It’s office-opening season at Winstead and Thompson & Knight, as both firms have launched new operations outside the Lone Star State.

Winstead hired three litigators for its office in The Woodlands and a fourth to open the firm’s ninth office in New Orleans on Oct. 1.

Paul Lavelle is managing shareholder of the new Big Easy office. Shareholder Richard “Rick” Simses and of counsel Charles Miers and Jon Vicklund started work on Sept. 24 in Winstead’s office in The Woodlands. All four lawyers came from Beirne, Maynard & Parsons of Houston. They do energy, environmental and commercial litigation, and admiralty law.

Tom Hutcheson, chairman of Winstead’s energy and environmental law practice, says the group is a plus for the firm because Winstead has a number of clients that regularly do business in Louisiana or offshore Louisiana, and many Texas clients are involved in litigation in Louisiana. “We believe that opening a Louisiana office with seasoned Louisiana trial lawyers like Paul Lavelle and Rick Simses will enable us to provide better and broader legal service to our clients. At the same time, we are adding significant admiralty law expertise to our firm,” he says.

Simses says he and Lavelle were roommates in law school at Loyola University College of Law in New Orleans, and they both have done a lot of work in Louisiana over the years, although Lavelle officed in New Orleans and he was in Houston.

Simses says the move to Winstead was in part a quality of life change for him, because he lives in The Woodlands and is enjoying the short commute. However, from a practice perspective, Simses says his group’s admiralty law practice and experience in Louisiana brings a lot to the table at Winstead. “The firm has Texas-based clients with operations in Louisiana that we can help out a lot in and we add another dimension,” Simses says.

Simses says the group’s clients include FMC Technologies, Chartis (a unit of AIG) and Swiss Re.

Winstead has 298 lawyers with Texas offices in Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio and The Woodlands; Charlotte, N C., Washington, D.C., and New Orleans.

Brit Brown, managing partner of Beirne, Maynard, says the firm enjoyed having the four lawyers at the firm and it wishes them the “very best of luck at their new firm.” Despite Lavelle’s departure, Brown says, “The plan is for that office [New Orleans] to stay open.”

Hello L.A.

Dallas-based Thompson & Knight opened a two-lawyer office in Los Angeles on Oct. 1. Shelly Youree, a tax and executive compensation partner from the firm’s Dallas office, is heading the L.A. office, says Emily A. Parker, managing partner of the 330-lawyer firm.

Youree is joined by counsel Bruce Zabarauskas, formerly a litigator with Crowell & Moring, Parker says.

The L.A. office will support the firm’s litigation, capital markets and securities-backed real estate business, Parker says. “We’re going to start small and grow to probably a maximum of six lawyers in the next three to eight months, and we’ll see where it goes after that.”

Parker says the firm opened the California office to meet the needs of specific clients, but she declines to name those clients.

The firm now has 10 offices located in Austin; Dallas; Houston; Fort Worth; Algiers, Algeria; Detroit; London; Los Angeles; Monterrey, Mexico; and New York.

“Having a Thompson & Knight partner resident is important to us,” Parker says. “It improves the synergies between offices when you have someone who is a long-term Thompson & Knight partner.”