ATTORNEY OF THE YEAR NOMINEES
MANAGING PARTNER, FITZPATRICK HAGOOD SMITH & UHL, DALLAS
WITH A WIDE-RANGING PRACTICE IN BOTH civil and criminal law, and in federal and state courts, one of Dan Hagood’s signature cases of the year was his successful defense of Dallas County District Attorney Susan Hawk from an attempt to remove her from office.
The removal petition filed in civil district court alleged incompetence and official misconduct featuring paranoia, misuse of public funds and the firing of key employees she believe were conspiring against her. She was also missing from the office for lengthy periods of time.
By all accounts, the DA was not well. Hawk said she was depressed, and considered resigning from office and even committing suicide. Hawk said she got help.
Hagood, managing partner for Dallas’ Fitzpatrick Hagood Smith & Uhl, assembled a team and led her defense.
With him were litigators Charla Aldous and Brent Walker of Dallas’ Aldous \ Walker. Also on the team were former Texas Supreme Court Justice Wallace Jefferson, Doug Alexander and Jennifer Josephson, all from Alexander Dubose Jefferson & Townsend.
“Everybody on the team was a better lawyer than I’ll ever be,” Hagood said, adding of Aldous, “A better litigator you’ll never find.”
Arguments in the case included questions on the reach of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The defense said her depression and treatment did not affect her ability to do the job.
Each side presented affidavits from employees and former employees of the DA’s office, speaking for and against her competence and actions.
“They had law, we had law,” Hagood said. “That’s why we have a courthouse.”
The petition was dismissed, without further comment from visiting Judge David Peeples, thus stopping the case from going to trial.
“This is why I love the legal system—the truth came out,” Hawk said of the result.
PARTNER, BRAZIL & DUNN, HOUSTON
OVER ONE MILLION AFRICAN-AMERICAN and Latino voters will have an easier time voting in the 2016 general election. And they should thank Houston attorney Chad Dunn as they pick up their “I Voted” sticker on the way out the voting booth this November.
Dunn pulled off a huge victory in July when he convinced the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit—widely considered to be one of the nation’s most conservative courts—that Texas’ Voter ID law had a discriminatory impact on minority voters.
That law, also known as SB 14, required voters to bring a Texas driver’s license, a Texas election identification card, a Texas personal identification card, a Texas license to carry a concealed handgun, a U.S. military identification card, a U.S. citizenship certificate or a U.S. passport before they could vote.
Dunn represented a group of plaintiffs in Veasey v. Abbott, who argued that all of those IDs are difficult for people with limited means to obtain and have the effect of keeping some minority voters away from the polls.
Dunn previously won favorable rulings before a trial court judge and a panel of three Fifth Circuit judges in Veasey. But when the Fifth Circuit decided to rehear the case before the full court last year, his chances of preserving those victories was much less certain. Dunn, who’s also served as general counsel to the Democratic Party of Texas for a decade, had to argue before an appellate court dominated by judges appointed by Republican former Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.
“I’ve argued at the Fifth Circuit more than a dozen times and been in front of all of the active judges,” said Dunn. He noted that Judge Edith Jones—one of the Fifth Circuit’s most conservative judges—interrupted him early during his argument and paid him a compliment in the process.
“She said ‘Mr. Dunn, I always enjoy your arguments,’” said Dunn who ultimately prevailed in a plurality opinion. “I’ve built up some credibility with the judges that don’t agree with me.”
The decision in Veasey was a strong rebuke to the voter ID law passed by a Republican-dominated Texas Legislature that insisted the law was needed to combat voter fraud in the state. And Dunn successfully argued to the court that voter fraud doesn’t really exist in Texas.
“These are obviously strong legal minds. They are not going to be tricked into doing something that’s not the right solution. But in all of the times I’ve been before the court, I’ve tried not to tell the court something that isn’t true,” Dunn said. “And I prepare and know the relevant questions and I admit weaknesses.”
“But another thing is this was a solution in search of a problem,” Dunn said of the voter ID law. “This was something the state never needed.”
Weeks after the ruling in Veasey, federal courts in Wisconsin, Ohio and South Dakota cited the decision in halting the use of those state’s voter ID laws. And last month, Dunn negotiated an agreement with the state that will allow Texans to present much easier to obtain documents, such as a utility bill, that will allow them to vote in the 2016 presidential election.
MANAGING PARTNER, YETTERCOLEMAN, HOUSTON
PAUL AND PATTI YETTER’S SEVEN SONS range in age from 18 to 31 years, now.
But those boys were each 11 years younger, seven to 20 years, when Paul, the managing partner in YetterColeman in Houston, determined his litigation boutique firm would focus its pro bono efforts on a big impact case to achieve a victory for as many other children as possible.
“It was obvious after looking around foster care was the right choice,” recalled Yetter.
His insight and initiative back then have come to fruition this year.
Yetter led a team of pro bono counsel in a class action of 12,000 foster care children who sued the state for violating their Fourteenth Amendment due-process rights. In late 2015, U.S. District Judge Janis Jack in Corpus Christi found that the state violated the plaintiffs’ rights to be free from unreasonable risk of harm caused by the state. After years of discovery, two rounds of class certification, and two interlocutory appeals, the case had culminated in a two-week trial before Jack. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit denied the state’s attempt to stay the ruling.
This year, Jack appointed two independent special masters to craft targeted reforms and oversee their implementation, which Yetter and state officials are cooperat-ing to develop foster care reform recommendations.
We think we have a lifetime chance to help thousands of children,” Yetter
said about his firm’s decision to pursue the case. “We have never had a second thought.”
What about his own boys who heard about the litigation at the dinner table? “Our guys have always known about the foster case,” Yetter said about his sons. Undoubtedly, Yetter has made them proud to be sons to a care-taking parent who has cared for so many children who didn’t have that advantage.
FOUNDING PARTNER, BAILEY PEAVY BAILEY COWAN HECKAMAN, BEAUMONT
KEN BAILEY, FOUNDING PARTNER IN Bailey Peavy Bailey Cowan Heckaman, typically works behind the scenes on mass torts and personal injury litigation.
“Throughout my career my primary niche was negotiating,” said Bailey, 69.
After receiving his law degree from the University of Houston in 1972, Bailey worked as an in-house attorney for General Crude Oil Co.
In 1983, Bailey joined Provost Umphrey in Beaumont, representing clients who had suffered lung injuries and cancers as a result of asbestos exposure. He helped settle two famous class actions, Jenkins v. Raymark Industries in 1986 and Cimino v. Raymark Industries in 1991, which led to settlement of thousands of asbestos-related claims for numerous firms throughout Texas. After Raymark announced it would file for bankruptcy the next day if the Jenkins plaintiffs didn’t accept its settlement offer, Bailey negotiated all night to reach a settlement with another group of defendants, which he said allowed the acceptance of the Raymark settlement proposal.
In 1994, Bailey co-founded Williams Bailey, one of five firms that then-Texas Attorney General Dan Morales hired in 1995 to represent the state in its suit against major tobacco interests. Bailey was among the attorneys who negotiated the settlement reached in 1998 in State of Texas v. The American Tobacco Co. Totaling $17.3 billion, it was the largest single civil litigation settlement in history at the time.
Bailey founded Bailey Peavy Bailey in 2005 and has continued representing plaintiffs in personal injury and products liability cases. In July 2015, the South Carolina Supreme Court affirmed Bailey’s victory in State ex rel. Alan Wilson v. Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals, one of several suits in which he represented a state against the drug manufacturer. The court reduced the penalty against Janssen and its parent company Johnson & Johnson from $327 million to $124 million.
Samuel F. Baxter
PRINCIPAL, MCKOOL SMITH, MARSHALL AND DALLAS
A WIDE-RANGING CAREER EVENTUALLY led Sam Baxter, now a principal with McKool Smith who works primarily out of the Marshall office, to be a leader in intellectual property litigation.
