MehaffyWeber, a civil litigation firm with offices in Austin, Beaumont and Houston, is adding a fourth office in Texas by expanding into San Antonio after absorbing five lawyers from local litigation boutique O’Connell & Avery.
Keith O’Connell and Ernest “Frank” Avery joined MehaffyWeber as shareholders in San Antonio, where David Coates, James Goldsmith Jr. and Elizabeth O’Connell Perez have come aboard as associates. The merger boosts MehaffyWeber’s head count to 40 lawyers.
“We see San Antonio as a fast-growing market for the type of services our firm provides,” said MehaffyWeber managing shareholder Robert Black of Beaumont. He added that San Antonio is also a great location to do work in Corpus Christi and the Rio Grande Valley.
Black said that his firm reached out a few weeks ago to O’Connell & Avery about a merger, and the deal was completed quickly. The merger was effective on Sept. 5, but Black said that Hurricane Harvey, which affected the firm’s offices, lawyers and staff in Beaumont and Houston, delayed the announcement until this week.
Black said some lawyers at MehaffyWeber have known O’Connell (pictured right) and others from his firm for years. Once they started talking about a merger, he said they quickly determined it was a natural fit.
“We have some clients in the Valley and occasional work in San Antonio, but Keith’s practice, along with others there, is a very broad base of San Antonio-based clients and that’s what we like most about it,” Black said. “We feel like we can add to the work we’ve already had.”
O’Connell said he’s been contacted before by firms interested in opening an office in San Antonio, but he resisted those overtures, primarily because he enjoyed running his own shop. But after he started recently talking to shareholders at MehaffyWeber about their philosophy on the practice of law and how a merger would improve service to clients of both firms, the path towards a combination became clear.
“What drove this deal was, really, is it going to enhance our professional services and our counseling to the clients at both firms,” O’Connell said.
O’Connell noted that Perez, an associate at his firm joining Mehaffy Weber in San Antonio, is his daughter, so her future is important to him.
“I would not have done this deal with just anybody,” he added.
O’Connell & Avery would have celebrated its 20th anniversary next year. O’Connell said the new MehaffyWeber office in San Antonio will be located in O’Connell & Avery’s current space.
O’Connell declined to identify any of the clients his group represents, but Black said one major MehaffyWeber client with business in South Texas is Mid-Continent Insurance Group. Black and O’Connell each said they expect MehaffyWeber to add lawyers in San Antonio, the second new office for the firm in four months.
In May, MehaffyWeber opened an office in Las Vegas after recruiting five trial lawyers in Houston from LeClairRyan, including one with a practice in Nevada.