group in Austin, also reports that Locke Liddell and its attorneys gave more than $1 million to Texas candidates and committees during the 2002 and 2004 election cycles, with 84 percent of its money in 2004 going to Republican candidates. The 2004 contributions from the firm include $15,000 to Texans for Lawsuit Reform, a firm lobby client that was Texas’ largest political action committee for 2004 elections, according to an Oct. 19 Texans for Public Justice report titled “Miers’ Locke Liddell Is an Activist in Texas’ GOP, Corporate State.” In 2003, Texans for Lawsuit Reform helped win passage of a major tort reform measure, H.B. 4, which caps non-economic damages in medical-malpractice suits and establishes new rules for various types of civil litigation. In required filings to the Texas Ethics Commission for the 2005 session of the Texas Legislature, the firm’s lobbying team reported 36 clients with a maximum compensation of $4.605 million. Those clients included Texans for Lawsuit Reform, Silver Eagle Distributors, Houston Community College, the Texas Medical Center, Landry’s Restaurants Inc. and DefensiveDriving.com. Only two other Texas firms with lawyer-lobbyists, Gardere Wynne Sewell and Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, both of Dallas, reported more clients for the 2005 session of the Texas Legislature. Robert Miller, a partner in Houston who heads Locke Liddell’s public law section, says the growth in the firm’s lobbying practice is not related to Miers’ public service. He also notes that much of the firm’s public policy practice is conducted in Austin, instead of in Washington, D.C. Also, Miller notes, while the firm’s public law practice is the impetus for the opening of the D.C. office, the firm intends to expand the office with lawyers in other practice areas. Besides Dallas and Houston, Locke Liddell has offices in Austin and New Orleans. The New Orleans office — which had been closed because of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath — reopened for business on Oct. 10. PAST AND PRESENT The quest for information about Locke Liddell has been insatiable since Oct. 3. In the 48 hours after Miers’ nomination was announced, the firm received at least 100 calls from reporters, says Julie Gilbert, director of strategic communications for Locke Liddell. Gilbert says she happened to come into work early on Oct. 3, because she was returning from a vacation, and instead of getting caught up on work, she got busy with calls about Miers. Clements says most of the questions about Miers are about her clients, her pro bono work, her management style, and how she prepared and analyzed suits. “Constitutional law has been a big issue,” Clements says. “I have tried to explain to people that she’s had an awful lot of constitutional law experience … due process and class actions, for example, personal jurisdiction issues … statutory interpretation of federal laws and state laws, First Amendment issues, and libel and slander work. I’ve tried to educate the press that lawyers like Harriet who are in the trenches at the courthouse deal with constitutional law all the time. It’s not just Laurence Tribe and the people up at Harvard and Yale who study constitutional law.” But presumably Clements would prefer that some recent events at the firm receive less national attention. For instance, she’s getting questions about two recent multimillion-dollar settlements of litigation against the firm that alleged it helped a client defraud investors. In 2000, the firm agreed to pay $22 million to settle a suit alleging it helped a client defraud investors. The settlement stems from the firm’s representation of Russell Erxleben, a former University of Texas star football kicker whose foreign currency trading company was allegedly a Ponzi scheme. Erxleben pleaded guilty in November 1999 to federal conspiracy and securities fraud charges. Then in 2001, after Miers left the firm, Locke Liddell settled a class action for $8.5 million with investors who alleged they were defrauded in an alleged Ponzi scheme operated by client Brian Russell Stearns, an Austin businessman sentenced to 30 years in prison after he was found guilty on 80 charges, including money laundering and securities fraud. Clements says the settlements are old news for the firm, and Miers had no involvement in the work that was at issue in the suits, but Clements understands why reporters are interested in them. “We are prepared to have people look closely at us and at her. We know that’s just part of the process in today’s world,” she says. Another issue is the firm’s tax work. The firm is mentioned in a report — “The Role of Professional Firms in the U.S. Tax Shelter Industry” — issued in February by the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. In 1999, according to the report, Locke Liddell provided accounting firm Ernst & Young with a legal opinion indicating that, if challenged by the Internal Revenue Service, a certain type of tax shelter known as CDS (contingent deferred swap strategy) “should” be upheld in court. According to the report, Ernst & Young sold the tax product to clients from 1998 to 2002 despite evidence that it was “potentially abusive or illegal.” In response, Clements says, “there’s not been any finding by anybody that any of the tax opinions or tax advice that our tax lawyers gave were improper, or illegal or invalid.” She also says the firm stands by its tax advice. “More important than that, Harriet Miers was not a tax lawyer and was not involved in giving this tax advice,” she says. “This has nothing to do with Harriet.” But Clements says Miers did have something to do with the success of the firm. Clements says because Miers has a high profile, she brought an “awful lot of goodwill” to the firm. But Miers’ legacy, in Clements’ view, is the way she personally broke barriers that existed for women in large firms. “She mentored a number of women and brought them through the leadership ranks, including myself,” says Clements, who says Miers got her involved in firm management back in 1994, when Miers asked her to serve on committees at Locke Purnell, and later supported her election in 1998 to the management committee at Locke Purnell. GOOD FOR RECRUITING With hearings on Miers’ nomination set to begin on Nov. 7, the scrutiny on Locke Liddell should diminish, and Clements should be able to go back to her litigation practice. But the effect on the firm will be lasting, says Deborah McMurray, a marketing consultant in Dallas. McMurray, who says she did marketing consulting for Locke Liddell for several months around the time of the merger between Locke Purnell and Liddell Sapp, says the firm’s new national profile may not translate directly into business, but it will help recruiting. “If she is confirmed, from a recruiting standpoint, I think it’s a big deal to say this firm essentially raised a Supreme Court justice,” McMurray, of Deborah McMurray Associates, says. It also gives the firm the opportunity to showcase the fact that it’s long been a firm that gives leadership opportunity to women, since Miers took the helm of Locke Purnell back in 1996. On the flip side, McMurray says news coverage about the two big securities settlements might harm Miers’ chances of confirmation. It also reminds clients and prospective clients of the firm about the bad news. “It’s very old news, but who knows. These confirmation hearings are so contentious and people are looking for things to bring up so they can sling mud. Those things could be brought up by somebody who doesn’t want her confirmed,” McMurray says. As an observer, McMurray says, what she finds so interesting about the debate over Miers’ qualifications is the frustration some people are expressing about the lack of information about Miers, such as her lack of a judicial record since she hasn’t been a judge. “What I think makes people on either side the angriest is they don’t know anything about her, so they are angry when they learn something they don’t like,” she says. “But in this case there isn’t that much to learn.”

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