Texas

Review

Dispute resolution
Bailey Brauer

Dallas-based Bailey Brauer is a litigation boutique equipped with the expertise to litigate an array of practice areas, including antitrust, appellate, business torts, class and collective actions, complex commercial litigation, products liability, employment, trade secrets and wrongful death claims. Name partner Clayton Bailey stands as one of the top trial and appellate lawyers distinguished for litigating complex tort and commercial matters, as well as putative antitrust class actions. Bailey is one of a handful of lawyers in his age bracket with experience representing clients on both plaintiff and defense sides of the aisle. His clients come from a wide variety of industries, recently including a former professional coach of Major League Soccer’s Real Salt Lake club and one of the largest chicken producers in Mexico, Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation.  

Bell Nunnally

From its shop in Dallas, Bell Nunnally exhibits four decades of expertise and experience in commercial, white-collar and labor and employment litigation, among other areas of practiceThe firm has garnered a significant amount of recognition over the last few years from both peers and clients, who are often household names and market-leading companies.  
     Managing partner Chris Trowbridgealong with Heath Cheek and Beverly WhitleyrepresentMidwestern Cattle Marketing in a matter that has bounced between the Northern District of Texas and the Fifth Circuit. Trowbridge filed a lawsuit against Legion Bank after several individuals perpetrated a $7 million check-kiting scheme against the client using their account at Legion Bank, who, upon investigation, did nothing to stop the fraudulent transaction even though the internal fraud alarm systems alerted the bank. Trowbridge’s alleged claims against the bank question whether a third party/non-customer can sue a bank for failing to detect a fraud that causes injury to a non-customer – a challenge that could potentially change the law. The Fifth Circuit found in favor of the client and remanded the case back to the Northern District of Texas. However, the district court again granted the defendant summary judgment and Trowbridge filed another appeal to the Fifth Circuit which heard oral arguments in April 2021Cheek recently obtained a nominal settlement that put to rest a contentious fiduciary duty matter brought derivatively by the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) against the clients, former officers and directors of the nonprofit. The receiver, controlled by the former CEO, originally brought a lawsuit against Cheek’s clients; however, through strategic discovery and contested litigation, Cheek was able to reopen the bankruptcy case which allowed Cheek to settle the matter with the bankruptcy trustee rather than the former CEO who sought $20 million in damages. Jeffrey Ansley focuses mainly on white-collar crime with numerous matters arising against the government entities. Randall Lindley’s expertise involves a combination of commercial and bankruptcy litigation. Karen Hart and Mikel Bowers both maintain practices involving commercial and real estate litigationBowers is litigating an international dispute that is taking place in the Superior Court of Justice in Ontario, Canada. The matter was filed by Canada-based Z-Modular alleging that Bowers’ client KyotoCooling breached a purchase order agreement.  

Bradley Arant Boult Cummings

Headquartered in Birmingham, Bradley has emerged as a dominant player in the legal services industry in the Southeast, boasting an ever-expanding network of offices throughout the region (in Mississippi, Tennessee, North Carolina, Florida and Washington, DC, as well as its native Alabama.) The firm has doubled down on its surge into Texas as well; most recently the firm lured a celebrated local “trial lawyer extraordinaire,” Richard “Dick” Sayles, to the firm’s Dallas office. Sayles, an all-purpose commercial litigator who once headed his own litigation boutique, Sayles Werbner, is viewed by all as a particularly auspicious addition. “With that hire, Bradley certainly made a splash in Texas,” testifies one local peer. “That is basically kicking the doors open, yelling ‘Hey Dallas, we’re here!’ Dick Sayles was one of those people who owned the city when I was a young local lawyer, and he continues to do amazing things.” As a bonus, the firm also scored Sayles’ son, Robert Sayles, a noted future star. The elder Sayles is representing JPMorgan Chase in a $220 million qui tam action arising out of mortgage modification program.
     In the firm’s flagship Birmingham office, Mike Pennington is lead counsel defending Ocwen and PHH in four class action and over a dozen individual cases alleging that convenience fees charged for use of optional same-day telephone and online payment and processing methods violate the FDCPA and various state laws. The cases are pending in Florida, California and New Jersey. A prior similar class action in Alabama was settled and received final approval in 2019. Pennington was also, along with Scott Smith and Leigh Anne Hodge, retained as ERISA class-action counsel to defend BBVA against challenges to its 401(k) defined contribution plan. The lawsuit putatively covers all participants in the BBVA 401(k) plan nationwide and seeks over $40 million in damages. Specifically, the suit claims BBVA violated its fiduciary duties to plan participants by including a money market fund in its plan and by failing to control the costs and expenses of several actively managed mutual funds and target date funds in the plan. Beyond commercial litigation, “Bradley’s life sciences team is nationally known,” according to a peer. Tripp Haston, Kim Martin and Lindsey Boney have represented Bayer in multiple Xarelto litigation matters. A mass tort litigation recently settled for $775 million in the aggregate, after six bellwether trials, all of which were defense wins. Seasoned partner David Hymer is noted for his nationwide representation of CVS in the opioid litigation. In the Montgomery, Alabama office, Charles “Chuck” Stewart has an ongoing relationship with Textron and is representing this client in a case filed by a plaintiff that was rendered crippled by a golf cart.
      In the firm’s Nashville office, Lela Hollabaugh serves as Tennessee counsel for Amazon.com, in a $30 million product liability litigation against it arising from the sale of hoverboards by third-party sellers on the Amazon Marketplace. The allegations in the complaint seek to hold Amazon liable as a seller of the products that are sold by others on its Marketplace.

