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Androvett Blog

by Robert Tharp at 4:55:32 pm

Minority attorneys of any political stripe can learn something from Barrack Obama's candidacy, writes attorney Kathleen Wu in her second and final installment analyzing the
 
Democratic candidates from the perspective of a motivational coach. While Wu's earlier piece on the Hillary Clinton campaign offered parallels specifically for female lawyers, her latest essay concludes that Obama's campaign has something to offer everyone, regardless of party affiliation. Wu, a partner at Andrews Kurth in Dallas, notes the simple("Dress better than you have to") to the profound ("Don't let lowered expectations equal lowered performance") in the Obama story. "Obama offers a useful road map to success, whatever one's political ideology: Early struggles do not rule out future successes," Wu writes. "Others' limited ideas about one's potential are not insurmountable barriers to achievement." For those waiting for Wu's take on John McCain, don't hold your breath. "He's undoubtedly a statesman and may well be our next president," she writes. "Still, he's white and he's male; I just don't know anything about being either of those two things."

 

by Robert Tharp at 3:54:54 pm

A tight-knit staff and a supportive, family friendly environment are big factors that helped Houston- and Dallas-based legal recruiting firm MS Legal Search secure the
honor of being among the "Best Places to Work" identified in this week's Houston Business Journal. Firm founder Elaine Makris Williams says the 13-year-old firm is committed to supporting employees and providing a collaborative environment, which pays off with happy and productive employees. The award is based on an anonymous employee survey. MS Legal is operated by former practicing lawyers who have helped place experienced attorneys in leading law firms and corporations since 1995. The firm is owned and operated by women and is a certified Women's Business Enterprise. To learn more about MS Legal Search, visit www.mslegalsearch.com.

 

by Robert Tharp at 2:30:32 pm

Intellectual property attorneys at Dallas-based McKool Smith, PC have reached an $83.3 million settlement on behalf of Dallas-based inventory management software

 
company i2 Technologies. The hefty settlement resolves litigation filed in 2006 related to seven software patents related to the company's supply chain planning technology. McKool Smith attorneys charged that Germany's SAP AG and its U.S. subsidiary SAP Inc., had infringed on Patent Numbers 5,764,543; 5,930,156; 5,983,194; 6,055,519; 6,167,380; 6,188,989; and 7,085,729. The McKool Smith team representing i2 included firm principals Ted Stevenson, Sam Baxter, and David Sochia, and firm associates Jill Bindler, Chris Bovenkamp, Steve Callahan, Bo Davis and Scott Hejny.

For more information, please contact Bruce Vincent at 800.559.4534 or bruce@androvett.com.

 

by Robert Tharp at 4:09:10 pm

It was so easy to snicker at this seemingly ridiculous story out of Quebec with the headline, "Court overturns father's grounding of 12-year-old," when the article had just a few graphs and no context. Consider:
A Canadian court has lifted a 12-year-old girl's grounding, overturning her father's punishment for disobeying his orders to stay off the Internet, his lawyer said

 
Wednesday.
The girl had taken her father to Quebec Superior Court after he refused to allow her to go on a school trip for chatting on websites he tried to block, and then posting "inappropriate" pictures of herself online using a friend's computer.
But it's rarely so black-and-white and now a little more difficult to beat up on the judge after Canada's Globe and Mail filled in some of the details that explain this judge's head-scratching ruling. Some of the `complicating factors' can be found here, but suffice to say Canada's family laws are perhaps even more complicated than the ones we enjoy here, and apparently adults going through divorce act just as crazy north of the border.

by Robert Tharp at 3:28:26 pm

It's been a long 16 months and a wild and bumpy ride for stockholders of Sirius and XM since the two satellite radio companies began merger talks. Recent news

 
that the FCC's chairman is backing the proposed $7.5 billion merger puts one huge hurdle behind the deal, but it doesn't mean the deal is a forgone conclusion, says merger attorney Marcello Hallake of Thompson & Knight's New York office. "While the Justice Department found the deal was not anticompetitive, there continues to be opposition to the merger from conventional broadcasting companies, as well as politically motivated concerns," says Hallake, who represents international telecommunications companies in mergers and acquisitions. Shareholders of both companies, as well as the Department of Justice, have already endorsed the proposed merger, and an FCC ruling is all that now stands in the deal's way. While the FCC chairman has endorsed the deal, Hallake says that four of the FCC's commissioners, including the panel's two Democrats, may seek more conditions or concessions.To interview Mr. Hallake about merger considerations, contact Barry Pound at 800-559-4534 or barry@androvett.com.  

