By Brenda Sapino Jeffreys | June 05, 2019 at 04:59 PM
Stephen Wedemeyer, Jay Brown and Bruce Wilkin of Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton (Courtesy Photos)
Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, which has four offices in Texas, added a fifth in Houston, bringing on a group of seven commercial litigators who left Winstead.
Led by partners Jay Brown, Stephen Wedemeyer and Bruce Wilkin, the trial group joined Shackelford on June 1. The others moving with them are partners Hilary Borow, Matthew Foytlin and Amparo Guerra and associate Cameron Dernick.
Additionally, Shackelford partner Derek Flynn, who had been based in The Woodlands, which is located about 20 miles north of downtown Houston, has joined the lateral hires in the new office, the 57-lawyer firm announced Wednesday.
In announcing the new location, founder John Shackelford said his firm has been working on establishing an office in Houston for some time but needed to find the right lateral group to complement the firm’s existing practice.
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“The overriding factor in everything we do is how it will benefit our clients. Those benefits are obvious with this talented and respected group of lawyers,” Shackelford said in a press release.
In an interview, founder Shackelford said Houston is such a significant legal market that it’s a natural expansion for the Dallas-based firm. He said the firm’s solid interest in Houston started two years ago with a request from partner David Elrod, who joined Shackelford in 2017 and has a large client in Houston.
“It’s a good move for the firm. These guys are great. The first rule is being good people first, before being good attorneys,” Shackelford said.
In addition to the network of Texas offices, the firm’s preoccupation with client service is a major reason the litigators decided to join Shackelford, Brown said.
“For most of our clients, we handle a great deal of their work across Texas, so we need a firm that is spread around Texas and we also need a firm that gives true meaning to … client focus,” Brown said.
That extends to rate sensitivity and ”focusing on the clients’ business and helping them and growing their kingdom,” Brown said. He said Shackelford was attractive because it provides its lawyers with rate flexibility and a speedy rate-approval process.
Brown said his group has practiced together for many years—they joined Winstead in 2011 after leaving now-closed firm Beirne, Maynard & Parsons—and spent about a year working on a move.
They considered between 15 and 20 firms of all sizes, but seriously talked to only a handful, Brown said. He said the only firms they didn’t put in the hopper were “mega-firms” based on the coasts, because of culture and rate structure, but also because of what his group perceives as more of a focus on “their own empire” than clients.
“We also flirted with the idea of just starting our own firm, but none of us want to do that,” he said.
Wilkins said they appreciate the fact that Shackelford is full service and plans to quickly add lawyers in other practice areas in Houston.
“We are already talking to three different groups kind of outside our practice area. We intend to grow to full service,” Brown said.
The veteran litigator declined to identify the group’s clients, but said they include many energy companies. In addition to complex commercial litigation, they also do insurance coverage work.
When asked for a comment on the departures, Winstead CEO David Dawson said in a statement: “We congratulate Shackelford on the addition of an excellent insurance litigation team to build their Houston office.”
Shackelford has offices in Dallas, Houston, Frisco, Fort Worth and Austin, as well as one non-Texas office in Nashville. Shackelford said that even with Flynn moving to the Houston office, the firm will keep office space in The Woodlands because Flynn has clients there and will use it occasionally. Also, he notes, new partner Guerra does work for Exxon Mobil, which has a large campus in The Woodlands.
In 2017, another Winstead lawyer moved to Shackelford—civil litigator Talmage Boston in Dallas.