Gibbs & Bruns

Based in Houston but nationally recognized for its litigation and trial prowess, Gibbs & Bruns is a boutique that continues to reinvent itself while remaining one of the most venerated firms of its variety. Recognized by Benchmark Litigation as one of the Top 20 Trial Firms in the country for the fourth consecutive year, the firm has continuously obtained favorable results on behalf of its clients in high-stakes business and complex commercial disputes. 
     Former managing partner Scott Humphries has retired, and in his place Mike AbsmeierAshley Kleber, two younger emerging stars, have stepped in to share co-managing partner duties. Both operate largely in the commercial litigation space, with an emphasis on the energy industry. Absmeier and Kleber are involved in three matters, valued in total at $5 billion, for Trustmark National Bank related to the collapse of the ill-fated (and ultimately exposed as fraudulent) Stanford Financial Group, for whom the client provided routine banking servicesLead counsel in thcasesveteran trial lawyer and firm figurehead Robin Gibbs has more than 45 years of litigation experience under his belt. His practice is dedicated to business and commercial litigation pertaining to contract, energy, oil and gas, antitrust, trade secret, legal malpractice, securities, director liability, intellectual property, construction, and partnership issues. Gibbs still draws accolades as being one of the “finest trial lawyers in Houston, a town that has many of them.” Another perennial favorite, Kathy Patrick is helming a case for 17 opt-out plaintiffs against VISA/Mastercard concerning claims that the card entities violated antitrust laws by imposing supracompetitive interchange fees on merchants accepting Visa and Mastercard payment cards. This sprawling case is valued at $20 billion. “There could even be treble damages there,” marvels one peer. “This is a massive deal.” Barrett Reasoner, yet another firm evergreen, acts on this matter as well. “Barrett Reasoner might be one of the best trial lawyers I’ve ever seen,” extols a peer. “He got a take-nothing judgment in the Natural Resources v. Anadarko case against Susman Godfrey, which is a great firm!” Patrick is also part of the lead counsel team representing OxyChem in a New Jersey federal lawsuit over cleanup costs allegedly related to a stretch of the purportedly polluted Passaic River. 

Gibson Dunn & Crutcher

Gibson Dunn & Crutcher continues to enjoy a coveted position as one of the nation’s strongest and most in-demand litigation institutions. “We view Gibson Dunn as our biggest and most formidable competitor,” confides one peer. Another offers in agreement, “I think these days you are seeing a ‘flight to quality,’ and Gibson Dunn really exemplifies that. They just get better and better.” Indeed, the firm’s star litigators, already one of the highest concentrations of any listed firm, seem to swell in number annually, and it is worth noting that these partners are distributed evenly throughout its offices and practice areas. “It’s hard to find an Achilles’ heel there! There are just no weak links,” confirms a peer, speaking to the firm’s balance of talent. That said, the firm is particularly celebrated in the fields of antitrust, white-collar crime, intellectual property, securities and commercial litigation, and its appellate and Supreme Court practice is regularly viewed as the most active and experienced in the country. 
     Gibson Dunn’s star practitioners have regularly appeared as counsel on cases that have made national headlines, and this past year – despite a global pandemic – was no exception. “Gibson Dunn is just everywhere,” confirms a peer. “If you want to know what they’re up to, just look in the news.” Indeed, one such newsworthy matter includes defending Apple against Epic Games, developer of the popular “Fortnite” game, in a massive showdown involving antitrust claims concerning Apple’s alleged enforcing of App Store policies in a monopolistic fashion. The California judge presiding over the case publicly praised the diversity represented on the teams on both sides of this case, and Gibson Dunn’s Dallas-based Veronica Moye was one such example of this. In a trial that concluded in May 2021, Moye directly handled the questioning of Apple CEO Tim Cook. In another matter that made the headlines, a team consisting of Los Angeles partner Ted Boutrous and New York’s Anne Champion successfully represented Mary Trump in a First Amendment case dealing with the Trump family’s attempt to halt the publication of her book Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man. Boutrous, a noted First Amendment specialist, also handled another newsworthy matter of this variety, representing the New York Times in a case in which the DoJ sought information about the email accounts of four Times journalists in investigations about potential leaks of confidential government information. Along with Alexander Southwell, a New York white-collar star who has a niche in privacy and cyber-security, Boutrous secured a reversal in this decision from the DoJ in June 2021, protecting the confidentiality of the journalistic sources.  
     In the firm’s famed appeals practice, partners such as Ted OlsonMark Perry and Miguel Estrada are considered “pretty much brand names at this point” in the eyes of peers. “That is basically like the Mount Rushmore of the Supreme Court practice.” Indeed, each of the aforementioned partners has been at the forefront of a staggering number of game-changing appeals that have forged new law and made national headlines. A name that is generating an increasing level of profile, Helgi Walker is commended by peers and clients. One such client testifies, “Helgi and [newly listed DC future star] Lucas Townsend are on par with the finest appellate lawyers in DC. They bring a thoughtfulness and expert caution to drafting creative and effective briefs.” Walker successfully represented petitioners, the National Association of Broadcasters and served as lead counsel for the broadcast and newspaper industry group before the Supreme Court in a case concerning the proposed elimination of media ownership restrictions that saddle the entities’ ability to efficiently consolidate. In April 2021, the Supreme Court handed Walker’s clients a unanimous victory. Perry, along with Los Angeles life sciences patent specialist Wayne Barsky, secured a huge patent infringement victory at the Federal Circuit on behalf of EMD Serono and Pfizer in a case involving a patent on a multiple sclerosis medicine for which the plaintiff sought more than $5.4 billion in damages.  
     Elsewhere in Gibson Dunn’s patent litigation gallery of IP litigation wins, New York’s Josh Krevitt scored a complete trial victory in February 2021 for Fitbit, in a patent case brought by Philips against Fitbit and Garmin in the ITC.  Philips’ complaint asserted three patents against virtually all of Fitbit’s smartwatch and tracker products and sought an exclusion order to stop Fitbit from importing or selling the products anywhere in the US for the life of the patents.Krevitt also led a team that logged a complete defense victory on behalf of EMC (now part of Dell) in patent litigation that spanned seven years and in which the plaintiff originally sought nearly $1 billion in damages. Another New York partner with a particular flair for in intellectual property and entertainment, Orin Snyder leads a team that was retained by AMC to defend against two cases, each valued at $280 million, concerning the hit TV show The Walking Dead filed by former showrunner Frank Darabont and his agents at Creative Artists Agency as well as some other profit alleging that they are owed monies in connection with AMC’s accounting of the television series. Los Angeles entertainment authority Scott Edelman and New York-based future star Brian Ascher are also part of the team. Snyder also defends longtime client Jerry Seinfeld, whose hit Netflix show Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee was targeted in a copyright lawsuit. Snyder secured the dismissal of the lawsuit and subsequent affirmance by the Second Circuit.   
     The firm’s white-collar and enforcement group is also considered one of the most power-packed among national firms. In particular, DC’s Joseph Warin is a peer favorite. “In the anticorruption area, if we’re conflicted out, we refer to him, because he has a really experienced team,” testifies one peer. Another insists, “If I was a GC in trouble, Joe would be on my speed-dial, certainly in the FCPA world, but he’s terrific with everything. Gibson has a ton of great people, but Joe is really the essence.” New York-based white-collar defense and investigations practice group member Matthew Biben, who also co-chairs the financial institutions group, was a former large bank general counsel before pivoting to private practice. His diverse practice includes advocating for clients in matters related to financial institutionscivil disputes, securities and bankruptcy litigation, and government actions. 

