Houston

Earlier this week, Weil Gotshal reaffirmed its commitment to the Texas legal market. That commitment had been called into question by a spate of partner departures in recent weeks.

It’s worth noting, though, that Weil’s statement focused mainly on Dallas, which is Weil’s largest outpost in Texas. The statement was issued to the Dallas Business Review by Glenn West, Weil’s Dallas managing partner, so the Dallas focus is understandable. But it’s also fair to say that while Weil appears committed to Dallas, its commitment to Houston is weaker.

Indeed, after Houston managing partner John Strasburger recently departed, taking three other partners with him, some of our sources are wondering: Will the Weil office in Houston endure? And if not, who wants to swoop in and fill that gap?

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Don’t mess with Texas — or the presence of Weil Gotshal in that sovereign republic great state. The firm has just announced that it’s deep in the heart of Texas — and staying there.

That’s the latest news from the Weil Weil West — Glenn West, that is, the managing partner of the firm’s Dallas office and a member of the WGM management committee. West just issued a public statement reaffirming the firm’s commitment to the Lone Star State, despite the departures of dozens of lawyers from Weil’s Dallas and Houston offices in recent weeks.

So what does this statement say, and how did it come about?

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If the Houston office of Weil Gotshal & Manges ends up shutting down in the wake of the recent partner defections, management in New York might not shed a tear. In fact, it might have been part of their master plan.

As one Weil source told us, the Houston litigation defections were “not a surprise,” since the June layoffs “took away all but one assistant and all of the associates. The associates that were allowed to stay were switched to contract positions and have since left. Basically, it was an elimination by New York of the Houston group from the bottom up.”

Dallas, however, is a different story. It’s more of a standalone office, with a more diversified mix of practices, and it makes a bigger contribution to the firm’s bottom line.

But the latest partner departures do raise serious questions about its future. Which Dallas partners just left, and where are they going?

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Last Friday, we broke the news of four partners in Houston leaving the powerhouse firm of Weil Gotshal & Manges. This news came just a week after eight partners in Dallas announced their move to Sidley Austin.

In today’s episode of “As The Weil Turns,” we’ll reveal the identities of the Houston defectors, then explore the possible reasons for their leaving Weil….

(Please note the multiple UPDATES at the end of this story.)

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It seems that Weil Gotshal & Manges enjoys the title we recently bestowed upon it: “the reigning drama queen of Biglaw.” The juicy news and novel plot twists just keep on coming.

For those of you just tuning into “As The Weil Turns,” here’s a quick recap. Last week, eight prominent partners left Weil’s Dallas office for Sidley Austin. There was lots of speculation for what motivated the move. The Boston office of Weil instituted an unusual policy for raising attorney morale. Weil in Houston lost another partner to a rival.

Today brings more news: fresh partner departures from Houston, additional drama out of Dallas….

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I’m not really much of a football fan. To the extent I am, I hate the Redskins. In fact, I always root for Dallas.

– Justice Antonin Scalia, responding to a question from an audience member during a lecture the justice delivered in Houston on Friday.

Last week, we toured the $5 million estate of a renowned plaintiffs’ lawyer down in Texas. We mentioned that this legal eagle was fleeing his finely feathered nest in favor of even better abode: a $14 million mansion, smaller in square footage than the old house, but with a much better location.

Now it’s time for us to check out the new digs. This mansion has “only” 12,000 square feet, compared to the former home’s 14,000 square feet, but it has many other things going for it….

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Whenever we write about a lawyerly lair in New York City, our readers in Texas scoff. They mock the tiny size and high price. They observe that for the cost of a minuscule Manhattan studio, you could get yourself 3500 square feet — plus a Lexus! — down in Texas. And did you know that there’s no state income tax down there?

Today our Texas tipsters will be happy. We’re visiting the $5 million, 14,000-square-foot mansion of a renowned plaintiffs’ lawyer — with room for many Lexuses, in the 13-car garage….

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For a couple months now, we’ve run an occasional series, drawing on the ATL Insider Survey, comparing firms and law schools in various geographic locales. Thus far, we looked at Boston, Chicago, New York, and “the South.”

Today, we turn toward Texas. Texas is beloved here at ATL as an apparently bottomless source of colorful legal news. The state is a frequent battleground for high profile constitutional fights while also generating a steady stream of tabloid fodder, from “judges behaving badly” to “tragic homicidal mayhem.” (Of course, there’s also the running joke among the ATL commentariat that, for what a New York Biglaw associate pays for his cramped studio apartment, one can buy a 3,500-square-foot wife house in Texas.)

But of course this is a limited, distorted view of the legal industry in Texas. Texas is a huge, diverse state with a relatively strong economy and a unique legal culture. Biglaw firms thrive in all three major cities, both local outposts of national firms, or more significantly, Texas-bred firms such as Baker Botts and Vinson & Elkins. Our ATL Insider Survey (13,000+ responses and going strong, thanks), asks attorneys at firms to evaluate their employers in terms of compensation, hours, training, morale, and culture. After the jump, we’ll look at how firms in Texas stack up in these categories — and how they compare to the national averages…

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On July 31, Above the Law hosted a well-attended panel discussion and networking reception in Houston at the St. Regis Hotel.

Katie Slater, founder of Career Infusion Coaching LLC, moderated a lively and thought-provoking discussion about what it takes to be a successful in-house attorney. Joining Katie:

  • Beth Walker, VP Business Development at Newhouse + Noblin
  • Michol Ecklund, Assistant General Counsel – International at Marathon Oil
  • Bruce Tatten, former General Counsel at Eaton Corporation
  • Michelle Grace, Associate General Counsel at Invesco Ltd.

This event, sponsored by Recommind, was a great opportunity for attendees to hear from legal leaders sharing their insights on legal success. Among the evening’s top takeaways:

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