||By GLENN A. BALLARD, JR.
Bracewell & Giuliani LLP
Houston is our home
Like the banks headquartered elsewhere who have come into Houston, many law firms are doing the same. Since the nineties, the migration to Houston of law firms based elsewhere has been nothing short of remarkable. Our traditional Houston-based firms, including my own, have also opened offices in other places in this same time frame, and some of the Houston-based firms are even managed from these other offices. This globalization of legal work is worth examining and I will do so in this (my last) article as Houston Bar Association president.
Many firms based outside of Houston have moved in some time ago. These include Weil Gotshal from New York, King & Spalding from Atlanta, Jones Day from Cleveland, Shook Hardy from Kansas City, Baker & McKenzie from Chicago, Baker & Hostetler from California, Mayer Brown from Chicago, and Akin Gump and Howrey from D.C. Many of these firms are in the 100 Club of the Houston Bar Association, which means that 100 percent of their lawyers are members of the Houston Bar, and several have joined my program to increase pro bono representation and become Equal Access to Justice Champions. Some of my former partners are practicing at these firms, and others have left the traditional Houston firms to go and practice with these and other firms that have come into Houston.
Some firms more recently arriving on the Houston legal scene are, in no particular order, Pillsbury Winthrop out of San Francisco, Sutherland Asbill out of D.C., Greenberg Traurig out of Miami, Morgan Lewis out of Philadelphia, Hogan & Hartson out of D.C., Hunton & Williams out of Virginia, Kelly Hart out of Fort Worth, and Skaddan Arps, LeBoeuf Lamb, Chadbourne & Parke and Kasowitz Benson out of New York. They, too, are populated with lawyers from firms based in Houston. Indeed, these firms include among their partners at least one former Houston Bar president, one former Harris County district judge and several other prominent lawyers who have practiced at some of Houston’s largest corporations and law firms. Some are retired partners from Houston based firms, which is an interesting trend. It makes sense for a firm coming from out of town to hire long-time Houston-based partners to establish their offices.
For the most part, I think the phenomenon of firms from outside Houston opening offices here is healthy. You know what they say about one-lawyer towns. That lawyer would have nothing to do. Here we all have plenty to do, again, for the most part, and that is why firms based elsewhere are opening up here. This has always been a great place to be a lawyer. Some firms have come and gone, but most of the firms who come here are glad they did.
The traditional firms based in Houston have also returned the favor and opened elsewhere, like New York, London, Bejing, Dubai, and even Kazakhstan. If your firm does finance or energy work, for example, you have to go where the action and client demands take you, and my firm, along with many other Houston-based firms, has done exactly that. Some of our partners are even running for President of the United States.
An even more interesting trend is for firms traditionally based in Houston to have managers who are not in the Houston office. Fulbright & Jaworski’s managing partner is now in Washington D.C., and Baker Botts’ litigation section is managed by a trial lawyer in Dallas. Who would have predicted that 15 years ago?
Most recently, Locke Liddell & Sapp announced it was merging with Lord, Bissell & Brook out of Chicago. Of course, Locke Liddell is one of our rotation firms and has just put one of their lawyers on the Houston Bar Association’s Board of Directors.
The bottom line is that for those of us who are living in Houston and practicing law, Houston is our home. We all need to support our local Houston bar no matter where we come from. I was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but I got to Texas as soon as I could, and I hope everyone else here feels the same way.
We need to support our community through the avenues available to us. I have found that bar service is a great avenue. Like a few good golf shots, there are a few events that really jump up and grab you during the bar year. For me, it is not only handling cases for those who cannot afford our services, but also swearing in new citizens with federal judges, cleaning up the parks, building the habitat homes, and speaking to kids in school. All of these activities happen right here in Houston. We can all take part no matter where we are from or where our practice is based. Get involved here because, again, Houston is our home.
It has truly been a privilege for me to serve this year as your bar president. This is a bar for all of the lawyers in town, whether you have been here for a long time or are just getting here. It is a bar for every type of practitioner, from the solo practitioners to those practicing in law firms, corporations and the public sector, and we try to be all-inclusive. Make Houston your home. Join us at the Houston Bar Association and make a difference in Houston.
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