Hunton Andrews Kurth

Hunton Andrews Kurth, the product of a recent merger between two prominent firms (the Southeast institution Hunton & Williams and the Texas-centric Andrews Kurth), with the combined entity bringing together each firm’s strengths in a complementary fashion and doubles down on its comprehensive coverage regionally. Clients cheer the firm’s “expertise in our area and consistent excellence in client service and communications exceeded expectations,” calling out the individual lawyers’ “thorough, responsive and concise work product,” and testifying that they are “always available”.
     Hunton’s concentration of litigation talent in its Richmond office is particularly notable. Mike Shebelskie garners praise from well beyond Virginia and is noted nationally for his presence in high-stakes matters often containing an environmental element, an area in which Hunton & Williams was particularly well versed. Shebelskie has cases with Elbert Lin, another Richmond partner who has been particularly visible as of late. Lin argued for Maui County at the Supreme Court in a case exploring the parameters of the Clean Water Act, Lin triumphed in a favorable decision that was rendered in April 2020. “This is a milestone,” claims a peer. “It’s time to recognize Elbert Lin!” Another environmental litigator (and leader of the practice) based in the DC office, Deidre Duncan led a team that won a significant victory for Mosaic Fertilizer in the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in a suit challenging the federal authorizations and reviews issued for Mosaic’s South Pasture Extension mine under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Clean Water Act (CWA) and Endangered Species Act (ESA.)The underlying suit, filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and other environmental groups, raised more than a dozen claims under NEPA, CWA and ESA. The Hunton team defeated those claims in the district court in November 2018, and the environmental groups appealed. In a comprehensive opinion, a divided panel of the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision and, in doing so, established important precedent governing the scope of NEPA reviews.
    Kelly Sandill in the firm’s Houston office led an all-female firm team that scored a milestone win in a hotly contested lawsuit for the Houston Police Officers’ Union when, in May 2019 after months of litigation, a Harris County District Court Judge awarded summary judgment in the client’s favor by ruling that Proposition B, which was a City Charter Amendment passed by the voters that tied firefighter pay to police pay, was preempted by Texas state law and unconstitutional. The ruling follows a year’s worth of contentious debate surrounding Proposition B and the financial effect on the City of Houston and Houston police officers. In the Miami office, all-purpose commercial litigator Sam Danon continues to be viewed as “a force,” with one local peer elaborating, “Sam is very savvy – he’s a native Spanish speaker, which you need to be around here, but Sam is particularly good at using this to his advantage not only in litigation but for building business.”
     The firm’s geographic footprint is not limited to the South. Partners in the firm’s Boston office Harry Manion and Martin Gaynor led a team that won a June 2019 jury verdict of more than $20 million against the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center over dredging related to construction of a marine terminal.

 

King & Spalding

King & Spalding is an internationally lauded law firm with a network of 22 offices worldwide, with 10 of these outside the US. Peers are quick to address the firm’s most obvious strengths; one being its global balance of power. “King & Spalding was way ahead of the curve in terms of establishing an international scope. That firm has as many tentacles internationally as it does in the US.” Another area in which the firm reigns supreme is the energy sector. One competitor confirms, “King & Spalding is very deep in the life sciences world, and in energy - forget it. No other big national firm can touch them on the litigation side.” The firm is also said to be “the best in the world when it comes to representing the ‘Big Four’ accounting firms.” 

