Let’s be honest: A law degree can provide a person with many things, but a chance at romance typically isn’t one of them. Eighty-hour workweeks, busy travel schedules and the propensity for arguments can result in automatic strikes against attorneys in the big venire panel of love.
Nevertheless, lawyers can and do fall in love and get married. And a few find out that the best person for a lifetime partnership is someone just like themselves: another lawyer.
In anticipation of Valentine’s Day, Texas Lawyer talked to four married lawyer-couples to find out how they came to sign the ultimate contract with each other. Read on to discover how bad restaurants, actor Richard Dreyfuss, “Romeo and Juliet” and a high school debate team played a part in these legal love stories.
Keith Dean and Elizabeth Crowder
Married 19 Years
Romance wasn’t on Elizabeth Crowder’s mind in the late 1980s when she was a Dallas County assistant district attorney assigned to a misdemeanor court. Getting out of that court as quickly as possible was.
|The Wedding Day: Keith Dean and Elizabeth Crowder|
“Most of what I was thinking at the time was, ‘I’m going to felony court,’ ” says Elizabeth, who, like most prosecutors, wanted a promotion so she could handle more exciting cases involving armed robberies and murders instead of routine DWIs and simple assaults.
Eight months later Elizabeth got that promotion to a felony court. But Keith Dean, the judge of the misdemeanor court where she previously had been assigned, followed her — sort of.
Keith started showing up in the prosecutors’ workroom next to the felony court where Elizabeth worked. Keith says at first he dropped by the workroom to go to lunch with his friend Mark Nancarrow, who was a felony prosecutor in the same court where Elizabeth worked.
“At some point, she started going to lunch with us,” Keith says. “And then I started telling Nancarrow that he was no longer invited to the lunch.”
|Keith Dean and Elizabeth Crowder|
Some men try to impress their dates with fancy restaurants, but Keith is not one of them. He chose an inexpensive East Dallas Mexican restaurant for his first lunch date with Elizabeth in 1990 — the first of many economical lunches with her.
“I’m enough of a gentleman that I’m going to pay but not enough of a gentleman that I’m going to pay for someplace expensive,” Keith laughs.
“They were dives, the places we went to,” Elizabeth says. “There were cockroaches at these restaurants! And at one of them he slammed his napkin down, and I said, ‘It’s a cockroach isn’t it?’ “
“I guess he thought he was getting great bargains and local charm,” Elizabeth says.
Bad restaurants aside, Elizabeth still can’t get enough of Keith.
“I think he’s the funniest, smartest person to be around. When he walks in the room, everything seems more fun,” she says.
And Keith hasn’t met anyone like Elizabeth. “Well, apart from everything, she is one of the finest people I’ve ever met. She’s just a good, intelligent and decent person.”
Keith says there was no “eureka” moment that made him realize he would marry Elizabeth.
“People ask me all of the time: ‘Should they get married or should they not?’ ” he says. “ What I tell them is, ‘If you can’t go a day without seeing a person, and you don’t want to do that, that’s when you know you’ve got the right person.’ “
Elizabeth was the person Keith couldn’t go a day without seeing. She says he asked her to marry him after coming home from a weeknight dinner at the Black-Eyed Pea. “We came back to my apartment, and he said, ‘We ought to get married.’ He didn’t get down on one knee,” she says.
They wed in his courtroom in 1991. Keith now is a criminal-defense solo, and Elizabeth now is judge of Dallas County Criminal Court-at-Law No. 7.
“We’re still giggly,” Keith says. “We’ve had people ask us: ‘You’re newlyweds right?’ And we say: ‘Yeah, it’s been 19 years.’ “
Elizabeth agrees. But she had to put her foot down when it comes to her husband’s cheap restaurant dates.
“There were certain places that I wouldn’t go after we got married,” she says. “He probably still goes to some of those places, but not with me.”
Bill and Maria Boyce
Married 19 Years
It took a year for Bill Boyce to work up the nerve to ask a fellow law school classmate out on a date. But little did he know that his plans for love could have been foiled by Richard Dreyfuss.
|The Wedding Day: Maria and Bill Boyce|
In 1987, Bill Boyce says he approached Maria Wyckoff on the steps of the student union at Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago to ask if she’d like to see the movie “Tin Men.” Maria agreed.
“The point of this was to go out with Maria, not see a movie,” Bill says of the film starring Dreyfuss and Danny DeVito in a tale about a pair of aluminum siding salesmen. “We laugh now because at the time, she told me she liked the movie. But she told me later that she detests Richard Dreyfuss.”
“Actually, I think it was several years into our marriage,” Maria says.
The couple went out for drinks after seeing “Tin Men” and forgot all about Dreyfuss. They learned they had the same views on politics, religion, marriage and children — things that mattered more than the acting ability of the guy who also starred in “Jaws” and “The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz.”
