Texas Lawyer has tracked new partner announcements for years, because the statistics provide an indication of the growth of individual Texas firms and the strength of the Texas legal market. Given that, signs are strong for a robust year, considering that big firms in Texas made considerably more new partners this year than last year.
Eighteen of the 25 firms with the most lawyers in Texas promoted 85 lawyers to partner, compared with 68 new partners last year for the same group of firms. The group includes 24 women, which is 28 percent of the total, and six minority lawyers, which is seven percent of the 85 lawyers.
The healthy increase in new partners at the group of 18 big firms indicates a solid Texas market, at a time when the stock market is on the upswing and the price of oil, a key statistic in Texas, has improved as well. The numbers of new partners is a clear improvement over a year ago, when 19 of the 25 firms with the most lawyers in Texas made 75 new partners for 2017, compared with 107 the year before.
Law firm consultant Peter Zeughauser, who is with Zeughauser Group in California, said the rebound in new partner promotions in Texas is a little surprising, but it indicates the economy has recovered.
“Things are better than they have been in recent years and firms are sending signals to attract young talent, that there’s opportunity to stay because demand for associates is up,” Zeughauser said. He notes that clients may be less likely that lawyers to pay attention to the size of a firm’s new partnership class.
Ten of the 18 large firms made more partners in 2018 than the year before, seven made fewer new partners, and one promoted the same number of lawyers to partner as in 2017.
Haynes and Boone and Thompson, Coe, Cousins & Irons, both based in Dallas, tied for the lead by announcing nine new Texas partners for 2018.
Tim Powers, managing partner of Haynes and Boone, said demand is growing in areas where the new partners practice, such as finance, real estate, real estate funds and intellectual property litigation and prosecution. But he said the numbers are high because a strong group of associates were up for partner this year.
“They are just exceptional lawyers and we are excited to have them as our partners,” Powers said.
He said selecting so many new partners tells the legal community Haynes and Boone is growing and it is a firm with partnership opportunities. At the same time, he said, it shows clients that the firm is stable by promoting nine Texas lawyers who have spent many years at the firm. It’s also a foundation for succession planning, to keep lawyers moving through the pipeline, he said.
Ellen Van Meir, a partner in Thompson Coe in Dallas who is a member of the management committee, said her firm’s large class of new partners indicates to the legal market and clients that the firm has attracted good lawyers who choose to stay at the firm.
“Such a big class is reflective of our good fortune to have such a talented group of lawyers,” Van Meir said.
New partner numbers from several firms are not included in this report because their new partner elections or announcements were scheduled after press time on Jan. 29. Those firms include Gardere Wynne Sewell, Greenberg Traurig, Jackson Walker, Munsch Hardt Kopf & Harr, Strasburger & Price, Thompson & Knight, and Winstead.
Woman comprise 28 percent of the 85 new partners, which is down a little from last year, when women partners comprised 35 percent of the new partners. Andrews Kurth Kenyon had the largest crop of new women partners in 2018, accounting for four of the firm’s eight new partners. Several firms made three new women partners: Dykema Cox Smith, Haynes and Boone, Locke Lord and Thompson Coe.
The firms identified six of the new partners as ethnic minorities, which is seven percent of the total of 85. However, a few firms, as shown in the “New Texas Partners in 2018″ chart, declined to provide minority lawyer information or did not provide it immediately. Last year, eight of 75 lawyers were identified as minorities, for 10.7 percent of the total.
Of the new partners, the largest group, 31 of 80 new partners graduated from law school in 2009, and the second largest group, 25 of 80, graduated in 2008. Several lawyers graduated in 2005 or earlier, and Thompson Coe held down the other end of the scale, with one new partner graduating in 2010 and another in 2011.
Van Meir said Thompson Coe’s partnership track is 7½ years, but it varies depending on each lawyer’s development.
“Each candidate is evaluated individually based on their practice area, the opportunities they have had and their performance. That is ultimately far more important than checking the calendar,” she said.
Litigation and corporate/securities/finance are the two most common practice areas for the new partners.