     The firm’s global footprint is illustrated best by the firm’s international arbitration practice, considered one of the premier practices among domestically headquartered firms. “King & Spalding have really terrific bench strength in international arbitrationprobably the broadest across offices,” declares a peer. Indeed, this practice formed the nucleus of several of the firm’s key engagements of the past year. In a novel matter demonstrating the intersection of international arbitration and construction litigation (another of the firm’s noted areas of strength), Austin-based construction specialist Mike Stenglein and Houston-based international arbitration luminary Doak Bishop represent Reficar in an ICC arbitration arising from the construction of the Cartagena oil refinery in Colombia, purportedly the largest project in the country’s history. The damages at issue are in excess of several billion dollars. Stenglein also partnered with another seasoned international arbitration practitioner and New York’s managing partner Edward Kehoe in representing Footprint in a matter involving a contractor’s failure to deliver natural gas-fired combined-cycle electric power plant on time and within budgetThe contractor sued Footprint for $569 million in damages in an ICDR AAA arbitration proceeding, claiming that Footprint improperly refused to approve change orders that would pay them additional monies and extend the due date for completion of the project. Footprint has counterclaimed for nearly $300 million in damages arising from the delay to complete the project on time and the contractor’s grossly negligent execution failures. Kehoe also has his own noted fan base; “I have enormous respect for Ed,” extols one peer, himself a fellow leader in the international arbitration space.   
     King & Spalding’s California operations have also seen a flurry of activity as of late. Los Angeles-based trial lawyer Joseph Akrotirianakis, a new addition to this year’s star rankings, represents international cybersecurity technology company NSO Group in defense of a groundbreaking lawsuit brought by Facebook and WhatsApp, brought under the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and its California analogue, the Comprehensive Computer Data Access and Fraud Act in the Northern District of California. Facebook and WhatsApp allege that NSO’s “Pegasus” technology, which NSO licenses to foreign governments to use in investigating and preventing terrorism and serious crime, illegally accesses WhatsApp’s servers. Plaintiffs assert a claim for the alleged breach of WhatsApp’s terms of service. Kenneth Steinthal, who works out of the Los Angeles and San Francisco offices, and Bruce Baber, who operates from New York and Atlanta, represented Dolby Laboratories in a copyright infringement and breach of contract action against Adobe in the Northern District of California. Before the dispute, Dolby Laboratories had provided its audio technologies to Adobe which decided to include Dolby technologies in many of its software products. In this action, Dolby claimed that Adobe failed to properly account for and pay royalties owed under several license agreements, that Adobe used Dolby technology in products that were outside the scope of the license agreements, and that Adobe continued to sell products with Dolby technology after the termination of the license agreements. Dolby sought damages totaling over $2 billion for these breaches and infringement under a damages model supported by substantial fact discovery and expert testimony. Adobe unsuccessfully attempted to reduce Dolby’s asserted damages through summary judgment motions, Daubert motions, and pretrial motions. Another Los Angeles star, Alexander Calfo secured a monumental victory on behalf of clients Halyard Health and Kimberly-Clark Corporation when in July 2020 the Ninth Circuit vacated the district court’s judgment and decertified a class of California hospitals and healthcare providers that purchased allegedly defective personal protective equipmenterasing what was once a $454 million verdict. Specifically, the case alleged that the clients’ MicroCool surgical gowns were unsafe and falsely advertised during the Ebola crisis.   

     Calfo’s teammate on the aforementioned caseStephen Devereaux represented Yale University, securing a complete dismissal in two putative nationwide class actions arising from the highly publicized “Varsity Blues” college admissions bribery scandal. An all-purpose litigator with a specialized focus on class actions, Devereaux is domiciled in the firm’s celebrated Atlanta office, which local peers still view as the city’s stronghold, even as the firm has long since expanded beyond Georgia’s borders. Another Atlanta partner, David Balser led the defense of Delta Air Lines in one of several putative class actions against major US airlines that market third-party travel insurance on their websites. The plaintiff claimed Delta violated RICO, Florida’s Deceptive Trade Practices Act and was unjustly enriched by failing to disclose its financial interest in the policies.  
     In the New York office, intellectual property star Gerald Flattmann represented Galderma Laboratories in Hatch-Waxman patent infringement litigation in the District of Delaware against Sun Pharmaceutical Industries. The three-day bench trial resulted in a win for Galderma, with a September 2019 finding that Sun’s proposed competitor product infringed Galderma’s patents literally and under the doctrine of equivalents. Another New York partner, operating in the white-collar and enforcement field, Carmen Lawrence represented Kroll Bond Rating Agency in the investigation and settlement of the SEC's enforcement proceeding finding that the client had inadequate internal controls relating to its ratings on commercial mortgage-backed securities.

McGinnis Lochridge

Founded in 1927, McGinnis Lochridge is a multi-practice Texas shop with more than 70 lawyers operating in offices in Austin, Houston, Dallas, and Decatur. The firm’s attorneys maintain a broad civil law practice in all Texas state and federal courts. Its major practice areas include oil and gas, complex commercial and energy litigation, public utility regulation, class actions, environmental, labor and employment, intellectual property, and international law. The firm’s clients range from individuals and small businesses to some of the world’s largest corporations. One such client testifies, “McGinnis Lochridge has deep experience in energy-related regulatory issues and litigation. They are excellent advocates to FERC and to the Texas Railroad Commission. They can also get up to speed quickly on energy litigation issues because they know the industry well.” Jonathan Baughman, addressed as a “very capable oil and gas litigator and general business litigator,” represents several clients located in in expected industry sector, with most of these (and their cases) being confidential. However, Baughman’s practice is varied and not limited to oil and gas; in particular he has been particularly active in intellectual property-related matters as of late. Baughman leads a team that represents clients in several matters related to Lanham Act violations and trademark infringements. Baughman is also lead counsel in a novel estate law matter, representing an individual as the executor of his mother’s estate where his mother was deprived of significant royalties associated with her homestead rights. 

