Jackson Walker‘s newest partner is a former Houston appeals court judge who will also co-chair the firm’s appellate section.
Jennifer Caughey, who served on the First Texas Court of Appeals from September 2017 through December 2018, joined the firm Tuesday as part of the trial and appellate litigation practice. After losing an election in November 2018—all of the Republican candidates for the Houston appeals courts were defeated—Caughey said she spent the last two-and-a-half months talking to firms to choose where she would continue her career.
“Everybody who I met at Jackson Walker just seemed fantastic, a really deep bench of wonderful lawyers. Everyone outside spoke the world of this firm,” she said. “Coming off the most fulfilling job I ever had in my life, I wanted to make a good choice.”
Caughey said she hopes to build on the team grown by Sean Jordan, a partner in Austin who has been chairing the appellate practice group. Jordan, who has been nominated to the federal bench in the Eastern District of Texas, could not be reached for comment. The firm has not announced a new co-chair of its appellate practice.
Caughey said she looks forward to practicing at Jackson Walker because of its large Texas presence—it is the largest Texas-only firm—and she wants to help grow the firm’s appellate heft.
After graduating from Harvard Law School and completing clerkships at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit and the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, she worked for Gibson Dunn & Crutcher in Washington, D.C., and then Baker Botts in Houston.
Before Texas Gov. Greg Abbott appointed her to the appeals court, Caughey had been of counsel at Houston trial firm Smyser Kaplan & Veselka since 2014.
Jackson Walker managing partner Wade Cooper said in a press release that Caughey “represents everything we look for in our attorneys—smart, energetic, and determined to get to the bottom of every case.”
Caughey said that during her time on the court, she wrote 127 opinions and participated in about 450 decisions. She said the job was “way busier” than she anticipated, and she learned a lot that will help her as an appeals lawyer back in private practice, including how to be the best advocate for her clients, how to be efficient, how to effectively argue at the appellate level and how to preserve error.
She said good argument is quite helpful to judges.
“The strongest takeaway I have is lawyers need to answer a judge’s questions. I came into oral argument with specific questions that need to be answered to write an opinion. When a lawyer can come in and answer those questions, it’s just immensely helpful to the judges on the panel,” Caughey said.
Her advice is similar to that of Bill Boyce, a former judge on the Fourteenth Texas Court of Appeals who recently joined appellate boutique Alexander Dubose & Jefferson in Houston. Boyce’s advice to lawyers: “Just answer the question.”