“We were very, very much on the same wavelength from day one and still are,” Maria says. “We see the world in a very similar way. It’s so funny, we are just so compatible on all of the big issues of life. It sounds so corny.”
|Emily, Bill, Maria and Julia Boyce|
After they graduated in 1988, Bill and Maria had no doubt they wanted to be together. But the pair received job offers in different cities: Bill became a clerk for 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Eugene Davis in Lafayette, La., and Maria became an associate with Baker Botts in Houston.
“We did the I-10 commute while I was in Lafayette and she was in Houston,” Bill says. “We did that drive quite a lot, going both ways.”
On one of those visits to Houston in 1989, Bill asked Maria to take a stroll along a green space on the campus of Rice University for no apparent reason.
“I think she may have suspected the purpose of our visit to Rice that day. She’s pretty quick on the uptake,” Bill says. “I proposed to her on the campus. . . . And happily, she said ‘yes.’ “
The love commute ended when Bill started a job later that year as an associate with the Houston office of Fulbright & Jaworski. The couple married in 1990.
Firm life can be tough on newlyweds, especially when both spouses work many hours at large firms. But it worked out for Bill and Maria.
“We both had extremely busy times arise. But they usually seemed to alternate,” Bill says. “When you add children to the equation, it becomes a lot more challenging to manage the time demands. But it seemed like when one of us was busy that the other one was able to pick up the slack.”
The Boyces have two daughters: Emily, 15, and Julia, 11.
Bill was appointed to Houston’s 14th Court of Appeals in 2007, and Maria now is the partner in charge of the Houston office of Baker Botts.
Bill is finding out that his work schedule as a judge is more manageable because he doesn’t have to travel out of state any longer, as he frequently did when he was a partner in Fulbright.
“I’m teaching driving to a sophomore,” Bill says. “Time marches on.”
And Bill is still the sweet, even-tempered guy she married 20 years ago, Maria says.
“What you see is what you get with Bill, absolutely,” Maria says. “He’s very thoughtful and very kind and very smart.”
Bill says that although their lives have changed over the past two decades, his love for Maria hasn’t.
“It’s still grounded on the mutual love and respect that it always has,” Bill says of his marriage. “The demands on us are different, but that part is still the same.”
Jim and Allyson Ho
Married Five Years
Jim Ho seemingly was oblivious to Allyson Newton when he stopped by a table of friends sitting in the student lounge of the University of Chicago Law School in the late 1990s. He didn’t notice her sitting at the table but should have.
|The Wedding Day: Allyson and Jim Ho|
“A friend of hers and a fellow 1L had asked me for an outline. I stopped by their table and gave it to him,” Jim says. “And she makes fun of me for not noticing her and not having done anything. . . . I’m sure I was just focused on getting to class. And I’m sure I was in a hurry to get to class,” he says.
But Jim soon noticed Allyson when they both became involved in student politics and worked on the University of Chicago Law Review during law school.
“I have to admit I always thought she was hot. But that’s self-evident,” Jim says. Still, he didn’t ask her out while they were in law school.
But they did become friends — best friends.
“I think in our case, we simply had developed a friendship based on shared interests,” Allyson says. “We really enjoy the performing arts, symphony, ballet and opera. We both — and this sounds really nerdy — but we both really enjoy reading.”
|Allyson and Jim Ho|
Jim graduated a year before Allyson and left for a clerkship with 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Jerry Smith in Houston in 1999. After her graduation in 2000, Allyson also moved to Houston to become a summer associate with Fulbright & Jaworski.
That’s when Jim decided to make his move. “It’s sort of one of those things that if you’re really, really good with someone and you know them real well, you figure out you really ought to try this.”
He finally called Allyson to ask her out on a date. Specifically, he asked her to join him for an evening at the Houston Ballet.
“I bought tickets to the first event that was available once she landed back in Houston. I hope I didn’t overdo it, but it was ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ ” Jim says. “ That really was the first event.”
After the first date in Houston, Jim and Allyson began careers tracks that eventually brought them together in Washington, D.C. Both became clerks for U.S. Supreme Court justices, Allyson with Sandra Day O’Connor in 2002, and Jim with Clarence Thomas in 2005.
“That was when our relationship started to become more serious,” Allyson says. And while love blossomed between the couple in the nation’s capital, D.C. loved them back. After they completed their clerkships, Jim and Allyson added an impressive list of government and firm jobs to their résumés that most young lawyers would kill for. For example, Jim worked as chief counsel to U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Allyson worked as special assistant to the president for domestic policy during the George W. Bush administration. “A theme of our relationship is we’ve been engaged in common endeavors,” Allyson says.
Jim proposed to Allyson at The Inn at Little Washington in 2002, a Northern Virginia restaurant that’s so popular for proposals, there were 14 of them the previous Valentine’s Day. They married in 2004.
“She said ‘yes’ immediately. I won my case,” Jim says.
Jim and Allyson made their way back to Texas in 2006, settling in Dallas where they bought a house and both worked at large firms. Two years later, Jim replaced Ted Cruz as Texas solicitor general, while Cruz, now a partner in Morgan Lewis & Bockius, recruited Allyson to join his firm as a partner in Houston.