Reid Collins & Tsai

Reid Collins & Tsai has crafted itself a niche as a true maverick trial boutique, even as it continues its measured expansion. In addition to its two Texas locations (Dallas and Austin) and outposts in New York and DC, the firm boldly added a fifth office – among the crowded Wilmington, Delaware scene – this past year, bringing its total headcount tally to 37 lawyersThe firm is often the fortunate recipient of cases that other, usually larger, firms refer or are conflicted out of, and these cases fall primarily on the plaintiff side of the ‘V.’ “These guys are definitely purveyors of an increasingly lost art,” offers one peer. “But they are not just ‘cowboys,’ they are strategic. They prepare incessantly and they are not just looking to do ‘the settlement dance’ and get out.” Another peer – and frequent opponent – quips, “They are a pain to go up against because they’re so good! They’ve gotten very good at figuring out where money should come from when business deals fall apart. They approach litigation like businessmen and know quite a bit about bankruptcy!”  
     Austin-based (but nationally known)Bill Reid is an architect of the firm and an all-purpose commercial trial lawyer. “Bill is a survivor!” insists a peer. “He is hard-nosed but fair. We throw bombs at each other and then settle up afterward.” Reid represented Claymore Holdings in a long-running lawsuit, with its genesis in 2013, against Credit Suisse stemming from an allegedly fraudulent appraisal in connection with a 2007 loan that grossly overvalued a Las Vegas development project, which in turn induced Claymore to invest more than $250 million. After winning a $40 million dollar jury verdict in 2014 and after securing a judgment from the Texas state court, Reid argued and won multiple appeals on multiple issues in the Texas Court of Appeals and before the Texas Supreme Court. After over ten years of negotiation, litigation, and appeals, Dallas County Judge Dale Tillery rejected Credit Suisse’s argument that Claymore should receive none of the original $40 million jury verdict because Claymore had recovered a fraction of its losses in prior settlements with the appraisers. At a hearing in January 2021, Reid argued that Credit Suisse should pay Claymore $171.9 million in out-of-pocket damages and prejudgment interest. Credit Suisse is now liable for fraud having lost the issue for good. Reid also led a team that in September 2020 scored a $1 billion judgment for affiliates of Highland Capital Management from high-profile pharmaceutical investment fund and its principals in case involving complex issues regarding the use of a web of entities to avoid paying over $500 million in contractual obligations. Eric Madden, a bankruptcy-focused partner, sued certain directors and officers of Patriot National in a matter related to over $100 million in related-party transactions with its former chairman and his affiliates. The company collapsed into bankruptcy in early 2018 in the wake of an SEC investigation and a series of class-action lawsuits. Madden successfully negotiated a $44 million settlement of its client’s claims. 

Reynolds Frizzell

Reynolds Frizzell is one of Houston’s many litigation boutiques and one that has etched itself a prized position in that particular market, with peers and clients offering their praise on the firm’s behalf. “They are one of my top go-to litigation counsel, particularly in the oil and gas industry that I operate within,” testifies one client. Indeed, the firm’s calling card is heavy with energy-related matters, in keeping with Houston’s primary economic driver. However, Reynolds Frizzell partners have been called into service for matters ranging from professional malpractice matters to commercial matters involving avocados.

     In one recent novel matter, Transocean Offshore Deepwater Drilling Chris Reynolds and Jean Frizzell to pursue patent-infringement cases against Noble Corporation plc (along with various of its subsidiaries and affiliates) and Diamond Offshore Drilling (along with various of its affiliates and subsidiaries). The four patents at issue in the two cases cover the dual-activity technology that Transocean had patented with respect to offshore drilling in ultra-deep waters. The case against Noble covers five different drill ships.  This case was successfully resolved in October 2020. Frizzell was also selected to represent the Dallas Police and Firefighters Pension Fund in its claim against its former actuarial firm for breaching its contractual, statutory and common-law duties in connection with the inception of and modifications to a DROP program (deferred retirement plan) that was purportedly designed to retain senior employees, but instead put the entire pension system at risk after billions in losses. Frizzell was also chosen to lead a team that was hired in 2019 to help original counsel prepare and try a major pipeline construction dispute on behalf of USPL against Rover, which is owned in majority part by Energy Transfer. USPL was seeking approximately $100 million in damages for extra work. In turn, Rover counterclaimed and asserted that USPL did faulty work with respect to certain geotechnical-related work and what Rover claims to be “restoration failures” along the pipeline route. Rover’s claim was for approximately $36 million in damages. Jeremy Doyle was hired Performance Contractors to represent it, as co-counsel with another firm, in connection with a construction dispute involving a $900 million polyethylene plant. The parties are currently engaged in discovery and the lawsuit is set for trial in September 2021. Mike Oldham was retained by World Garden in a suit filed in federal court to enforce World’s Garden’s exclusive distribution agreement with Calavo, the largest producer of avocados and guacamole.  World’s Garden is Calavo’s exclusive distributor to Europe and parts of Asia. World’s Garden asserts claims for fraud and breach of contract, alleging that World’s Garden has established a strong and growing market for Calavo’s products in Europe but now Calavo seeks to cut World’s Garden out and service those international markets directly. 

Sidley Austin

International law firm Sidley Austin is home to lawyers across 20 offices worldwide. Headquartered in Chicago, the firm has a widespread footprint in the states with offices in Boston, Los Angeles, Century City, Palo Alto, San Francisco, Houston, Washington DC, and New York – hubs with significant authority in both litigation and corporate practice. Clients sing the firms praises on a multitude of areas: “What do they do well? Everything,” states one client in particular, adding, “Legal and technical expertise and client-friendly approach, by which I mean advice offering practical solutions, explained in a non-technical manner, executed promptly, with a minimum of management input, and cost-efficient.”

