Partner promotions are on the upswing at big firms in Texas.
Twenty-one of the 25 firms with the most lawyers in Texas made a total of 98 new partners in 2019, compared with 85 partners at 18 of 25 firms in last year’s Texas New Partners report. Those 98 new partners include 31 women, which is 32 percent of the total, and 14 minority lawyers, for 14 percent of the 98 lawyers.
The increase in new partner promotions at the big firms is an indication that Texas firms are bullish on the strength of the Texas economy and the market for legal work. In addition to rewarding great lawyers for their work, the firms could also be trying to stave off departures of senior associates, considering the Texas lateral hiring market has been as hot as anywhere in the nation.
Most of the new partner promotions were effective as of Jan. 1, but promotions kicked in earlier at a few firms.
Six of the large Texas firms made more partners in 2019 than in 2018, while four made fewer partners and seven made the same number of new partners as the prior year.
Year-over-year comparisons for all of the firms were not available. Three of the large firms on the chart—Clark Hill Strasburger, Foley Gardere and Hunton Andrews Kurth—were formed in 2018 as a result of mergers of a large Texas firm and an out-of-state firm. Dallas’ Strasburger & Price merged with Clark Hill, forming Clark Hill Strasburger; Gardere Wynne Sewell, also of Dallas, merged with Foley & Lardner, forming the firm known as Foley Gardere in Texas, and Houston’s Andrews Kurth Kenyon merged with Hunton & Williams, forming Hunton Andrews Kurth.
Thompson, Coe, Cousins & Irons made 13 new Texas partners, topping the chart. Haynes and Boone came in second, with nine new partners in Texas, while Baker Botts, Kirkland & Ellis and Norton Rose Fulbright each made eight new Texas partners.
Shawn Phelan, a co-chairman of Thompson Coe, said the large new partnership class—following a class of nine new partners last year—reflects the growth of the firm and the talent level of the attorneys. “We’ve been fortunate over the years to be able to attract and retain talented lawyers and this class kind of reflects that success,” Phelan said of the firm’s 13 new Texas partners.
Six of the 13 new partners at Thompson Coe are women and three are minorities.
New partner promotion numbers from several firms are not included in this report because their new partner elections or announcements were scheduled after press time Jan. 28. Those include Greenberg Traurig, Jackson Walker and Thompson & Knight. Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson did not respond to a request for information about new partners.
Women made up 32 percent of the new partners, which is up a little from last year, when 28 percent of the new partners were women. Thompson Coe had the largest number, with six, nearly half of its 13 new Texas partners. But four of the new Texas partners at Haynes and Boone are women, and at both Baker Botts and Bracewell, three of each firm’s new Texas partners are women.
For Bracewell, it was three of four new Texas partners.
Kate Day, a partner at Bracewell’s Houston office who is a former hiring partner and a member of the management committee, said the firm makes a concerted effort to hire and promote women lawyers and nurture their careers as they advance up the associate ranks. She said the firm relies on mentoring programs and training, and strives for an inclusive culture, but the women who just became partner are excellent lawyers who worked hard, and had access to great work.
Day said having women partners is an advantage for Bracewell, particularly because many of the firm’s clients are women.
“A lot of our clients want to see teams working on their deals and litigation that are themselves diverse in sex or gender but also diverse in race or ethnicity and including women in leadership or partnership,” she said.
Lytch Gutmann, one of Bracewell’s new partners in Houston, said she is proud the firm selected so many women as partners, and especially because she and Molly Butkus were summer associates at the firm while in law school and were elected to partner in the same class.
Gutmann said the firm has a very strong mentoring program, and interestingly all of her supervising partners and mentors have been men.
The firms identified 14 of the 98 new partners are minorities, which is 14 percent of the total. However, several firms either did not disclose the diversity information or did not provide it before press time. The 14 percent is an improvement over last year, when firms identified six of 85 new partners as ethnic minorities, for seven percent.
Three of the new Texas partners at Norton Rose Fulbright and at Thompson Coe are minorities.
The largest group of new partners, 26, graduated from law school in 2009, trailed closely behind with 25 of the 98 new partners who graduated in 2010. Nine lawyers graduated in 2005 or earlier, and two new partners graduated from law school in 2013.
Litigation is by far the most common practice area, with 34 of the new partners in that practice, followed by corporate/securities/finance and energy transactions.