On appeal at this time is Harman v. Trinity Industries, sitting favorably for Baxter with a $700 million-plus judgment for his client, whistleblower Joshua Harman. The False Claims Act case against Trinity involves allegations the company made dangerous changes to the design of highway guardrails without approval from the Federal Highway Administration.
And there’s ongoing litigation in TiVo Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., et al, with Baxter representing TiVo in a patent infringement case. Baxter already won in cases against Echostar and others with verdicts affirmed on appeal. In a case affirmed on appeal, he successfully landed a $386 million judgment in Versata v. SAP, a patent infringement case involving software use for retailing and warehousing.
There are many more examples for this 1970 graduate of the University of Texas School of Law. A debater in high school, Baxter says a legal career “Seemed like the thing to do … I was talking early and often.”
From 1971 to 1974 he was First Assistant District Attorney in Harrison County. Baxter was the DA from 1974 to 1985. He then took to the bench as a State District Judge for the next four years.
“Then I realized that I was the lowest paid lawyer in the courtroom,” Baxter said. “So I decided to go into private practice.”
He started in Marshall with Jones, Jones & Curry doing personal injury work from 1989 to 1995. McKool Smith came after that.
And in 1996, a lawyer with a patent case asked Baxter to help. Something clicked, IP work got into his head and he ran with it.
FOUNDER, COGDELL LAW FIRM, HOUSTON
A CATTLE PROD DISPLAYED IN A CASE in the anteroom to Houston criminal defense attorney Dan Cogdell’s law office is a reminder of the lengths to which he will go in defending clients.
Prior to the 1986 “Texas Slave Ranch” trial in Kerrville, Cogdell acclimated himself to being shocked to disprove a medical examiner’s finding that a man whose body had been badly burned had died of a heart attack brought on by being tortured with a cattle prod. Cogdell said he wanted to impress attorney Richard “Racehorse” Haynes, with whom he represented rancher Walter Wesley Ellebracht Sr., one of three defendants accused of violating Texas organized crime laws when they kidnapped and tortured four men.
“I paraded around the courtroom like a rooster, shocking myself,” Cogdell said.
The 198th District Court jury found Ellebracht guilty of conspiring to commit aggravated kidnapping, but he was placed on probation. Two other defendants received prison sentences.
It’s just one of many victories Cogdell, 59, has won for clients during almost 34 years of practicing law. After graduating from South Texas College of Law in 1982, Cogdell clerked for Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Presiding Judge John Onion and worked at Haynes & Fullenweider before founding the Cogdell Law Firm in 1988.
His wins include the 1994 acquittal of Branch Davidian survivor Clive Doyle, one of 11 defendants charged with conspiracy, murder and attempted murder of federal law enforcement officers involved in the botched raid prior to the fiery destruction of the cult’s compound near Waco, and the 2004 acquittal of former Enron Corp. accountant Sheila Kahanek of charges she conspired to commit wire fraud and falsified records, books and accounts related to a sham sale of a Nigerian barge. Kahanek was the only defendant of the six indicted for the faked sale to be acquitted.
Cogdell is currently lead counsel for Texas AG Ken Paxton in a high-profile securities fraud case in Collin County.
PARTNER, HAYNES AND BOONE, DALLAS
WHEN NINA CORTELL WAS FRESH OUT OF college and joined Haynes and Boone, she became the firm’s first female attorney.
That was in 1976. She’s been carving a path for women in law ever since.
She’s the co-founder of the Center for Women in Law at the University of Texas School of Law, which, as its website says, “is devoted to enhancing the success of women in law and serves as a national resource to convene leaders, generate ideas, and lead change.” The Dallas Women Lawyers Association’s gave her the Louise B. Raggio Award for significant contributions toward the advancement of women in the legal profession.
She’s also now a partner at the firm’s Dallas office and the recipient of multiple awards for her ethics and professionalism. Cortell received the 2013 Jack Pope Professionalism Award, given by the Texas Center for Legal Ethics to an attorney or judge who “personifies the highest standards of professionalism and integrity in
the field of law.” She’s also one of Texas Lawyer’s Winning Women 2014, awarded after she helped secure a $535 million final judgment for Energy Transfer Partners in a pipeline partnership dispute—believed to be the largest civil judgment awarded by a Dallas state court judge up to that time.
This year, the Texas Bar Foundation honored her with the 2016 Gregory S. Coleman Outstanding Appellate Lawyer Award. The award, established in 2011, recognizes attorneys with an outstanding appellate practice who also demonstrate their commitment to providing legal services for the underserved and mentoring young attorneys and exhibit “a strong moral compass to guide both professional and personal pursuits.”
IN MORE THAN A QUARTER CENTURY in the state Senate, Rodney Ellis has crafted a legacy as a champion for education, health care, economic development, voter rights, and reforms in the justice system.
Representing the 13th senate district including downtown Houston and Fort Bend County since 1990, Ellis has served on the Senate State Affairs, Transportation, and Business & Commerce committees; and chaired the Senate Finance, Jurisprudence, Government Organization, Intergovernmental Relations, and Open Government committees.
Ellis chairs the board of directors for the Innocence Project and co-chairs the National Conference of State Legislatures Task Force on International Relations. He also serves on the National Conference of State Legislatures Executive Committee, the LBJ Foundation Board of Trustees, and the Council on Foreign Relations.
Legislation he authored created the TEXAS Grant program, which has given more than 115,000 students over $648 million to help pay for college; the Texas Capital Access Fund, which provided up to $140 million in private lending to small businesses and nonprofit organizations; and the three-day, back-to-school sales tax holiday.
He is the author of the “Motor Voter” legislation, the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act, the Free Flow of Information Act, the Texas Fair Defense Act, which overhauled the Texas indigent defense system; and the “Michael Morton Act,” requiring prosecutors to disclose documents or information that could raise questions about a defendant’s guilt.
He also founded the Texas Legislative Internship Program, offering college students the opportunity to serve as interns in state and local government. So far, more than 650 students have participated, including three current members of the Texas House of Representatives.
Otway B. Denny Jr.
PARTNER, NORTON ROSE FULBRIGHT, HOUSTON
OTWAY B. DENNY JR., HOUSTON PARTNER in Norton Rose Fulbright, has made a career out of defending corporate clients embroiled in litigation over catastrophic events.
“Any sort of big catastrophic event, we got involved in,” 66-year-old Denny said.
After earning his J.D. from Baylor Law School, Denny began his law career in 1973 at Fulbright & Jaworski, which merged with Norton Rose in 2013. He has been with the firm throughout his career.
One of Denny’s recent high-profile victories came in 2013 when the first of almost 48,000 claims against client BP over alleged pollution-related injuries stemming from the 2010 release of toxic chemicals at BP’s former Texas City Refinery went to trial in the 56th District Court in Galveston County. The jury found in In re: MDL Litigation Regarding Texas City Refinery Ultracracker Emissions Event Litigation that BP negligently caused the toxic-gas release but rejected the plaintiffs’ claims that the fumes caused injuries.
“The jury didn’t think they got injured,” said Denny, who was part of a team that worked on the trial case that set the tone for the other claims against BP.
Denny’s most challenging case stemmed from the deaths of four auditors killed in a 1999 terrorist attack while working for Houston-based Union Texas in Karachi, Pakistan. Widows of the slain men filed Enlow, et al. v. Union Texas in Houston’s 281st District Court. In December 1999, the jury found Union Texas was not liable because the risk its employees would be murdered in Pakistan was not reasonably foreseeable at the time of the attack, and the company had taken reasonable steps to ensure their safety.
Describing the case as “very emotional,” Denny said he had to find experts and witnesses for something that happened in Pakistan.