      A notable standout and co-lead of the Supreme Court and appellate practice is Peter Keisler, who clients describe as being “among the foremost litigators in the country” adding, “you could deduce that fact merely based on his team's remarkable clarity in written work and Peter's calm and compelling simplicity in oral argument. He is one of the only lawyers I have met that can effortlessly sound like a helpful advisor to the court, and at the same time a peer to the bench.” Clients also praise the team, declaring “The whole team is utterly humble and kind, and they approach their work with reverence, similar to how a concert pianist would approach a Steinway in a packed concert hall.” Another proclaims, “Mr. Keisler and his appellate group set the bar by which other firms are measured.” Fellow DC litigators Marinn Carlson and Jennifer Haworth McCandless are lead counsel in five large, ongoing investor-state arbitrations defending the Republic of Peru. Karen Popp and Kristin Graham Koehler are members of the lead counsel team representing a leading global network of higher education institutions in conjunction with False Claims Act allegations regarding one of their universities. Joseph Guerra, Carter Phillips, and new litigation star Virginia Seitz were members of the team that secured a significant high-profile victory on behalf of the U.S. House of Representatives in its challenge to the Trump administration’s diversion of $8.1 billion for construction of the southern border wall — billions of dollars more than Congress had appropriated for that purpose. The team represented the House in its appeal from a district court decision dismissing the House’s suit. Paul Kalb is defending Millennium Pharmaceuticals, Inc. in False Claims Act litigation filed by a former sales representative related to the drug Integrilin, alleging that defendants engaged in improper marketing of the drug, thereby causing false claims for reimbursement to be filed with the government. After a multistate investigation, the district court dismissed the case, which prompted appeals and cross-appeals. The Ninth Circuit affirmed all but one issue for the district court to reconsider. In April of 2020, the complaint was again dismissed. The decision is currently on appeal to the Ninth Circuit. Paul Zidlicky is representing the North American Meat Institute in its challenge under the Commerce Clause to California’s Proposition 12, which seeks to impose California’s animal confinement standards for pork and veal outside of California’s borders, and that allegedly discriminates against out-of-state competitors and imposes substantial burdens on interstate and foreign commerce. Mark Hopson is lead trial counsel for FleetCor Technologies in its litigation with the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC is seeking a permanent injunction and hundreds of millions of dollars in consumer redress. The case is currently pending in the Northern District of Georgia and trial is expected.

      Appellate litigator Tacy Flint is an experienced Chicago-based trial lawyer in matters related to commercial, intellectual property and constitutional actions. Flint was a member of the lead counsel team who successfully defeated two preliminary injunction motions at both the U.S. district court and court of appeals on behalf of the Barack Obama Foundation against an attempt to block the imminent construction of the Obama Presidential Center. Five years after the Foundation announced the plan to build the Obama Presidential Library Center, construction finally began in August 2021 as a result of these victories. Tom Rein and Connie Trela are part of the lead council team defending CalAmp Corporation in a case that alleged infringement on four Omega patents. After unfavorable trial, the judgement was appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, the decision was vacated and remanded for a new trial on infringement, willfulness, and damages. After a retrial in 2019, the case remains on appeal.

      Dallas based partners Yolanda Garcia and Angela Zambrano were lead counsel to Forterra Inc. in a complete victory in a $100 million dollar “earn out” arbitration arising from the acquisition of certain building products companies by a private equity firm. Penny Reid leads the charge in representing the official committee of unsecured creditors of Highland Capital Management’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy case. Yvette Ostolaza serves as the managing partner of the Dallas office, and global co-leader of the litigation practice. She is lead counsel in an ongoing action on behalf of Airbus Helicopters Inc., and Airbus Helicopters S.A.S. in connection with a helicopter accident in the Grand Canyon on February 2018 that gained national attention. The team removed the case to federal court under a novel theory of federal officer jurisdiction that had been the source of a circuit split and untested in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. After the case was remanded then stayed by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals pending an appeal by Airbus, the Ninth Circuit issued a 2-1 decision affirming the district court’s order. The case is now proceeding in the District Court of Clark County, Nevada.

      Joan Loughnane of the New York office represents one of the largest U.S. banks in an internal review and multiple parallel investigations concerning fraud in unemployment benefits applications and payments post-COVID through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. This includes dozens of state and federal investigations being conducted by the Department of Labor, the U.S. Secret Service, and over a dozen states’ U.S. Attorneys’ Offices. Andrew Stern achieved an important victory for Tavistock Group, the owner of RoundPoint Mortgage Servicing Corp. after a trial in the Delaware Court of Chancery. The team represents the client in expedited litigation arising out of a merger agreement between RoundPoint and Freedom Mortgage Corp.

      San Francisco partner Sara Brody served as lead partner representing the former Officers and Directors of SunEdison, Inc. in defending securities, shareholder, and other related litigation arising initially out of a dramatic decline in the company’s stock price and liquidity issues that culminated in the largest renewable energy company bankruptcy in 2016. After five years of litigation, in February 2021, the final set of securities claims against Sidley’s clients were dismissed with prejudice pursuant to a settlement. The team was able to negotiate the resolution of all of these cases within the available insurance. Century City partners Chad Hummel and Jack Yeh are co-lead trial counsel in defending a case brought by the California Attorney General alleging under California’s Unfair Competition and False Advertising laws that Ashford University, and its co-defendant parent company, defrauded students into enrolling in their online degree programs. This first-of-its-kind-in-California case is scheduled for trial in October 2021.