 

by Robert Tharp at 2:28:09 pm

While folks at The Legal Intelligencer have reported an interesting non-story related to the relentless rise in fuel prices – that lawyers in an unscientific

 
poll are not changing commuting habits as a result of fuel costs – there are some important considerations for businesses trying to help employees during these tough times. Some employers clearly are trying to ease the pain of $4 per gallon gas with shortened workweeks, carpooling incentives and public transportation discounts. Labor and Employment attorney Rachel Steely of  Gardere Wynne Sewell in Houston advises employers to be careful they don’t cut employees’ work hours to the point that they lose insurance or other employee benefits. "Offering flextime is a great way to keep your loyal workers satisified, and during rocky economic times retaining your skilled workers is one of the best business strategies," she says. "The cost to replace and retrain someone is much higher." To interview Ms. Steely about employee flextime, contact Rhonda Reddick at 800-559-4534 or rhonda@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 3:51:55 pm

Fort Worth Star-Telegram city hall reporter Mike Lee exposes an interesting byproduct of the Barnett Shale natural gas boom that's seen drilling operations literally going though and under congested metropolitan areas in and around Tarrant County. The latest wrinkle has production companies creating spinoff pipeline operations, which are able to obtain the same kind of eminent domain powers typically reserved for municipalities and public utilities. Armed with these powers, Lee describes how multiple gas companies are
 
installing their own competing pipelines though Tarrant County, acquiring property by condemnation along the way. It may seem counterintuitive that a private company can have the same powers as a public utility, but Dallas attorney Charles Fiscus, who focuses on real estate and eminent domain issues at Shackelford Melton & McKinley, tells Lee that such a pipeline can serve just one company and still be considered a utility, much like trucking companies that lease all their trucks to just one customer are still considered "common carriers" in the government's eyes.

by Robert Tharp at 3:58:59 pm

The painfully high price of oil has really limited the bailout options for airlines on the brink of bankruptcy, says Steve Stapleton, a bankruptcy and aviation industry attorney at Cowles & Thompson. "Airlines have already taken extreme measures and cut their expenses to the bone, but they're still losing money," says Stapleton,

 
who authored a chapter on aviation bankruptcy trends for an upcoming book. "Chapter 11 bankruptcy, however, may not be the perceived panacea it once was. The domestic credit crisis, the escalating price of oil and the weakening dollar have created the perfect storm for the industry, requiring a wholesale reevaluation of its business model." Stapleton predicts that bankruptcy liquidation rather than reorganization will become more attractive as oil prices continue to soar. In the meantime, passenger headaches from increasing fees and fares, reduced services and discontinued routes will continue. To interview Mr. Stapleton about aviation bankruptcy trends, contact Robert Tharp at 800-559-4534 or robert@androvett.com.  

by Robert Tharp at 3:38:47 pm

Stanford Law School soon joins the University of California and Yale University in abandoning traditional A-Fs. The new law school grading method will use a quota system both to recognize academic performance and shift students and professors away from obsessing about grades.

 

"It reduces the pursuit of grades as the chief concern of students - they're learning for the sake of learning, without choosing courses based on worries whether a professor is a tough grader or not," Stanford Law School Dean Larry Kramer told the San Jose Mercury News. "Students were too focused on grades, and choosing courses based on grades."