“It was not your run-of-the-mill case,” he said.
SENIOR PARTNER, FULLENWEIDER WILHITE, HOUSTON
HE’S RENOWNED FOR HIS FAMILY LAW practice and as a leader in the field, but that’s not how it started for Donn Fullenweider.
The senior partner for Houston’s Fullenweider Wilhite wasn’t supposed to be a lawyer at first. A test in high school sent him to journalism.
“I kind of got funneled into it,” Fullenweider said. But as a student at the University of Houston, he saw that it wasn’t working. More tests suggested law school. He switched gears and found himself.
Fullenweider’s degree from the University of Houston Law Center came in 1958. He clerked for litigator Fred Parks during school and joined him until 1965. Then Fullenweider joined forces with Richard “Racehorse” Haynes for 24 years, working the civil side while Haynes handled criminal matters.
“Somehow, I started morphing into family law,” Fullenweider said. The cases came his way and he liked them, though he says most lawyers didn’t because of the contention that so often comes mixed with emotions and anger. “You’re not trained for that in law school.”
But Fullenweider found he had skills in that area and with helping “legal issues and life issues” involving separations, divorce, custody battles and more.
“I don’t deal with anybody who isn’t crying,” he said. “It drains you a lot.”
Fullenweider started his own firm in 1989. Along the way he also founded the Texas Bar’s litigation section and served as its first chairman. He’s a founding fellow of the International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and is former president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, among other accomplishments.
He’s received numerous awards. Among them, the Texas Bar Foundation this year selected him for an Outstanding 50-Year Lawyer Award and Texas Lawyer in 2010 named him one of the 25 Greatest Lawyers of the Past Quarter Century.
SENIOR ATTORNEY, GONZALEZ OLIVIERI, HOUSTON
HAVING WON TWO IMPORTANT CASES at the U.S. Supreme Court, Raed Gonzalez and his firm are on the front lines of immigration law.
The senior attorney and founder of Houston’s Gonzalez Olivieri had his first win in 2008. Dada v. Mukasey forced the Department of Justice and Homeland Security to change regulations for voluntary departures granted in immigration court. The 5-4 ruling gave immigrants who had agreed to voluntarily leave the right to pursue a reopening of their cases so that more information could be presented.
His latest win, 2015′s Mata v. Lynch, expanded on the earlier case. With an 8-1 decision, justices ruled the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal erred when it decided it did not have jurisdiction to review a Board of Immigration Appeals denial of an untimely motion to reopen. It gave aliens another route to judicial appeal and also support for those who said they had earlier received ineffective counsel.
Going after ineffective counsel is not new for Gonzalez.
“Raed has not hesitated to file hundreds of complaints against other attorney’s with the Texas State Bar (often without charge to his client),” wrote Sheridan Green, a shareholder in the firm, in an email nominating Gonzalez for this honor. Some of those “bad actors” lost their licenses, Green reported.
“His lack of hesitation in appropriately and carefully alleging ineffective assistance of counsel has also helped to get dozens of [immigration] cases opened, sometimes more than a decade after the fact.”
Gonzalez was born in Puerto Rico and received his law degree in 1996 from the Inter American University of Puerto Rico, his law firm website said. He did not respond to numerous requests to comment for this story.
FOUNDER, HANKINSON LLP, DALLAS
A SPECIALIST IN APPELLATE LAW AND a former high-level jurist, Deborah Hankinson championed legal help for the poor in a career that started on an entirely different path.
Hankinson was a teacher at first, specializing in special education. She went on to get a master’s degree. But then she balked. The career path in front of her headed out of the classroom and into administration. There was also the reality of teacher pay. When she first started teaching, special education laws had just changed. Those students could not be as easily turned away by districts. Services had to be provided in a least restrictive environment. Laws and how they affected people interested her. So she went to law school, the whole time thinking she may well flunk out.
“Every semester,” Hankinson said of possible failure.
Hankinson graduated at the top of her class from Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law in 1983. Thompson & Knight hired her and she tried cases and practiced appellate law.
In 1995, she was appointed to the Fifth District Court of Appeals in Dallas, later got elected to it and served on the Supreme Court of Texas from 1997 to 2002. Hankinson then returned to private practice and opened up her own firm, Hankinson LLP.
While on the Supreme Court, she helped create the Texas Access to Justice Commission, working to give legal aid to low-income Texans in civil matters, an effort that has assisted thousands.
“It was a very broad initiative … designed to reach out and open a multifront attack on the problem,” she said.
It works to increase pro bono work, raise money for aid programs and more.
Among many awards over the years, Texas Lawyer included her in its 2007 Go-To Guide and as one of its Winning Women in 2011.
John W. Kennedy
MANAGING ATTORNEY FOR LEGAL AID OF NORTHWEST TEXAS, ABILENE
IN A NEARLY 40-YEAR LEGAL CAREER, John W. Kennedy has given his talents to those in need.
In two stints, one at the start of his career and then again on the back end, he committed himself to legal aid service and made a difference for many people.
On the day we spoke with him, Kennedy successfully won an order for an occupational driver’s license for a 28-year-old. The defendant was suspended and in a legal quagmire, and had never had a driver’s license in his life.
It’s the sort of thing he does. Kennedy is a blue-collar lawyer. He worked his way through the South Texas College of Law and got his degree in 1978. Kennedy worked overnight as a train dispatcher, slept during the day and then took his classes in the evening.
“I took a cut in pay to become a lawyer,” he says.
Sheepskin in hand, he took a job in Lubbock with West Texas Legal Services. He moved on after a few years and worked as an assistant DA in Taylor County, then in criminal defense, and then as an assistant attorney general. In 1993, he came back as a managing attorney for West Texas Legal Services, which later rolled into Legal Aid of Northwest Texas.
In addition to divorces and other civil work, one of his big pushes these days is helping people with driver’s license issues. People get suspended, but keep driving anyway, and get suspended again. It’s a hard-to-break chain because they need to drive to work or to pick up kids.
Kennedy wins occupational licenses for them and helps reduce or remove reinstatement fees and surcharges. They get to drive again, legally. Their lives are changed. They no longer fear getting pulled over.
PARTNER, MCGINNIS LOCHRIDGE & KILGORE, AUSTIN
WHEN HIS DREAM OF BEING A SKI BUM IN Colorado didn’t pan out, Pat Lochridge gave law school a try. It turned out to be a good move for Lochridge, who has become known as a bet-the-company litigator.
Lochridge, currently on medical leave from McGinnis Lochridge & Kilgore in Austin, graduated from the University of Texas School of Law in 1976. Over the years, he has represented major oil and gas companies as well as landowners, corporations and individuals in energy litigation.
In 2008, Lochridge won a $21 million verdict for the plaintiffs in Hooks v. Samson Lone Star LP, an oil and gas royalty dispute, but the First Court of Appeals reversed that on the grounds statute of limitations barred the plaintiffs’ fraud claims. The Texas Supreme Court reversed the appeals court Jan. 30, holding that evidence supported the jury’s finding that the defendant’s fraudulent misrepresentations in Texas Railroad Commission filings excused the plaintiffs’ from limitations. The First Court subsequently found the evidence sufficient to support a $17.5 million judgment.
Lochridge’s favorite case involved Laredo hotel owners who he said had to hock family jewels to support themselves.
“During the course of that representation, I came to know the family that built La Posada Hotel. They were dead out busted,” Lochridge said.
His father, McGinnis Lochridge partner Lloyd Lochridge, assisted Lochridge at the 1990 trial of Pan Tex Hotel Corp. and Tom Herring Sr. v. Leo Womack, et al. in which a Webb County jury found the consulting firm Pannell Kerr Forster grossly negligent for reporting that the La Posada Hotel had been mismanaged. After the trial court entered a $24.4 million judgment in favor of the Herring family, the consulting firm’s insurer refused to pay. The firm settled for $6 million, assigning its claim against the insurer. Pat Lochridge filed a bad-faith suit against the insurer that led to a $37 million settlement.
