Rising client demands and a market offering abundant lateral hiring opportunities helped swell the number of lawyers at two Texas firms by more than 40 percent during 2012. Meanwhile, percentage drops at firms losing lawyers were much lower than they were two years ago in 2010. Those are just two of the snapshots that emerged from this year’s Texas Lawyer list of the largest firms in Texas. [See charts, below.]

Both firms with the largest percentage jumps in head count are in Dallas. Quilling, Selander, Lownds, Winslett & Moser primarily serves clients such as insurance companies, financial institutions and construction companies.Munck Wilson Mandala specializes in working with technology companies.

Quilling, Selander leapt from an average lawyer count of 48 in 2011 to 68 in 2012.

"It kind of snuck up on us," says Steven Lownds, a founding partner. "It’s just something that happened as a function of the marketplace."

When comparing lawyer counts for calendar years 2012 and 2011, Quilling, Selander and Munck Wilson have the highest percentage growth rates — 41.7 and 41.2 percent respectively — among the 102 firms on Texas Lawyer‘s list of the largest firms in the state.  The lawyer tallies are average fulltime equivalents (FTEs) for the calendar years. The firms are ranked according to the number of lawyers in their Texas offices. There are 102 firms on the list because five firms tied for 98th position.

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"Right now, financial institutions are a really big source of work," Lownds says. "They seem to be sending more and more work in our direction, because they are getting top quality service at a very reasonable rate."

The business is generated by the economic fallout from the recession that began in 2008 and resulted in distressed assets such as huge portfolios of underperforming mortgage loans, says Mike Quilling, a founding partner.

"It took a while for the first wave to reach us," Quilling says. "We had to keep hiring people at the junior level [associates] to service that work."

Lownds notes that there are many lawyers with a few years of experience available in the marketplace.

"With the economy, there are a lot more associates than there are jobs," Lownds says.

Also, the firm decided in 2011 to augment its practice areas with labor and employment expertise; so, during 2012, it added four lateral labor and employment partners to the firm, Quilling says.

"It’s an area where we had a lot of client need but didn’t have the ability," he says.

Although the firm is always open to lawyers with books of business who are looking to make a lateral move, Quilling says the firm is not expecting another dramatic jump in firm size during 2013.

"I don’t see us having explosive growth this year unless something comes up from a business standpoint that demands it," Quilling says.

The number of lawyers at Munck Wilson climbed from 34 to 48 during 2012, as the firm added lawyers in several areas, including corporate transactions, intellectual property, and patent and general commercial litigation, says managing partner William Munck.

"We are a one-stop shop for high tech companies," he says. "We’ve done a lot of work in gaming and general technology transactions over the past year," Munck says.

A healthy technology sector and the firm’s ability to keep prices lower than its competitors drove business during the year, he says.

"We’re able to be more dynamic when it comes to fee arrangements, and we have the ability to charge less than larger competitors because our overhead structure is more controlled and is lower. Having one location makes a big difference," Munck says."

He says the firm is attractive to lawyers who are entrepreneurial and he expects the firm’s lawyer ranks to continue to expand during 2013.

"We’re a medium-sized firm," he says. "Even though we’re in a single location, with the Internet, we have clients internationally, in the Pacific Rim and Europe, as well as the U.S."

Growing, Shrinking

Unlike two years ago when some firms on "The Texas 100" had decreased their lawyer counts by as much as 26.7 percent [See chart "Fastest Shrinking Firms During 2010," Texas Lawyer, April 25, 2011, p. 32], on this year’s list lawyer-count shrinkage topped out at 10.9 percent.

The biggest firm in the group of five firms with the highest percentage drops in lawyer count is Houston-based Vinson & Elkins. Because of its size, V&E’s lawyer-count decrease of 10 percent translates to 49 lawyers. More than half of that drop in FTE count is related to the firm’s public finance practice group, which moved to Bracewell & Giuliani, says Tom Leatherbury, chairman of the firm’s talent management committee. The remaining decrease is normal attrition, with some lawyers going in house or to government services or starting their own firms, he says.

Leatherbury says the firm has 63 first-year associates joining its Texas offices in the fall of 2013.

"There is no magic number," he says. "We need to have the right number of and the right type of lawyers to represent our clients in top-notch fashion. Sometimes we need a few more, sometimes a few less."

 

Fastest Growing Firms During 2012 
Firm name Texas Lawyers 2012 Texas Lawyers 2011 Increased No. of Lawyers Percent Change
Quilling, Selander, Lownds, Winslett & Moser 68 48 20 41.70%
Munck Wilson Mandala 48 34 14 41.20%
Conley Rose 46 36 10 27.80%
Atlas, Hall & Rodriguez 38 32 6 18.80%
Walsh, Anderson, Gallegos, Green & Treviño 57 48 9 18.80%
Note: Lawyer counts are average full-time equivalents (FTEs) for firms’ Texas offices during calendar years 2012 and 2011.
Source: The firms and staff research
Texas Lawyer, April 2013

 

Fastest Shrinking Firms During 2012

 
Firm name Texas Lawyers 2012 Texas Lawyers 2011 Decreased No. of Lawyers Percent Change
Hartline Dacus Barger Dreyer 41 46 -5 -10.90%
Jones Day* 189 212 -23 -10.80%
Cox Smith Matthews 117 131 -14 -10.70%
Vinson & Elkins 441 490 -49 -10.00%
Beirne, Maynard & Parsons 55 61 -6 -9.80%
Note: Lawyer counts are average full-time equivalents (FTEs) for firms’ Texas offices during calendar years 2012 and 2011.
*Firm is not based in Texas
Source: The firms and staff research
Texas Lawyer, April 2013

 

The 10 Firms With the Most Lawyers in Texas
 
Rank Firm Texas Lawyers 2012
1 Fulbright & Jaworski 459
2 Vinson & Elkins 441
3 Baker Botts 398
4 Haynes and Boone 368
5 Jackson Walker 328
6 Andrews Kurth 300
7 Bracewell & Giuliani 299
8 Locke Lord 297
9 Winstead 265
10 Thompson & Knight 254
Note: Lawyer counts are average full-time equivalents (FTEs) for firms’ Texas offices during calendar year 2012.
Source: The firms and staff research
Texas Lawyer, April 2013