Michael Puryear, general counsel with HOLT Companies.

Covering corporate law departments and in-house attorneys for Texas Lawyer and other American Lawyer Media publications, reporter Kristen Rasmussen profiles Daniel Sharphorn, vice chancellor and general counsel at The University of Texas System, one of the largest public university systems in the United States.

Family-owned Holt Cat, based in San Antonio, runs the largest Caterpillar dealership in the United States, with more than 2,500 employees and 40 locations in its Texas operations. The company sells, rents and services heavy equipment — including trucks and trailers, engines and generators — for the construction, earthmoving, mining, industrial, petroleum and agriculture industries.

In what is the fourth generation of ownership, young 30-something siblings Corinna Holt Richter and Peter Holt took over from their father in 2017. Michael Puryear is Holt Cat’s general counsel.

Legal Team

Puryear leads a legal department with one other attorney, a paralegal, a contracts supervisor and contracts specialist. Another attorney works in the human resources department and handles all of the company’s labor and employment matters.

The team handles the overwhelming majority of other matters, namely litigation management, contracts, real estate and risk management, in-house.

Outside Counsel

Puryear says he sends all defense matters, including litigation defense, to Barton, East & Caldwell in San Antonio. Jackson Walker handles all of the department’s corporate work.

Daily Duties

In addition to managing the legal department, Puryear says he personally handles large claims against the company, as well as all real estate matters. He also spends a good part of his day on risk management issues, working closely with and counseling sales, service and safety employees. In addition, Puryear is part of Holt Cat’s executive operations council, providing leadership and direction to the company.

“Every day is different, and that’s one of the beauties of being an in-house lawyer rather than an outhouse lawyer, as I call them,” Puryear says. “It’s soup to nuts—a little bit of litigation one day, contracts the next, real estate the next.”

Route to the Top

After graduating from Texas Tech University School of Law in 1984, Puryear worked in private practice until 1992, when he became the GC at McLane Co. Inc., a large, nationwide wholesale food distributor. When the president and CEO of McLane purchased the Houston Astros, he recruited several individuals from his food distribution business, including Puryear, to work in Houston for the baseball franchise. Thus, Puryear was president of Astrodome USA from 1996 to 2000. He formed his own consulting company before joining Holt Cat as its top lawyer in 2006.

Personal

Puryear and his wife Sandra have two adult children between them. The couple lives on a farm outside San Antonio, which Puryear describes as his “weekends and evenings pleasure.” In addition to doing tasks on the farm, he says his other hobbies are hunting and outdoor activities.

Last Book

“The Undoing Project,” by Michael Lewis.