“It was the highlight of my legal career,” he said.
Judge Barbara Lynn
CHIEF DISTRICT JUDGE OF THE NORTHERN DISTRICT, DALLAS
SHE’S FIRST IN MANY WAYS, BUT NOT always.
The first female Chief Judge of a federal district court in Texas, Barbara Lynn moved into that post in May of this year in the Northern District. She was appointed by then-President Bill Clinton to that court and then confirmed in 1999. Lynn graduated first in her class at the Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law in 1976.
Before that, she met her husband, Mike Lynn, at the University of Virginia, as a member of the first coeducational class there. She would become the first female member of the university’s Jefferson Society debaters, when Mike pulled a fast one and called for a vote when many who might have opposed it were not present. Today, her photo hangs in the hall where that group meets. Her husband grouses that his picture should also be there, Lynn said.
After graduating from SMU, Lynn joined Carrington, Coleman, Sloman & Blumenthal in Dallas as the first female associate. She became the first female partner there in 1983 and soon became the first female on the firm’s Executive Committee.
“I’ve never been motivated to be the first of this or the first of that,” Lynn said. But if it sets a positive example for other women in law, she’s good with it. She shares her name with a groundbreaking and famous blues singer, songwriter and guitar player from Beaumont. Lynn was in San Francisco once and saw her name “on every light pole in town” and was taken aback. It turned out the musical Lynn was there to perform.
Barbara Lynn gets beaten on internet searches to this day by the other Barbara Lynn.
“When you Google me, you get her first,” Lynn said.
FOUNDER, MITHOFF LAW, HOUSTON
RICHARD MITHOFF CURRENTLY SITS as appointed lead counsel for Texas counties suing Volkswagen Group of America and Audi of America, alleging violations of the Texas Clean Air Act.
He and his firm, Mithoff Law, were previously hired by Harris County as part of a team working on a $100 million lawsuit, charging the automaker rigged diesel-engine vehicles to cheat emission control tests.
That case is pending as multidistrict litigation in Austin. He previously worked on a $2.2 billion settlement in 1998 against tobacco companies for Texas counties and hospital districts. Mithoff won the first case against silicone breast implant makers in 1977, setting the stage for his firm to reap millions for clients. He and his firm gained verdicts and settlements of more than $1 million in hundreds of personal injury and commercial cases.
Texas Lawyer named him as one of the top five “Go-To” Personal Injury Lawyers in 2002. This year, Texas Watch named him as a Champion of Justice.
“He’s able to communicate with jurors in ways that they understand, that they appreciate,” former partner Tommy Jacks said in a tribute video Texas Watch put together for the award.
Mithoff grew up on To Kill a Mockingbird and Perry Mason.
“I wanted to try cases,” he said.
With a 1971 degree from the University of Texas School of Law, he clerked for U.S. District Judge William Wayne Justice. Mithoff joined forces with Joe Jamail in 1974 in a firm that would become Jamail, Kolius & Mithoff. He started his own firm in 1984, partnered with Jacks from 1986 to 1992, and rebooted his own firm after that. Given the opportunity for a final word about this honor, he thought of Jamail, who died last December.
“I think he would have been very proud,” Mithoff said.
MEDIATOR AND ARBITRATOR, LAW OFFICE OF CHRISTOPHER NOLLAND, DALLAS
CHRISTOPHER NOLLAND IS A PIONEER.
While others find their passion in existing areas of practice, Dallas-based Nolland has been a trailblazer, one of the first in the nation to recognize the need for a new legal specialty dedicated solely to negotiating conflict resolutions. A mediator and arbitrator since 1993, Nolland forged an innovative practitioner’s path that cuts between mediator and litigator—the special settlement counsel.
Unlike a mediator, the settlement counsel serves as the primary negotiator for one of the parties in a dispute, seeking the best settlement possible for his client. In this nonneutral capacity, Nolland has tackled more than 100 cases and developed a national practice involving complex business and fiduciary disputes including major trust and probate litigation, director and officer litigation, and partnership and closely held business litigation.
It now accounts for more than half of his practice.
In addition to his settlement counsel practice, Nolland has handled more than 2,000 mediations and numerous arbitrations focusing on large, complex, multifaceted disputes.
His cases read like a who’s who of Texas’ powerful and wealthy. He has represented a client in a $470 million lawsuit against the Bass family and stepped into estate battles involving one of Harold Simmons’ daughters, one of Mary Kay Ash’s granddaughters, and Houston billionaire Howard Marshall III and Anna Nicole Smith.
He also helped the liquidating trustee and former directors and CEO of BearingPoint Inc. settle their countersuits in the wake of the $2.3 billion consulting firm’s demise, effectively ending a legal battle that appeared destined to go on for years.
And he’s passing those skills on to a new generation of lawyers. He has taught a full semester course on negotiation at SMU Dedman School of Law for nearly two decades.
Gordon J. Quan
MANAGING PARTNER, CO-FOUNDER, QUAN LAW GROUP, HOUSTON
GORDON QUAN HAS BEEN OPENING doors for people for more than 35 years.
As a nationally recognized immigration lawyer, Quan has dedicated his career to giving others the opportunity to achieve the American dream.
It was a passion he discovered through a personal experience.
Quan, the managing partner and co-founder of the Houston-based Quan Law Group, was committed to helping others even before he became a lawyer. He started out as a history teacher at a predominantly African-American school. Then, thinking he might help people more by going into juvenile law, he earned his J.D. in night school.
But he realized the challenges many immigrants face when he sponsored his wife, an international student from Hong Kong, for permanent-resident status.
He’s been helping people with complex and ordinary immigration problems ever since.
Quan has served as chair of the Texas chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and as a member of its national board of governors. He was a founder of the Texas State Bar Association’s Immigration section and chaired the section in 2011. He also is a founding member of the Asian American Bar Association of Houston.
In 1999, he became the first Asian-American to serve as an at-large member of the Houston City Council, and was instrumental in the creation of the city’s Office for Immigration and Refugee Affairs. He also has served as president of the Asian Pacific American Municipal Officials of the National League of Cities.
He’s also on the board of trustees for the South Texas College of Law and on the advisory board of the University of Houston immigration law clinic. In addition, he hosts a weekly radio program on immigration law in which he answers callers’ questions.
SENIOR COUNSEL, RICHARDS, RICHARDS & SKEITH, AUSTIN
DAVID RICHARDS WAS WAITING ON A decision as this story went to press. A federal three-judge panel in San Antonio had yet to issue a ruling in Perez v. Perry, a Texas redistricting dispute.
Richards represented the lead plaintiff, alleging that the state’s house redistricting plan was an unconstitutional political gerrymander that discriminated against minority voters. That’s what he does. And what he’s done in Texas since the 1950s.
The husband of former Texas Gov. Ann Richards works on the front lines of civil rights. He took numerous cases to the U.S. Supreme Court, the Texas Supreme Court and to federal and state appeals courts. Dyson v. Stein led to a 1971 finding that Texas’ obscenity law was unconstitutional. White v. Regester led to single-member districts for the Texas Legislature in 1973. Edgewood v. Kirby found Texas’ public school funding formula unconstitutional in 1989. The list goes on. There’s a successful challenge to an exclusion of student voters (Whatley v. Clark, 1973), restrictions on a student newspaper (Board of Regents of the University of Texas System v. New Left Education Project, 1972), and more.
“I certainly didn’t have a vision,” Richards says of what he’s done as a civil rights lawyer. He saw injustice and wanted to “kick some ass, and that’s what I did.”
