Womble Bond Dickinson has launched an office in Houston, starting with six lawyers to serve clients in the energy, global manufacturing, technology and life sciences industries.
Managing the new office is Jeffrey Whittle, an intellectual property transactional lawyer who left Hogan Lovells to join Womble Bond on Jan. 22. Other lateral partners in the new group include IP litigator Joshua Davis and corporate securities lawyer Paul Turner, both formerly of Reed Smith. Associate Kristin Lamb and of counsel Mark Shelley also joined the firm from Hogan Lovells.
Additionally, Womble Bond partner Elizabeth “Liz” LeVan Riley, whose practice focuses on education law, will split her practice between Houston and Raleigh, North Carolina.
Betty Temple, chairwoman and CEO of Womble Bond, said Texas has been on the firm’s radar for a while because of its economic growth and the firm’s focus on innovation in several areas, including energy. Over 175 of the firm’s top clients have operations in Houston, she said, thought she declined to identify them.
“All of our expansion has been led by clients,” Temple said. “Houston remains a global center for innovation.”
The new office, Womble Bond’s 27th location, opened last week, although Davis joined the firm in September, Temple said. She said she expects the Houston office to grow to 20 lawyers this year.
Whittle said there is a good spot in Houston for a firm such as Womble Bond, which provides high-tier services at a good price. He noted that he has adjusted his billing rates downward by 20 percent to 25 percent since his move from Hogan Lovells.
“With some of the high-end firms, some of the clients are concerned about being priced out of the market,” Whittle said. But even with its lower rates, “I’ve been across deals and litigation with Womble attorneys, and I have a lot of respect for them and their talent set and capabilities.”
Temple said the growing geographic footprint provides value to clients because it allows the firm to shift work to offices where Womble Bond has a lower price point than the average Big Law firm.
Womble Bond was created in 2017 through the merger of Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, a North Carolina firm, and U.K. firm Bond Dickinson.
When asked about Whittle’s departure, Hogan Lovells provided this statement, “We wish Jeff the very best for the future.”
In an email, Casey Ryan, global head of legal personnel at Reed Smith, said the firm wishes Davis and Turner well at their new firm.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated associate Kristin Lamb and of counsel Mark Shelley’s former law firm.