Kelley Keller, and Sarah Cooper Kelley Keller and Sarah Cooper, Smyser Kaplan & Veselka, Houston (Courtesy Photo)

Houston trial lawyers Sarah Cooper and Kelley Keller have between them worked at Big Law firms, litigation boutiques and small firms, but both just joined trial firm Smyser Kaplan & Veselka as counsel.

Cooper started at Smyser Kaplan, which won Texas Lawyer’s Litigation Department of the Year award in 2018 in the small firm category, on May 1, while Keller came on board in late April. The 26-lawyer boutique announced the hirings Tuesday.

Cooper does civil, corporate and criminal litigation and investigations. Keller handles a range of civil litigation matters including products liability defense, commercial disputes, securities and intellectual property litigation.

“They’ve got a great work ethic. We need the help,” Partner Lee Kaplan said about the lateral hires.

Cooper began her career as an associate at Cravath, Swaine & Moore and then at Vinson & Elkins and Baker Botts, before working as of counsel at trial firm Gerger & Clarke. In 2013, she said, she took some time off to raise her children, manage some family properties and train a dog.

That time outside a firm ended after Kaplan called her in late April to see if she was interested in joining them. She made the move about a week later.

“I’m very happy to be at this firm,” Cooper said. “I’ve worked at very first-class firms and this is one of them.”

Keller also worked at a variety of firms over her career, including as staff attorney at Houston trial boutique Susman Godfrey, an associate at V&E and Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, and as partner in her own shop, Ellison & Keller. Before Smyser Kaplan, Keller spent three years as senior counsel at Houston civil litigation firm Weinstein Tippetts & Little.

Keller said she was doing products liability work at Weinstein Tippetts but wanted to return to commercial litigation, so she contacted Smyser Kaplan partner Dane Ball, a former colleague from her time at Skadden Arps in Houston.

“I reached out to Dane, and thankfully they were just swamped,” she said.

Keller said she brought some clients with her including Hydradyne, a Dallas company that relies on her for litigation in Texas. She said she also does work for a number of physician partnerships.

Weinstein Tippetts did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Keller’s departure.

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