(L-to-R): Andy Szuwalski and Jeremy Berman

 

A client conflict prompted two intellectual property lawyers to leave Gardere Wynne Sewell as it merged with Foley & Lardner this month. They have joined Oklahoma-based Crowe & Dunlevy in its new Dallas office.

Andy Szuwalski and Jeremy Berman joined Crowe & Dunlevy as directors on April 1, the same day the merger of Gardere and Foley & Lardner took effect, creating Foley Gardere. Szuwalski and Berman focus on patent prosecution and Szuwalski had been chair of the intellectual property practice group at Gardere.

Randy Gordon, Crowe & Dunlevy

Randy Gordon, the managing director of Crowe & Dunlevy’s office in Dallas, said Szuwalski and Berman bring a lot of transactional experience to the firm’s IP practice and also expertise in semiconductor work, which is an area the firm has been wanting to beef up.

Crowe & Dunlevy now has five lawyers in its Dallas office, which opened in 2017. Gordon also moved to Crowe & Dunlevy because of a client conflict at Gardere. He joined the firm Sept. 1, 2017.

Szuwalski said Gardere’s merger with Foley created a conflict with a major client that he’s represented for 20 years, and he could not get it resolved.

Once he realized he needed to find a new firm, Szuwalski said he talked to a number of firms in Dallas. But he determined that the conflict or a potential conflict wasn’t restricted to Foley. He then called Gordon, whom he knew when he was a Gardere partner, to discuss a lateral move.

“They didn’t have the conflict, which was, of course, part one of the analysis. I was very pleased with the people I had met, and learning about the firm and the fact they had a well-established IP presence in Oklahoma City and Tulsa was a benefit,” Szuwalski said.

Szuwalski declined to identify the long-term client that prompted his lateral move, or his other clients. But he said the firm is a natural fit for him and Berman because of its IP and oil and gas practices.

Holly O’Neill, a member of Foley Gardere’s management committee who was chair of the Gardere board of directors before the merger, confirmed the two lawyers left because of a conflict.

“As with the other lawyers who left, the firm is disappointed to see valued colleagues leave, but respect their decision and wish them well. At the same time, we remain confident this combination will position us as an attractive destination for future lateral hires,” she wrote in a statement.

Other lawyers left Gardere around the time of the merger with Foley, including 14 who joined Husch Blackwell’s offices in Texas, and a group of six real estate lawyers who moved to Jackson Walker‘s Dallas office.

Meanwhile, Gardere Foley has started to expand in Texas. The firm announced it has hired finance lawyer Cynthia Harkness, who joined the firm’s Austin office.

Harkness, who formerly practiced at firms and in-house at companies in New York, Houston, Paris, Singapore and Baltimore, moved to Austin in 2013 and joined Haddad Legal Group, where she was the head of the business transaction practice.

Racy Haddad, founder of Haddad Legal Group, said Harkness, her longtime friend, will be an “incredible asset” to Foley Gardere because of her skills and experience.

Harkness said she started looking for opportunities at a larger firm and ended up joining Foley & Lardner on March 9—less than a month before the merger. She did some training at Foley’s office in New York and said she is excited to work in the Foley Gardere office in Austin.

“The culture was really the point that sold me,” she said. “I obviously needed a place that had a breadth of practice that fit in. What set Foley apart were the people…not only do I get along with them, I feel like I found my tribe.”

Harkness said her clients include Unified Energy of Houston.

Kimberly Yelkin, managing partner of Foley Gardere’s Austin office, said Harkness helps the office expand its capabilities in the private equity and corporate practices.

“I’ve been looking for a while for kind of the right spot to land. All the stars aligned,” Harkness said.