“We’ve joked with Ted that he’s responsible for 100 percent of our household income,” Jim says.
The couple now has a commuter marriage, living in Dallas on the weekends while Jim is in Austin during the workweek and Allyson is in Houston.
“It’s certainly challenging,” Allyson says. “We much prefer, obviously, being in the same city, but I’m so proud of Jim of having the opportunity that he does to represent the state of Texas in appellate courts.”
Russ and Emily Falconer
Married Five Years
Russ and Emily Falconer’s relationship has withstood challenges that would dismantle lesser couples. For example, consider how they met in 1995.
|The Wedding Day: Emily and Russ Falconer|
“We were on the high school debate team, the birthplace of any great romance,” Russ says.
Lucky for him, Russ says, Emily Baker was assigned by a teacher at Highland Park High School as Russ’ debate partner instead of as an opponent.
“I have the good sense to know that it would never be a good idea to compete with someone like Emily,” Russ says.
“We never debated each other. And we don’t do a lot of arguing amongst ourselves. We save that for others,” Emily says.
The pair became fast friends, she says.
“From early on in our friendship in high school, we’d be on the phone talking about debate stuff, and we just talked about everything,” Emily says. “We just really like each other.”
Little did they know that the high school pairing would lead to an enduring partnership.
|Emily and Russ Falconer|
Russ graduated from high school in 1996 and headed to Atlanta to attend Emory University. Emily graduated in 1997 and attended The University of North Texas in Denton. Their paths crossed a couple of years later, when they ran into each other in Dallas while both were home on winter break visiting family in 1999.
“We bumped into each other in a bar. We were both 21. And I think I asked her out the next day,” Russ says. “I thought she was very cute. And she is really smart. I always really, really liked her, and we got along really, really well. It just kind of happened. I’m glad it happened because if it had happened earlier, knowing my younger self, I would have found a way to screw it up.”
Emily was glad Russ asked her out.
“I guess it was always something I always thought about,” Emily says. “And it came back into my head when we ran into each other. It was kind of an idea that was rekindled.”
So they met for coffee because “coffee shops were still very cool,” Emily says. Both knew early on that their relationship likely would lead to marriage, Emily says.
“When we started dating, we knew. We were really young. And after a few months, we started talking about it,” she says.
After graduation, both moved to Berkeley, Calif., for work in 2001 — Russ was a debate coach who also worked as an investigator for a law firm; Emily worked for a test preparation company and as a paralegal for a law firm.
They returned to Texas a few years later, so Emily could earn a master’s degree in English literature at the University of Texas in Austin. While in Austin, Russ worked as a journalist for the Austin American-Statesman .
They lived together in an apartment in the warehouse district in downtown Austin. And in March 2004, during the South by Southwest Music Festival, Emily say Russ asked her to make their arrangement permanent.
“We had friends coming into town, and we were seeing shows. It was an uneventful night, and he decided to pop the question” in their apartment, Emily says. “It was St. Patrick’s Day. It really wasn’t significant. It was really more of a coincidence.”
But it was significant to their friends, Emily says. “We really didn’t surprise anyone. We were met with a chorus of ‘I can’t believe it took this long!’ “
They married on New Year’s Day 2005.
Both soon realized that if Emily pursued work in academia and Russ continued in journalism, their careers would likely take them to different cities. So they both decided to pursue the same career: law. In 2006, they enrolled in the University of Texas School of Law.
Russ and Emily knew the stress of law school could put pressure on their marriage. Out of a first-year class of 450, there were only two or three married couples, they say.
“We joked before we went that doing this together would be the best thing we’ve ever done or the worst thing we’d ever done,” Russ says. “And it turned out to be great. We were in different sections, so we weren’t competing against each other.”
Emily says, “Actually, it worked out beautifully. We were both really nervous about it. You hear that the first year is stressful. It actually ended up being really fun. It might have been different if one of us hadn’t enjoyed law school as much as the other.”
Emily was editor in chief of the Texas Law Review , and Russ was recognized as the Grand Chancellor for having the highest grade point average for his first and second years of law school.
After graduation in 2009, both moved to Dallas. Russ clerks for Senior U.S. District Judge A. Joe Fish, and Emily clerks for U.S. District Judge David Godbey. In August, the couple will head back to Austin to clerk for 5th Circuit judges, Russ for Senior Judge Patrick Higginbotham and Emily for Judge Fortunato “Pete” Benavides.
“We really didn’t have a plan to make that happen. It just worked out that way. We’ve been really lucky,” Emily says.
Russ is interested in appellate law and wants to work for a large firm, while Emily would like to become a prosecutor and eventually work at a firm handling white-collar cases.
What makes Russ and Emily’s marriage work is they always put each other first, Russ says.
“I think we both really want to see the other person succeed. And we both try to support each other professionally,” Russ says. “We have both been happy to go to law school, and we both feel comfortable with how things are going professionally. But we both put our personal lives first.”
Their future is bright. “It is so exciting,” Emily says.