A 1957 graduate of the University of Texas School of Law, Richards says there was a sympathetic ear in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals back then. Many on that court were Eisenhower appointees.
“The judiciary is no longer as sympathetic,” he says. “There is no escape valve.”
Richards is now Senior Counsel at Austin-based Richards Rodriguez & Skeith. He’s not the name partner. That’s his son, Dan. Another son, Clark, is also there. His daughter, Cecile, is the National President of Planned Parenthood.
W. Thomas Weir
PARTNER, AKIN GUMP STRAUSS HAUER & FELD, HOUSTON
W. THOMAS WEIR, A HOUSTON PARTNER in Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, decided to become a tax lawyer after discovering that he was not cut out to be a trial attorney.
Weir said he had been licensed to practice law in Texas only two weeks when his McAllen law firm sent him to municipal court for a jury trial.
“I had never seen a jury trial. I didn’t have a feel for a jury trial,” the now 66-year-old Weir said.
Weir, who received a J.D. from the University of Texas School of Law in 1973, said he enrolled in New York University School of Law, receiving an LL.M. in 1977.
A pioneer in the energy tax field, Weir worked on a matter in 1980 in which he created a Netherland Antilles-based corporation that was a drilling fund for foreigners on the Luxembourg Stock Exchange.
“That was kind of the first of its kind,” he said.
Weir participated in the development of the master limited partnership structure that he said was first used in the United States by Apache Corp. in 1981. Since then, he has structured master limited partnerships for a number of energy companies.
An attorney at Akin Gump for 31 years, Weir is frequently called upon to oversee tax aspects of the firm’s high-dollar transactions. In 2015, he represented the Conflicts Committee of Regency Energy Partners in the $18 billion merger of an indirect subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners with and into Regency, which survived as a wholly owned subsidiary of ETP.
One of Weir’s fondest memories is from his representation of a trust that included a school for deaf children as a beneficiary. Weir said he went to Washington, D.C., where he convinced officials to make a change in the windfall profits tax to prevent it from being imposed on the school and similar charitable organizations.
“That one was good for my soul,” Weir said.
Marie R. Yeates
PARTNER, VINSON & ELKINS, HOUSTON
MARIE R. YEATES CALLS HERSELF A “GOOD storyteller.”
Others call her a top-notch appellate attorney and advocate for women lawyers who’s made a lasting impact on her firm and the law.
Yeates helped found Vinson & Elkins’ appellate practice group and its Women’s Initiative, and served as managing partner of its Houston office from 2007 to 2014.
She also has presented some 125 oral arguments in federal and state appellate courts across the country involving commercial disputes, business torts, oil and gas, securities law, class actions, tax, trade secrets, labor law, and condemnation. She has handled matters before the Texas Supreme Court and state courts of appeal, the Louisiana Supreme Court and circuit courts of appeal, the Alabama Supreme Court, the Mississippi Supreme Court, the Wyoming Supreme Court, and multiple federal courts.
Her victories include the reversal of a $100 million judgment in a case involving claims for tortious interference and business disparagement, and a ruling unanimously striking down a procedure used by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission that lowered the rates at which Texas hospitals are reimbursed for providing Medicaid services.
She also gained brief internet fame dancing to Pharrell’s “Happy” in the firm’s “Tartfeasors” YouTube video in 2014—that was designed as a plug for an entry in V&E’s “Titanium Chef” cooking competition.
Her moves in the courtroom have had a more significant impact. Her victories include the precedent-setting Texas Supreme Court victory on behalf of Occidental Petroleum Corp. in 2014 that clarified how a mineral lessee properly calculates oil and gas royalties in an enhanced recovery operation, and a 2004 case of first impression affecting discovery in civil suits.
LAWYERS ON THE RISE
SENIOR ATTORNEY, MARATHON OIL COMPANY, HOUSTON
IN AN INDUSTRY THAT IS EXPERIENCING tremendous change, Avery Carson says she is gratified for the trust she has been afforded, allowing her and colleagues to influence courses of action on the front end.
Carson, a senior attorney for Marathon Oil since 2012, advises on all aspects of environmental law, including transactional and litigation, through the life-cycle of a regulation.
She moved in-house in 2012 from Norton Rose Fulbright (formerly Fulbright & Jaworski). At the time, Marathon was transitioning to accelerated development of the Eagle Ford shale field.
Quickly, Carson spotted the need for an adjustment to the company’s waste contracting strategy. Working with impacted departments, she updated dozens of contracts. She also led a team in responding to an administrative order from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
Since then, Carson has led other teams—reporting to the highest levels of corporate brass—on myriad matters, including administrative, regulatory, enforcement, safety and contracting. She also led Marathon’s preparation for increases of the scope of the government’s jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act. Currently she is preparing for significant revisions to Clean Air Act regulations and rules governing gas gathering lines.
“Sometimes with in-house departments it’s very much, ‘We’ll bring the lawyers in when there’s a problem,’” she says. “Understanding the nuances of the rule and the agency’s intent helps. … There’s a huge amount of change that we can influence.”
Carson also is a child advocate, representing three children whose transient upbringing resulted in limited education. Now in state care, the children are receiving resources to help them catch up to their peers.
Jason D. Cassady
PRINCIPAL, CALDWELL CASSADY & CURRY, DALLAS
JASON CASSADY, A CALDWELL CASSADY & Curry founding partner, has led his firm’s outstanding work in patent infringement and commercial litigation that includes a pair of victories against Apple Inc. totaling more than $1 billion.
The 38-year-old attorney is fully engaged in the growth and development of the firm into one of Dallas’ most respected law practices, according to Robert C. Bunt, a principal of Parker Bunt & Ainsworth.
“Mr. Cassady and his fellow firm principals have established an ‘all for one’ culture that permeates every facet of the work they do,” Bunt said. “All the firm’s attorneys are considered equals regardless of their educational backgrounds or tenure.”
Cassady’s duties include leading his firm’s recruiting and hiring efforts, as well as managing workflow and delegating assignments to the firm’s less-experienced lawyers. He was also responsible for negotiating Caldwell Cassady & Curry’s office lease in
Dallas’ Uptown neighborhood and working with architects to design one of the most modern law offices in the city.
When it comes to preparing for trial, Cassady approaches every case with a clear focus on eventually going before a jury, Bunt said. “That means potential settlements are never discussed unless they are raised by the other side and a client wants to explore that option,” he said. “He also has earned the respect of his peers based on his groundbreaking work in identifying and winning civil damages at trial.”
Jonathan R. Childers
PARTNER, LYNN PINKER COX HURST, DALLAS
LYNN PINKER COX HURST PARTNER Jonathan R. Childers has developed a reputation for delivering top-notch, effective client service.
The Southern Methodist University law school alum’s victories include a $70 million jury verdict for Fort Worth-based energy investment firm; the vindication of an executive accused of stealing trade secrets and allegedly breaching his fiduciary duties; and the successful defense of an international private equity firm and two of its executives in a four-week jury trial over alleged breach of fiduciary duty and contracts.
Mike Lynn, founding partner Lynn Pinker, said clients choose Childers when they want a lawyer with sharp strategic skills and the tenacity to take a case to court.
“Jonathan is a real up-and-comer in the world of high-stakes commercial litigation,” Lynn said. “He has all the tools. He’s smart, aggressive, and tireless.”
Childers saves his clients time and expense by focusing on the most relevant issues confronting a jury, Lynn added.
Childers joined Lynn Pinker in February, focusing on energy litigation, partnership and business ownership disputes, trade secret litigation, complex financial issues and damages, and high-stakes business torts.
His clients primarily comprise Texas businesses and executives, as well as businesses based outside of the state with important business interests at risk in the Lone Star State.
