Scott Carlson, general counsel at Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART). (Courtesy photo)
Covering corporate law departments and in-house attorneys for Texas Lawyer and other ALM publications, reporter Kristen Rasmussen profiles Scott Carlson, general counsel at the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART).
DART was formed in 1983 as a result of a vote held in a number of Dallas-area municipalities. Currently, 13 cities, constituting more than 700 square miles, make up the DART service area. DART provides transportation services through multiple modes—light rail, bus, commuter rail, paratransit and vanpool. It operates the largest light rail network in North America. In fiscal year 2016, DART served 67.1 million passengers, and its FY 2017 operating budget is $494.1 million. The agency is primarily funded with a one-cent sales tax collected within the DART service area.
Carlson oversees a legal department that includes 10 attorneys and eight support staff members, including paralegals. The office handles almost all legal matters for the agency in-house. This work includes real estate, transactions, litigation, procurement, administrative appeals, labor and employment, employee grievances, state public information act matters and ethics.
DART turns to outside counsel for matters outside its usual areas of expertise, Carlson said. Current ongoing areas include public finance, trademark matters, radio regulatory matters, certain specialized areas of litigation and support for several significant transactions. The agency uses a trio of firms for public finance—Bracewell, West & Associates and McCall, Parkhurst & Horton. For radio regulatory issues, it uses metro Washington, D.C.-based Lukas, LaFuria, Gutierrez & Sachs.
DART is governed by a 15-member board of directors, to which the GC reports, so Carlson said he spends a considerable amount of time interacting with senior management staff and the DART board, as well as seeing to administrative details.
“The daily duties of the general counsel are quite varied,” he said. “I have the opportunity to work with talented and dedicated lawyers and support staff.”
ROUTE TO THE TOP
Carlson holds degrees from Texas Tech University and Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law. After graduation from the latter, he practiced in both the public and private sectors, including as an assistant city attorney in Dallas and at Nortel Networks, where he handled regulatory matters and supported various business initiatives.
Carlson joined DART from the law firm of Cavazos, Hendricks, Poirot & Smitham, where he was senior counsel, and was appointed DART GC in August 2012. He had served on the agency’s board of directors since 2003.
Carlson and his wife of 26 years, Ann Claire, have two children, ages 23 and 20. One soon will graduate from Texas A&M University with a master’s degree, and the other is a rising junior at Texas Tech. He enjoys reading, traveling and fly fishing.
Carlson is reading “Wilson,” by A. Scott Berg, a biography of the 28th president of the United States. He most recently completed “Generous Justice,” by Timothy Keller.