Jones Walker has completed its move and officially opened its new downtown Houston space on Sept. 18, the same day partner Lara Pringle assumed the responsibilities of office head for the firm’s Texas offices.
Pringle, who joined Jones Walker in 2009, had a bit of a rocky lead-up to her new job and new responsibilities as she supervised the firm’s move a few blocks away into BG Group Place from First City Tower. The move was scheduled to start just as Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas coast on Aug. 25 as a Category 4 storm, creating widespread flooding in Houston after 51 inches of rain fell over a few days.
Pringle said the firm had been working on the move for about 18 months, and a lot of new furniture had already been delivered to the new space in the days before Harvey hit Texas. But much of the move involving furniture and files was on the schedule for that weekend, and Pringle said on Aug. 24 she made the call, after consulting with the office’s move team, to delay it.
“Once we knew that it was a Category 4 storm—that would have been the Thursday before Harvey hit—we said, ‘Hey, we can’t even start the preliminary part of the move,’” Pringle said.
By Aug. 29, after the rains slowed but flooding continued in many areas of Houston, Pringle decided to reschedule the start of the move for Sept. 8. She said all largely went according to plan for the 10-day process after that, and the firm was able to open its new office on Sept. 18.
“It’s been a painless process,” Pringle said, noting that the only delays were short and involved waiting for occupancy permits from the City of Houston at a time when city employees were coping with the ravages of widespread flooding. She said BG Group Place did not take on water from Harvey or lose power. Also, she noted, the move went smoothly because of a good internal team and lots of preparation.
Pringle said she has been acting as office head in Texas since January, when her predecessor, Houston partner Josh Norris, joined the firm’s board of directors. But she said it made sense to move permanently into the office head role at the same time as Jones Walker opened the doors to its new space.
Pringle said the firm moved into BG Group Place, which is a full floor compared with a half floor in the old building, because the Houston office is expanding. The firm has 25 lawyers in Houston and five in The Woodlands, and can accommodate up to 41 lawyers in its new Houston office. One of her goals as Houston office head is to add some lawyers who do work for energy industry clients, she said.
While Harvey disrupted the long-planned move, Pringle said none of the firm’s lawyers or staff had to deal with a flooded house from Harvey, although several attorneys had roof leaks, and some couldn’t make it downtown for a few days because of flooding in their neighborhoods. She said Houston office lawyers worked at home from Aug. 28 through Aug. 30, and those who could make it into the old office did so for the rest of that week.
“They wanted to get back to a sense of normalcy,” she said. “It was comforting to be around other people, kind of getting back to normal.”