Texas lawyers are making lateral moves. Gary Short left Vinson & Elkins to join Jones Day in Dallas as a partner in the employee benefits & executive compensation practice. Nancy Furney and Lori Oliphant have joined Winstead in Dallas as shareholders. Formerly with Jenkens & Gilchrist, Francis Munchinski has joined Cox Smith Matthews in Dallas as of counsel in the firm’s energy department. Bracewell & Giuliani has gained public law attorney, William King, as of counsel in Houston. Litigation attorney Noelle M. Reed has become a partner in the Houston office of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.
Federal prosecutor Katya Jestin has joined Jenner & Block as a partner in the New York office. She will work in the firm’s litigation department and the white collar criminal defense and counseling practice. Jestin was most recently the Deputy Chief of the Organized Crime & Racketeering Section of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York. She is most noted for her convictions of Peter Gotti and his 16 co-defendants on charges of racketeering, money laundering, wire fraud and extortion. Jenner & Block has more than 450 lawyers in offices in Chicago, Dallas, New York and Washington, D.C.
Houston and Dallas-based Locke, Liddell & Sapp, and Chicago-based Lord, Bissell & Brook are finalizing plans to merge and form a 700-lawyer firm named Locke, Lord, Bissell & Liddell. After the merger is approved by partners, the deal is expected to close by August 1. Jerry Clements, the Austin, TX-based managing partner of Locke Liddell will head a nine-member executive committee. Locke Liddell is the larger firm, with 399 lawyers compared to Lord Bissell’s 300. However, Lord Bissell’s location cover more area, with offices in Chicago, Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York, Sacramento, CA, and London. The two firms have worked together in the past on banking regulatory matters and as co-counsel or counsel for co-defendants on litigation or arbitration related to reinsurance disputes.
International law firm, Haynes & Boone, welcomed a new attorney to its Houston office. Jill Groff, who specializes in complex business litigation, has joined as an of counsel. She mostly handles antitrust, securities, and white collar criminal defense matters. Haynes & Boone employs over 450 lawyers in its offices in Texas, New York, Washington, D.C., Mexico City and Moscow.
Duane Morris has added three partners to its Pittsburgh construction litigation team. Albert Bates and Edward Gentilcore joined mid-April from Reed Smith, and John Tedder recently followed. Duane Morris’ construction practice has 43 attorneys firmwide, compared to Reed Smith’s 23. The practice will be particularly focused on nuclear power and international arbitration; the group’s lawyers will represent the builders, designers, and owners of nuclear power plants. Duane Morris recently formed a nuclear power group by combining its construction and energy practices. The firm is looking to expand this new group in Houston especially, as well as New York and Miami.
Lawyers across the Lone Star State are making career moves. The Dallas office of Thompson & Knight has gained two new real estate and banking partners, and three associates. Ben Tobor left Bracewell & Giuliani to join Greenberg Traurig in Houston as an IP shareholder. Stacy Blakeley has joined Sedgwick, Detert, Moran & Arnold in Dallas as a commercial litigation associate. In Austin, Sarah Duncan has joined Locke, Liddell & Sapp as of counsel in the appellate section.
As first-year salaries go up on both coasts, firms in Texas are resisting the pressure to raise. Though some non-Texas-based firms applied have applied the NY/CA market rate of $160,000 to their Texas offices, large Texas firms are staying put. The resistance may come from the fact that most firms just went through salary increases in 2006, and TX firms do not feel the need to raise them again so soon. Moreover, these firms know that because the cost of living is lower in Texas than in CA or NY, they remain competitive even if they don’t match East and West Coast salaries. Many top law students want to remain or return to Texas for just that reason. However, if any firm in the Lone Star state breaks down and decides to make the raise, it is likely that more will follow.
New York-based Weil, Gotshal & Manges was the number one grossing out-of-state firm in Texas in 2006, according to Texas Lawyer’s ranking. With offices in Dallas, Austin, and Houston, the firm posted $62.9 million in net income last year. Weil, Gotshal was also the top firm in Texas profits per partner and revenue per lawyer. The NY firm has seen rising gross revenues in Texas ever since it opened in Dallas 19 years ago. Following Weil, Gotshal in the ranks were Jones Day of Cleveland, Atlanta-based King & Spalding, Chicago’s Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw and Washington, D.C.-based Howrey. Net income for these top five firms totaled $162.4 million, a 4.6 percent increase from 2005.
Baker Botts Dallas has hired litigation partner and former Harris County prosecutor Victor Vital. Vital deals mostly with complex commercial matters and business disputes. His cases involve a wide range of claims including breach of contract, fraud, tortious interference, misappropriation of trade secrets, and defamation. Vital was previously a partner in the Dallas office of Haynes and Boone. Baker Botts has 750 attorneys practicing in offices in Austin, Beijing, Dallas, Dubai, Hong Kong, Houston, London, Moscow, New York, Riyadh and Washington.
Longtime labor & employment powerhouse, Littler Mendelson, is finally facing some competition from regional firms and boutiques. With 617 lawyers and 41 U.S. offices, Littler is the largest labor & employment firm in the U.S. The San Francisco-based firm has expanded greatly in recent years, adding 13 new offices since the start of 2005. However, other firms are following suite and becoming more national in scope. Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart has added six offices in the last three years; 400-lawyer Jackson Lewis also added six. Two Atlanta-based firms, Fisher & Phillips and Ford & Harrison have pushed beyond the Southeast, together opening more than 12 offices in cities such as Dallas, Minneapolis, Phoenix and Philadelphia. The firms’ expansion is generally a part of a strategy to compete nationally, though most deny that they follow other firm’s into specific markets.
After hiring an 18-lawyer capital markets team from Kilpatrick Stockton, Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal has opened an office in Charlotte, NC. John Suhr, Jonathan Nugent and James Tucker all joined Sonnenschein as partners, along with counsels Linde Carley and Keith Jones, and 13 associates. The partners, who will be heading Sonnenschein’s capital markets practice, specialize in commercial real estate finance and equity investment by traditional and capital markets lenders. Sonnenschein has been expanding recently, having announced in March plans to open in Silicon Valley; the firm also intends to open in Dallas.