Susman Godfrey

Historically known as an “old-line Houston firm,” Susman Godfrey has, within a relatively short period of time, reinvented itself as a litigation juggernaut with national ambitions, which it has fulfilled through its offices in New York, Seattle and Los Angeles. These offices, while newer, have quickly become key players in their respective markets due to them each being populated by high-level trial talent juggling a hybrid of plaintiff and defense commercial, antitrust, securities and intellectual property litigation with exceptionally high stakes. Susman is universally revered for its dedication to a prized culture – developed and fostered by founding partner and (since-deceased) trial lawyer extraordinaire Steve Susman – that grooms the “elite corps” of litigation. Eschewing market trends, the firm marches to the beat of its own drum. “Susman is an unusual firm, maybe a unicorn! I’m not sure that there’s another firm operating the way they do. They are the best of breed in so many ways.” A source within the firm confirms that its multi-pronged practice is booming to the point where further growth expected to absorb all the work, but in a measured fashion. “We don’t just hire the cream of the crop, we hire the cream of the cream! We don’t hire people out of judicial clerkships that would be the Top 5 draft picks at other firms.”
     Bill Carmody, domiciled in New York but universally recognized and nationally hired, receives unanimous support as a trial lawyer. “Bill Carmody is the real deal,” insists one peer. “He is pretty creative and gets success fees even on the defense side.” Carmody led a team that was co-lead counsel to some of the largest political subdivisions in California— including the University of California system, the California State University System, and the County of Los Angeles—in a ground-breaking California False Claims Act lawsuit against wireless carriers. The carriers were alleged to have fraudulently overbilled the government for wireless services by failing to provide contractually required “lowest cost available” service by means of “optimization reports.” The Susman team was also co-lead counsel to the whistleblower who initiated these lawsuits. Settlements were announced in June 2020 in which four telecommunications giants will pay a combined total of $138 million to the government plaintiffs in California and Nevada. Carmody also led a team that was co-lead counsel to Adam Neumann—the founder of WeWork—in his billion-dollar lawsuit against SoftBank Group and SoftBank Vision Fund resulting from SoftBank’s failure to pay Neumann as agreed by contract after his ouster from the company. The case settled in 2021 on confidential terms. Carmody also works with Los Angeles stalwart Marc Seltzer in lead a Susman team that serves as court-appointed co-lead counsel in this consolidated antitrust proceeding arising out of the LIBOR-rate fixing scandal. Notably, the class was certified by the court—which was the only one of several proposed classes to receive certification. So far settlement recoveries from four of the 16 defendants in the case amount to more than $590 million. Another top trial lawyer within the firm, Houston-based Neal Manne triumphed on behalf of a man who, in 2005, was wrongfully convicted of murder and sentenced to death, despite having a plausible alibi that was proven via telephone records that were obtained, and then hidden, by prosecutors. The client spent more than 12 years in prison before his habeas petition was granted, his conviction reversed, and all charges against him were dismissed. Manne represented the client in his efforts to win compensation from the state of Texas for his wrongful incarceration, litigating the issue to the Texas Supreme Court, which in December 2020, unanimously ruled that the client was entitled to compensation. New York’s Jacob Buchdahl receives accolades as a “thoughtful” litigator by one peer, who confirms, “I send him work all the time.” Buchdahl acted pro bono on a matter in which he secured a motion to dismiss all claims for New York University Law Review against FASORP, a Texas-based organization that alleged the university discriminates against white men. Another routinely championed partner, Los Angeles’s Kalpana Srinivasan served as counsel to Sol IP in an action asserting key standard essential LTE and WiFi patents against the major telecommunications carriers Sprint, AT&T and Verizon. Sol IP received a favorable Markman order in 2019. The case settled in 2020 a month before trial. At the future star level, Los Angeles’s Meng Xi is cheered by a peer as “a technical patent star,” who goes on to extrapolate, “I wanted to hire her at my previous firm! She is a Stanford undergrad, educated at Berkeley Law School, who clerked on the Supreme Court. She is legit, she’ll be at the top of the game in another 10 or 15 years max.”
     In the firm’s Seattle office, Parker Folse, another all-purpose commercial litigator, remains a revered presence, who generates plaudits from peers well outside the city. “Oh man, this guy is just ‘King Cool,’” quips one peer. “Great lawyer – has the skills and the polish. He is so good that they basically set up the Seattle office of the firm just to accommodate him when he decided to relocate there. How cool is that? That’s how you know you’re good.” Folse defended Expedia in a breach of contract and trade secret misappropriation case. After the plaintiff filed suit in Utah, the team successfully achieved a complete stay of that litigation and moved the claims to arbitration. Peers also advise, “Also look more into [Houston-based all-purpose commercial trial lawyer] Geoffrey Harrison – he’s the guy with the Grateful Dead T-shirt in every picture! Have you seen it? Look it up, it’s incredible. He’s the only lawyer I know doing this!” Harrison acts on a team that is co-lead counsel to over 20 companies in their allegations that the four largest US railroad companies violated US antitrust laws, conspired to fix the price of rail freight services through coordinated fuel surcharges and caused the companies to pay billions of dollars more for rail shipments than they would have paid in a competitive market.