PARTNER, BRACEWELL, HOUSTON
BRACEWELL PARTNER JASON COHEN quickly rose up the firm’s ranks by taking a leading role not typically afforded to younger attorneys in large Chapter 11 bankruptcies and out-of-court workouts. Cohen has consistently spearheaded negotiations, developed litigation strategies and chaired complicated contested hear-ings in cases dealing with tens or hundreds of millions of dollars, according to fellow partner William A. Wood III.
For instance, Cohen recently first chaired a majority of hearings on behalf of client WBH Energy LP, which filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy. The case resulted in the sale of $25 million worth of assets. Cohen also successfully argued for the contested sale of six ships for approximately $300 million in the TMT Procurement Corp. case, which involved Taiwanese-based companies in a Chapter 11 reorganization.
In the last decade, Cohen has represented corporate debtors and senior and junior secured creditors in all phases of corporate debt restructurings, including negotiating out-of-court workouts and litigating in-court chapter 11 bankruptcy cases with assets ranging from $20 million to more than $1 billion, Wood said.
“These experiences have earned Mr. Cohen recognition on a national level,” Wood said. “He has also shown great leadership by co-founding the Houston Association of Young Bankruptcy Lawyers, which hosts a number of continuing legal education programs for young attorneys in Houston.”
Jacob Cortez Esparza
PARTNER, LEGGE, FARROW, KIMMIT, McGRATH & BROWN, HOUSTON
WE’VE ALL MET PEOPLE WHO KNEW from childhood what they would become. Jacob Esparza was not one of them.
Shortly before graduating from Texas A&M University, Esparza realized that there were few jobs for a business management major such as himself that appealed to him.
“I thought that law school would be a way to develop a [business] career,” he says. At first, he wasn’t even sure he would practice. “I went into it blind,” he recalls. Along the way, he realized his calling as a defense litigator.
His practice has morphed into energy coverage litigation, with a focus on insurance disputes. In 2011, he moved from Hall Maines Lugrin to Legge, Farrow, Kimmitt, McGrath & Brown. Within three years he became the firm’s youngest lawyer to be named partner.
Esparza says he enjoys the hunt for a creative legal angle.
In 2015, Esparza co-authored an amicus brief on behalf of concerned, nonstake-holding insurance groups in the Deepwater Horizon litigation. At issue, contracts between oil companies and rig operators customarily assign costs for damages occurring during the contract period to the rig operators, while below-water-surface pollution cleanup is the responsibility of oil companies.
The brief argued that if rig operator Transocean’s insurance company had been required to pay for below-surface cleanup, all Texas refinery/rig contracts would require rewriting. The court agreed.
“Success can be finding a document that is a linchpin in a case,” Esparza says. “The wins can be few and far between in defense work—especially when so much of the work I do is with insurance companies. I appreciate all the wins.”
PARTNER, NORTON ROSE FULBRIGHT, AUSTIN
NORTON ROSE FULBRIGHT PARTNER Shafeeqa Watkins Giarratani is a star trial lawyer whose passion for the legal profession began answering phone calls for the firm almost 20 years ago. First hired in 1997 as a receptionist in the firm’s Austin office, Giarratani rose to become a legal assistant before deciding law school was the next logical step in her career.
After graduating from Harvard University’s law school, Giarratani returned to Norton Rose as an associate in 2005. Ten years later, she was named partner and is currently a key member of Norton’s employment and labor group. Specializing in employment litigation, appeals and labor investigations, Giarratani is a strong advocate for her clients, said fellow partner Richard Krumholz.
Giarratani regularly handles litigation matters at both the trial and appellate levels, as well as alternative dispute resolutions before governmental agencies, Krumholz said.
“Shafeeqa quickly made a name for herself as a talented trial lawyer,” he said. “She has served as first chair in numerous cases, both before federal and state juries, as well as in alternative dispute resolution.”
This year, Giarratani was lead counsel in briefing and arguing two important employment appeals before the Fifth Circuit, one of which was dubbed the most important employment case of the year by court pundits. Oral arguments for both were held on the very same day.
In the another Fifth Circuit case, Giarratani served as lead counsel for a team that obtained affirmation on a summary judgment ruling that was secured on behalf of the Travis Association for the Blind in a matter involving a retaliatory hostile work environment. “Shafeeqa and her team convinced the Fifth Circuit not to adopt a retaliatory hostile work environment cause of action even though every other circuit has,” Krumholz said. “As a result, the court affirmed the lower court’s summary judgment.”
SENIOR ATTORNEY, TEXAS ADVOCACY PROJECT, AUSTIN
BRITTANY HIGHTOWER ALWAYS SOUGHT opportunities to practice her Spanish language skills with native speakers.
As a sophomore at Texas State University, Hightower joined her mother, a surgical nurse, as an interpreter on a two-week medical mission to Mexico. Senior year, she spent a semester in Buenos Aires. But it was working in a restaurant to pay for school that inspired her path to becoming an immigration lawyer.
There, she befriended coworkers who had emigrated from Mexico. She helped them find dentists and translate their children’s school communication. In time, she found herself helping with immigration issues and advocating for their safety with their bosses.
At Georgetown law, Hightower remained focused on her practice goals, certifying in refugees and humanitarian emergencies and performing more than 175 hours of pro bono service.
Now a senior attorney for the Texas Advocacy Project, Hightower’s work is not for the faint of heart.
Among her most memorable cases was a domestic violence asylum case that she took on as a volunteer. The client, a mother of three from El Salvador, had endured extreme abuse by her boyfriend including daily rapes, beatings and threats. Armed with a rare protective order, she and her children escaped, only to be found, setting off a dramatic and terrifying odyssey of moving and starting over, being chased and found.
Following an attempt on her life, the mother illegally crossed in the United States seeking asylum. After nearly eight months in detention and several more months during which the children were cared for by a godmother, asylum was granted and the family was reunited.
PARTNER, BAKER & McKENZIE, DALLAS
RECOGNIZING EARLY ON THAT CHINA would become a major player in the global marketplace, young Mackenzie Martin’s family member suggested that she learn to speak and read Mandarin. Growing up in small town, however, there were no such classes available.
As a student at Kansas State University, where she studied electrical engineering, Martin finally was able to take his advice. Because Mandarin has no letters, competency requires knowledge of at least 2,000 to 5,000 unique characters.
After graduation, Martin’s Mandarin professor recommended her for a cultural exchange at Nanjing University. Upon her return a year and half later, she enrolled immediately in law school, returning to China to study Chinese and international law for her final semester in 2008.
In 2012, then a fourth-year associate, Martin was selected for a year-long rotation working in Baker & McKenzie’s Taipei, Hong Kong and Shanghai offices. “A lot of work touches China in some way,” she says, adding “A lot of it is litigated in the U.S.”
Coupled with her engineering background, Martin’s fluency continues to pay off. Her intellectual property practice includes complex patent and cross-border litigation, working with clients at all stages of the legal process. She also counsels clients on China-related IP matters.
Currently she is working on an international arbitration with Chinese client. She also handled U.S. pieces of a global dispute for a Taiwanese client.
Martin also is active in pro bono projects, including working to help Holocaust survivors living in Dallas to collect reparations for labor performed in German-controlled ghettos.
Christopher R. May
PARTNER, SIMPSON THACHER & BARTLETT, HOUSTON
TO SAY THAT HOUSTON DEALMAKER Christopher May has had a fruitful year might be a bit of an understatement.
In October 2015, the Simpson Thacher & Bartlett partner co-led representation of Dell Inc. in the $67 million acquisition of data storage giant EMC Corp. The deal, which among other things creates the world’s biggest privately controlled integrated technology company, is viewed as the largest tech deal ever.
Also in October, May represented Walgreens Boots Alliance in its all-cash acquisition of Rite Aid. The total enterprise value of that deal was roughly $17.2 billion, including acquired net debt.
