The eight new Shearman hires all focus on advising emerging growth companies in the technology life sciences, and media and telecommunications industries. They include corporate partners Matthew Lyons, Carmelo Gordian, Alan Bickerstaff, Ted Gilman, Brian Dillavou and Russ Denton, litigation partner David Whittlesey and investment funds counsel J.R. Morgan. Lyons, who will head the Austin office, said a total of 18 lawyers will move from Andrews Kurth, including associates in the corporate and litigation practices.
Shearman & Sterling also plans to open a Houston office that will focus on energy transactions, including oil and gas projects. Texas Lawyer recently reported that a group of oil and gas lawyers is expected to move to Shearman’s new Houston office from Baker Botts. That team, which will be led by Baker Botts oil and gas practice chair Hugh Tucker, cannot move now because Baker Botts has a 90-day leave policy.
In an interview Wednesday, firm leaders said the Austin office is expected to have about 25 to 30 attorneys. The Houston office, which will open in a few months, will have eight to 10 partners by the end of the year. Shearman leaders said the new office openings are part of the firms “long-term strategy.”
Shearman is also considering a larger plan for the Austin office. Incoming senior partner David Beveridge said the firm is exploring the possibility that it would become a site for talented nonpartner track associates and staff attorneys with “quality of life” considerations. Beveridge said the Austin location is attractive because of its proximity to good universities, its venture capital business and the availability of highly skilled talent who may not want to be on the partnership track.
“It’s a good spot to explore,” said Beveridge, a partner based in New York.
These considerations for the Austin office are not part of the immediate plan, however. The office will for now focus on the firm’s tech and life sciences practices. The firm already has a staff attorney location in Melville, New York.
Lyons said his group’s clients will benefit from Shearman & Sterling’s premier capital markets practice, M&A expertise, deep relationships with financial institutions and its network of offices on the West Coast and globally.
“We felt it was time for Austin and for our clients to be part of a global elite law firm with international access to capital markets and M&A activity,” Lyons said. “Shearman is looking to us to work with the West Coast office to continue to develop and enhance the representation of emerging and start-up companies and venture capital.”
Lyons declined to identify the group’s clients. “We have a national group of clients centered mostly in Texas, mostly in Austin, but venture capital and private equity markets are a national market with the significant players being on the West Coast and the East Coast as well as in Texas,” he said.
He said Shearman & Sterling’s decision to be the first New York-based firm with a full-service Austin office is a “significant milestone in the maturation of the Central Texas economy.”
Lyons said the Andrews Kurth/Hunton & Williams merger will be a “fantastic combination,” but his group ultimately decided that moving to Shearman & Sterling was the best thing for their clients.
Andrews Kurth has lost lawyers to several firms in recent weeks as it finalized negotiations for a merger with the Virginia-based firm Hunton & Williams. That merger will take effect April 2.
A spokeswoman for Andrews Kurth declined to comment on the departures.
Several of the lawyers in the group have practiced together for more than 20 years. Many of them joined Andrews Kurth’s Austin office in 2003 after California technology firm Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison dissolved.