Labor and employment
Haynes and Boone

Haynes and Boone is a multi-discipline outfit that emerged as a regional player in the Southeast and South Central US. The firm maintains a network of 17 offices with 40 practice areas spreading across its locations. Historically a revered legal brand in its native Texas, the firm has more recently expanded into markets like Washington, DC, largely on the strength of a rapidly burgeoning insurance coverage practice. The firm has won the praise of multiple peers; one testifies, “We are very often in the same sandbox as them, we see them often.” Another peer, based in Houston, extols, “They are really in the mix now, great people. [They have] Quite a bit of action in Dallas, too.” Clients voice their appreciation for the firm’s approach and prowess. One describes Haynes and Boone’s litigators as “aggressive and thoughtful, with an excellent understanding of the law,” and states that they are “good at keeping client focused, thoughtful with billing and credits, excellent at strategy, trustworthy and empathetic.”
     The DC office in particular features trial lawyer Barry Buchman who is a leading policyholder insurance litigator with a specialty in complex insurance coverage, general liability coverage disputes and other cutting-edge insurance coverage matters. “Barry and his team are active in the sexual abuse coverage disputes area,” notes one insurance-focused peer. “When people ask for referrals, he’s always 1, 2 or 3 on the list.” Additionally, Buchman’s practice also touches on commercial disputes that include business torts and representing private equity firms and automotive companies especially. Most recently, Buchman served as lead litigation counsel representing Lionsgate and Starz in a Directors & Officers insurance coverage case that arose out of Lionsgate’s acquisition of Starz and a subsequent shareholder class action that was filed by Starz shareholders. They alleged they were underpaid for their shares compared to the price Lionsgate paid for the shares of another group of shareholders. The insurers for Lionsgate and Starz denied coverage, claiming the “Bump-Up Exclusion” clause in the policies, and after the class action settled for $92.5 million, the clients filed a lawsuit against the insurers for their denial of coverage. One of the insurers for Starz filed a motion for summary judgment arguing that the client improperly compromised the insurer’s subrogation rights against a Starz shareholder, John Malone, who allegedly played a significant and improper part in the Lionsgate’s acquisition. The matter became an issue of first impression regarding whether Malone was considered an “insured person” as he was not a director or officer of Starz. Buchman successfully persuaded the court to consider Malone an “insured person” and the court ruled in the client’s favor based on the policies that prevent insurers from asserting subrogation rights against an insured. 

     Haynes and Boone is also a noted powerhouse in the specialty area of appeals. “In appellate work, they are a premier firm,” raves a peer. “Nina Cortell [now Senior Counsel status] is still active but her protégé Anne Johnson is just tremendous. I would love to hire either of them away but I doubt we could ever get them!” Johnson, domiciled in the firm’s Dallas office, has indeed emerged as a star in this space. She made headlines with her representation of BBVA, on behalf of whom she persuaded a Texas appellate court to overturn a $110 million fraud verdict against the client. The suit was brought against BBVA by a borrower who claimed that a BBVA employee made misrepresentations during loan renewal negotiations. The plaintiff alleged that, at the time the employee represented that his loans were not being sold, the bank was in the process of selling them—an action permitted by the loan documents. The plaintiff claimed that the employee’s representation caused him to lose out on various business opportunities. Johnson and her team were called into action after an unfavorable verdict in 2017. In December 2020, a three-justice panel of the appellate court unanimously reversed the judgment and ruled that the plaintiff take nothing on his claim. Johnson is also lead counsel on appeal for Toyota North America in an appeal stemming from a $242 million verdict against the manufacturer in August 2018. Johnson makes her debut appearance as one of Benchmark’s Top 250 Women in Litigation in this edition. Houston’s Mark Trachtenberg also notched an appellate win when he persuaded the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to affirm a summary judgment in favor of client Caterpillar. In the suit, AIG Europe asserted negligence and product liability claims against Caterpillar, which manufactured an engine used in pumping units at an oil-and-gas well site in Texas. A 2016 fire at the site led to millions of dollars in damages, which AIG sought to recover from Caterpillar and another defendant. Haynes and Boone was retained after a judge in the Eastern District of Texas denied AIG’s motion for partial summary judgment and granted Caterpillar’s motion for summary judgment on each of AIG’s claims.

 

Hunton Andrews Kurth

The national labor and employment team of Hunton Andrews Kurth are active in employment, wage and hour, labor relations and public accessibility cases. Their expertise stems from routinely representing clients in class, collective, and mass actions, as well as in high-profile, high-risk matters in federal and state courts. In addition, practitioners at the firm are noted for serving as counsel for clients in hearings before enforcement agencies, mediations, and arbitrations.
     Texas-based litigator Scott Nelson recently joined the Houston team where he will continue to specialize in employment litigation, with an emphasis on wage and hour class and collective actions, ERISA litigation, and trade secret and restrictive covenant matters. Fellow Houston partner Holly Williamson is active as employment counsel to companies in the oil and gas industries, as well as in the restaurant, retail, financial, chemical, health care, drug testing and administration, transportation, and telecommunications industries. Amber Rogers hails from the firm’s Dallas office where she serves as the hiring partner. Her practice is dedicated to advising clients in collective bargaining, representation elections, decertification elections, unfair labor practice charges, arbitrating grievances, contract administration and interpretation, and union avoidance strategies. She routinely represents clients in wage and hour collective and class actions, trade secrets and post-employment restrictive covenant disputes, and employment discrimination cases, as well as in affirmative action work and audit defense, and advising clients on various diversity and inclusion policies and practices. Fellow Dallas partner Alan Marcuis co-heads the unfair competition and information task force. He also serves as the hiring partner for the firm’s Texas offices. His practice is dedicated to litigating trade secret and nondisclosure matters arising from employment and fiduciary relationships, including intellectual property and other proprietary information. Marcuis frequently represents clients in matters relating to contract, trade secret and post-employment restrictive covenants, EEO litigation, collective bargaining, and labor relations.