And, this February after having traveled to Switzerland for the negotiations, May served as a lead partner representing China National Chemical Corp. in its $43 billion acquisition of Swiss agrochemical company Syngenta AG. The transaction is widely considered the largest foreign acquisition to date by a Chinese company.
Not bad for a guy who thought he might become a math professor.
A math and economics major, May ultimately concluded that academic life might be too isolating. Instead, he sought a career that might offer teamwork, comradery and collaboration. His practice centers on mergers, acquisitions and other corporate transactions, with a focus on the energy sector.
The leap to law, he says, seemed logical. “You still have numbers,” he says. “Certainly, they are not complicated numbers, but figuring out solutions, and how changing one thing impacts others—there’s a logic to it that I think is common in dealmaking.”
Jennifer Dulay Mizulski
ATTORNEY, QUAN LAW GROUP, HOUSTON
AT JUST 32, JENNIFER DULAY MIZULSKI, who is also a certified public accountant, has interned with a Big Four accounting firm, an Am Law 100 top 25 law firm and two Fortune 50 companies.
It was her experience in a law school immigration clinic, however, working with indigent Spanish-speaking immigrants seeking U visas (reserved for victims of domestic and other crimes) that determined her career.
“I felt a connection with the client,” she says. “It’s almost like I came alive.”
Now an attorney at Quan Law Group, Mizulski uses her accounting and corporate experiences to help foreign investors reviewing U.S. business opportunities through the EB-5 and EB-1 employment-based immigrant visa petitions and foreign investment treaties.
She also continues to follow her passion, representing victims of human trafficking and domestic violence—and their dependents—through all aspects of the immigration process.
Recently, in collaboration with the Houston College of Law Asylum & Human Trafficking Clinic, Mizulski helped secure permanent resident status for the families of eight Vietnamese men who had been lured to the U.S. by Vietnamese government-supported television ads, making false promises of six-figure wages in the United States. Often victims of the scam would mortgage their homes and borrow from all of their relatives to pay the demanded $10,000 to $15,000 fees.
Upon arrival, traffickers would seize their passports, though, forcing them to work 12- to 16-hour days as ship welders. Isolated from their families and other Vietnamese speakers, they were threatened not to talk with law enforcement, charged exorbitant fees for cramped, vermin-infested quarters, and food, clothing and transportation.
Mizulski has found her calling.
Michelle A. Reed
PARTNER, AKIN GUMP STRAUSS HAUER & FELD, DALLAS
MANY CYBERSECURITY PRACTITIONERS began as securities litigators, advising officers and directors.
In that regard, Michelle A. Reed, co-leader of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld’s cybersecurity practice, is not unique. Asked in 2009 by a securities client to help identify the board’s fiduciary duties in the event of a cyberevent, Reed replied. “Let me check into it.”
While at the time, there was an abundance of technical advisers, she discovered a dearth of deep knowledge on the law side.
In 2010, a practice group was born. What makes Reed’s story remarkable, however, is that same year, so was her youngest child—her fourth baby in three years.
Shortly before her twins were born in 2007, Reed had gone to a reduced work schedule. A third child was born in 2008. “Three years in a row I had to give [maternity] notice,” she recalls, adding that those were “six years of no sleep, and someone was always sick.”
Crediting a supportive firm culture, Reed says, “I don’t feel like my part-time status disadvantaged me at all.” She made partner in 2014, a milestone that coincided with the retirement of Clarice Davis, who in 1979 became the first woman lawyer in Dallas to make partner. Reed inherited Davis’ office furniture, a daily reminder of a woman who paved the way for all female lawyers.
Reed acknowledges that her part-time is still anyone else’s full-time. “It means I take one or two fewer cases,” she says.
PARTNER, REED SMITH, HOUSTON
WHEN INTERVIEWED TO JOIN REED Smith as a founding partner in the international firm’s Houston office, Francisco “Cisco” Rivero asked Scott Baker, a San Francisco executive committee member. “What’s your plan for a Latin practice?”
“What’s your plan, Cisco?” he recalls Baker responding.
Still stinging from the loss of a large international client at his previous firm because it did not have the desired geographic reach, Rivero’s wheels began to turn. “They recognized the potential,” says Rivero, now global co-chair of the firm’s 68-member Latin America business team. Last year, owing to his leadership, he also was tapped to co-chair the firm’s new international arbitration group.
Since 2013, both business and revenue generated by the Latin America team have doubled each year as the group helps some of the world’s largest energy banking, health care, pharmaceutical and tech companies move into the market.
Rivero says he was so excited to put the team together, he literally put down his pen on his last day at his previous firm and walked over to his new office. “It was fun to go on a huge fishing expedition within an 1,800-member firm to see who had civil law and common law experience,” he says. “We didn’t create anything. We just organized existing resources into a tool that would be understood by clients.”
“Hunger and energy come from the same place,” Rivero says. “There are 122 million people in Mexico. They all need the resources that multinational companies provide.”
Richard D. Salgado
PARTNER, DENTONS, DALLAS
AS AN ASSOCIATE IN THE APPELLATE practice at his previous firm, Jones Day, Richard Salgado worked on the strategy teams for some of the most high-profile cases of the day.
He helped develop the legal approach for Transocean following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. He was one of only two associates assigned to the strategy team representing mothers of the 468 children who had been removed from their homes at the Yearning for Zion Ranch. And, he worked on the defense of the Second Amendment, District of Columbia v. Heller, in the U.S. Supreme Court.
Reflecting on the prominent assignments, he says, “It was not my show. I wanted to forge my own path.”
Now a partner in the litigation practice at Dentons, Salgado continues to focus on strategy, but his work is not pure appellate and it takes him across several practices, including intellectual property and tax controversy.
For Salgado, strategy does not start with documents for the fact phase, but rather the law. He admits the approach is “a different kind of advocacy,” but it has been effective. In one case, starting from the law first, he demonstrated during deposition how a would-be class action plaintiff’s description of himself made him ineli-gible represent the class.
In another, he secured a venue change through a writ of mandamus, the first of 32 petitions taken up by the Federal Circuit.
Crafting a story comes naturally to Salgado, who has a theater background. In fact, law school was a last minute decision. “I was going to go to film school,” he says. “You develop a strategy the same way. It’s about building the plot.”
Gabriel J. Salinas
PARTNER, ORRICK, HOUSTON
WHEN FOREIGN PRIVATE EQUITY INVESTment began flowing into the Mexico energy sector in 2013, taking many by surprise, Gabriel Salinas was ready.
“I wish I could say I planned it that way, but the way it actually worked was I had learned for about eight years international energy practices and contracts,” he says.
Born in Monterrey, Mexico, Salinas comes from a family of lawyers spanning several generations. At 18 he attended college in the United States, returning to Mexico for law school and back to the U.S. for graduate work at Harvard. He is licensed to practice in both Mexico and the U.S.
“So, I had this dual training,” he says. “It just kind of happened, but it has a lot to do with what I do now.”
Salinas leapt from Mayer Brown to Orrick’s new Houston office July 23. Along with the move came a promotion to partner. There, he is part of a Latin America group that focuses on energy. More than 30 in the group, including Salinas, concentrate specifically on corporate and energy issues related to Mexico.
Because of his background, Salinas says he has been very involved in the reform and its implementation as well as the first deals. “There are major infrastructure projects right now involving cross-water pipelines and ports and terminals,” he says.
“Mexico really is in need of lawyers and advisers with this sort of experience. Local bar in Mexico hasn’t had a chance—and there’s no reason that it should have—to be involved in those sorts of contracts.”
Ramez F. Shamieh
FOUNDER, SHAMIEH LAW, DALLAS
RAMEZ SHAMIEH IS HUNGRY. VERY hungry.
