Houston is currently the fourth largest city in the country and is on track to bypass Chicago for third by 2025. Houston has a growing and diverse population, a global energy hub, 25 Fortune 500 companies, and the world’s largest medical center. It is a lucrative and active legal market, and nobody wants to be left out. In recent years, the city has seen an influx of law firms entering the Houston market. Some outside law firms lure partners, attorneys, support staff and entire practice groups from locally established firms; others buy out or merge with existing practice, renaming the firm but leaving the staff intact. All of this activity results in a high-stakes game of musical chairs for Houston’s legal talent. For well-connected, proven and experienced attorneys and support staff, opportunities can arise whenever a new firm moves in – whether at the new legal firm itself or at a local firm that lost key staff to the newcomer. Here is a look at some of the notable moves and acquisitions of the past 18 months:
Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe, a 150-year old global firm based in San Francisco, entered the Houston market in January 2016. The powerhouse firm pulled 20 partners from approximately a half dozen local firms. The Houston office is the firms 25th worldwide and will expand its energy & infrastructure, Latin America, litigation and IP, and public finance practices.
Polsinelli, a Kansas City, Missouri-based firm, opened in March 2016 after acquiring Houston-based IP law firm Novak Druce Connolly Bove + Quigg and its 14 attorneys. Polsinelli’s move into Houston was driven in large part by the presence of the Texas medical center. The acquisition supports the firm’s focus on the region’s biotech, medical device, software, engineering, and healthcare industries.
Bradley Arant Boult Cummings, based in Alabama, opened its first Southwest location in Houston in October 2016 to serve construction and energy clients. The incoming firm lured away a longtime partner from Coats Rose who took with him another partner, six attorneys, three secretaries and two paralegals. The Houston location brings the total number of Bradley offices to nine.
Kelley Drye & Warren, based in NY, merged with the environmental litigation boutique, Jackson, Gilmour & Dobbs, in December 2016. The merger brought fourteen local attorneys under the Kelley Drye umbrella. Through its new Texas presence, Kelley Drye intends to strengthen its energy practice and grow its national presence.
Holman Fenwick Willan, based in London, merged with the energy and maritime firm Legge Farrow Kimmitt McGrath & Brown after several years of collaboration. The Houston office opened in January 2017 and established the firm’s first office in the USA. According to the firm’s website, Houston is a key touchpoint for several of the firm’s chosen sectors, including energy, marine, and insurance.
Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, a 1,300-lawyer firm from Los Angeles, opened a Houston office in March 2017 to expand its energy practice. Initially, Gibson Dunn lured away two top local energy lawyers: a partner from Latham Watkins and another from an energy company. Then, in April, six Baker Botts partners left their firm to join the new office.
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