“I’ll do anything,” he said. “If you’ll pay me and if it’s something I’m capable of doing, I’ll take it.” He’s taken cases ranging from labor to personal injury to DRAM and sports law. He will not, however, take criminal or divorce matters.
Shamieh, who left McCathern in July to hang his own shingle, says he hopes to take on more personal injury cases. At McCathern, he was credited with having brought in more than 50 litigation cases in the past year. During that same period he estimates that he worked out settlements totaling more than $6 million, garnering more than $2 million in fees.
“When you work at a firm, you are not the man,” he explains. “I have complete control over how my future will succeed.”
Clients have ranged from business entities to doctors, construction companies, investment companies, bar owners and teachers.
And just weeks after opening his own firm, he had assembled a team that includes a paralegal and two case managers. By press time, the firm’s website already had posted three client reviews.
The secret to rainmaking, he says, is working hard, “and that means 24/7 and getting out and meeting attorneys. Other attorneys can send you a lot of business, especially when you’re licensed in several other states.” Shamieh is licensed in three. “Pass out your cards to everybody you meet.”
At the heart of it, he says that client development comes from treating people well and demonstrating that you genuinely care about them. “Pick up the phone when clients call,” he adds.
PARTNER, BAKER BOTTS, HOUSTON
AARON STREETT REFERS TO HIS BIGGEST case before the U.S. Supreme Court in Biblical terms: Goliath v. Goliath.
He represented Halliburton Co., the global oil field and construction firm. On the other side, famed litigator David Boies represented a class of investors whose case seemed to be bolstered by a 26-year-old Supreme Court precedent.
But Streett prevailed. The court held that investors could recover damages in a securities fraud case only if they showed they had relied on misrepresentations by the defendant before they bought or sold shares.
Streett is chairman of Baker Botts’ Supreme Court and constitutional law practice. He has argued six cases before the Supreme Court and dozens more in other appellate courts.
He attributes his success to two clerkships after law school: first with Judge David B. Sentelle of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, then with Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist at the Supreme Court.
“A lot of clerks remark that after a year or two, they have a good sense of what judges find persuasive,” Streett says.
Many judges grill potential clerks for hours, Streett says. Rehnquist interviewed him for just 20 minutes, barely exploring Streett’s judicial philosophy or knowledge of the law.
Rehnquist wanted to get to know him as a person, Streett says. He “was a man of routine and tradition.” And after that brief meeting, Streett got the job.
PARTNER, SHOOK, HARDY & BACON, HOUSTON
JENNISE STUBBS’ OLDER SISTER IS A LAWyer. “That was for her,” she says. “I was going to medical school.”
Then in college Stubbs took a political science class, realizing she was more interested than previously believed in how laws apply to everyday life, and equally to all.
A trial lawyer and partner at Shook, Hardy & Bacon, Stubbs specializes in medical device products liability lawsuits, effectively combining her scientific interests and aptitude with the law. She also is the firm’s Houston administrative partner, leading the office’s recruiting, business development, community involvement and personnel management.
In 2014, Stubbs employed a novel strategy in a mass tort case, resulting in dismissals of 368 cases in that court, and later jurisdictions as well.
Stubbs’ client was the manufacturer of polypropylene mesh material, sold to companies that manufactured vaginal mesh devices. Stubbs argued that the client was not the end manufacturer, but rather a biomaterial supplier. And as such, under the federal Biomaterials Access Assurance Act (BAAA), could not be held liable for defects in the implantable device. The Philadelphia court agreed.
“The statute doesn’t apply to a lot of manufacturers, and it hasn’t been interpreted very often,” Stubbs says.
Looking back, she says the biggest challenge was the hoops they had to jump through to prove that the mesh was a biomedical material. The decision, however, “changed the litigation.”
David C. Schulte
PARTNER, THOMPSON & KNIGHT, DALLAS
THOMPSON & KNIGHT PARTNER DAVID Schulte ranks among the top 2.5 percent of Texas attorneys 40 years old or younger who have 10 years or less under their belt. Throughout his relatively short legal career, Schulte has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to clients, excellent trial skills and an aptitude for mentoring younger lawyers, said Thompson & Knight managing partner Mark M. Sloan.
Schulte specializes in complex business litigation, intellectual property, governmental and environmental litigation, products liability, personal injury and aviation. He has advised clients in a wide array of industries regarding breach-of-contract claims, tortious interference, negligence, fraud and defamation, among other matters.
“Dave is a well-rounded individual with a strong work ethic and passion for the legal field that make him a natural mentor and leader,” Sloan said. “He practices law with the highest standards of ethics and professional conduct and provides top-notch legal services to his clients.”
As the firm’s hiring partner, Schulte also spearheads the summer associate program, which recently began recruiting first-year law students in an effort to boost Thompson & Knight’s appeal to a new generation of lawyers.
Sloan praised Schulte’s ability to connect with the firm’s fresh-faced attorneys. “Inside and outside of the firm,” Sloan said, “he takes an active interest in guiding and developing young lawyers by helping them identify career goals and set a course to achieve these goals.”
Brian K. Walker
OWNER, WALKER LAW FIRM, FORT WORTH
IN JUST 11 YEARS OF PRACTICE, BRIAN K. Walker has taken more than 80 cases to trial. This year alone, he won acquittal for a 58-year-old man accused of raping an 18-year-old girl, won a defense verdict for an oil and gas company in a high-priced contract dispute and cleared a physician accused of public nuisance.
But almost half of Walker’s practice in Fort Worth and Hillsboro is devoted to a lower-profile pursuit: getting U.S. military veterans the benefits they deserve.
“A lot of military veterans in the late 2000s were canned and given less-than-honorable (discharges) for personality disorder,” Walker says. “But the reality is, they had PTSD.”
This work comes naturally—Walker himself is a reservist in the U.S. Air Force Judge Advocate General’s Corps. He serves about a month a year at Aviano Air Base, a NATO installation in northeastern Italy. He also is an instructor at the Air Force Officer Training School in Alabama.
Walker was drawn to the law by watching his father, Scott Walker, an attorney in Fort Worth who is now the Republican nominee for a seat on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
“I saw the passion for what he did,” Brian Walker says. “It piqued my interest.”
He remains as passionate about litigating cases as he is about politics and veterans’ issues.
“The nucleus that holds my practice together is that I am a trial lawyer,” Walker says. “I’m trying to say it with humility, but I guess I’m pretty good at it.
GENERAL COUNSEL, SEADRILL AMERICAS INC. (FORMERLY TRICAN WELL SERVICE), HOUSTON
AT A CANADIAN COMPANY’S AMERICAN division, Mehgan Wichuk managed litigation, oversaw contracts and performed all the other usual duties of in-house counsel at an organization with $740 million in annual sales and 1,500 employees.
She also took on an inequity in an employment practice affecting some of those workers: maternity leave.
Canadian employees of Trican Well Service, an oil field services company, received a full year of paid maternity leave. Wichuk researched the leave policy of numerous U.S. employers and proposed a change that Trican adopted for its American workers: 26 weeks of paid leave. Not only did Trican employees benefit, but other companies are looking to her proposal as they reconsider their own policies.
“It was really great to be able to put that into place,” says Wichuk. “I’m pretty proud of that.”
Wichuk also focused on more traditional in-house work, including Trican’s $200 million sale of its U.S. assets last March. With the transaction completed, Wichuk became general counsel for Seadrill Americas, a Bermuda-based offshore deepwater drilling company.
She was six-and-a-half months pregnant when she interviewed for the job. Trican’s updated maternity-leave policy didn’t carry over through the sale, so Wichuk ended up with only 10 weeks off after giving birth to her third child.
It wasn’t ideal, she says, “but I have been so grateful for the prior leave. It’s a passion of mine even though I’m not going to have any more children. It’s good for me to experience this 10-week leave, because this is what most people get, and even this is generous.”