But don't expect most other law schools to follow suit, says legal recruiter Elaine Makris Williams of MS Legal Search. "Only the very top schools can afford to do this," says Williams. "Because Yale, Stanford and Berkeley are among the country's top schools, their graduates are highly recruited by employers. A graduate of a top-tier school is usually more sought after by employers than a ‘top grades' graduate of a lower-tier school." To interview Ms. Williams about trends in legal recruiting, contact Barry Pound at 800-559-4534 or barry@androvett.com.  

by Robert Tharp at 11:13:54 am

Officially, D CEO calls its 2008 roundup of lawyers with the top courtroom skills, "The Advocates." We liked the headline on the cover of the glossy Dallas publication, "The Hit Men," featuring local attorneys Marty Rose of Rose•Walker, Frank Branson of The Law Offices of Frank L. Branson and Mark Werbner of Sayles Werbner
 
looking all-business. Those three attorneys plus Jeff Tillotson of Lynn Tillotson Pinker & Cox and Mike McKool of McKool Smith each receive in-depth profiles inside the publication. As D CEO writer John G. Browning puts it, "They are apex predators at the top of the litigation food chain, moving as effortlessly and efficiently in the courtroom as great white sharks gliding through their watery habitat. Their courtroom exploits throughout Texas and the rest of the country have earned them princely sums and larger-than-life reputations in the legal community."

by Robert Tharp at 4:06:54 pm

There's plenty of buzz about law firms creating practice groups devoted to the expected increase in litigation related to climate change and carbon-trading policies. The Dallas boutique litigation firm of Lynn Tillotson Pinker & Cox doesn't have such a formal practice group, but the firm and particularly name partner Trey Cox have steadily
 
become key players in the booming wind-energy industry. Cox's defense win of a legal challenge to the $1 billion Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center was a huge victory for the industry. Since then, Cox authored a white paper on wind farm development and litigation strategies and has become a sought-after speaker on the subject. Most recently, he was the featured speaker at Wind Law III, in Sweetwater, Texas.

by Robert Tharp at 2:26:24 pm

Staying abreast of the latest social networking sites can be so daunting that it has spanwed a form of anxiety that has its own media-given name: "social networking fatigue."

So what's an attorney to do? Should you care about Twitter and the opportunity to keep a network of contacts apprised of daily happenings in no more than 140-character messages?. Should a business litigator stoop to the level of Facebook or MySpace?

A confluence of recent news reports indicate that at least one social networking site has emerged as a dominant and potentially useful networking tool that no law firm

 
should ignore. That would be LinkedIn. Consider:

• According to legal blogger Steve Matthews, LinkedIn is adding tens of thousands of attorneys to its membership rolls each month.

• Kevin O'Keefe at Real Lawyers Have Blogs reports that there are now more attorneys in the LinkedIn directory than in Martindale.com, lawyers.com and findlaw.com. Many law firms have separate LinkedIn profiles as well.
• Finally, there was news Tuesday that LinkedIn had secured $53 million in venture capital and will likely be rolling out new services in the coming months.

According to the New York Times, LinkedIn is now valued at $1 billion and has seen its membership swell in the last year to 23 million members. The Times reports: "...The average age of a LinkedIn user is 41, the point in life where people are less likely to build their digital identities around dates, parties and photos of revelry. LinkedIn Gives professionals, even the most hopeless wallflower, a painless way to follow the advice of every career counselor: build a network. Users maintain online resumes, establish links with collegues and business acquaintances and then expand their networks to the contacts of their contacts."

by Robert Tharp at 9:49:33 am

Reporters and editors at the Dallas Business Journal recently set out to answer a variation of one of the eternal questions that inevitably surfaces when two or more attorneys are present at a cocktail party: Who's the best business-litigation defense attorney out there?

The 2008 list of "The Defenders"(subscription only) in this week's edition was compiled based on outside nominations followed by an internal vetting by the DBJ staff.

Congratulations to this year's honorees:

Rodney Acker, Fulbright & Jaworski
Chris Akin, Carrington Coleman
Jerry Beane, Andrews Kurth
George Bramblett, Haynes and Boone
Trey Cox, Lynn Tillotson Pinker & Cox
David Elrod, Elrod PLLC
Gregory Huffman, Thompson & Knight
Kenneth Johnston, Kane Russell Coleman & Logan
James Jordan, Munsch Hardt
Lewis LeClair, McKool Smith
Tom Melsheimer, Fish & Richardson
Retta Miller, Jackson Walker
Yvette Ostolaza, Weil Gotshal & Manges
Joel Reese, Winstead PC
Marcos Ronquillo, Godwin Pappas & Ronquillo

 

by Robert Tharp at 4:54:28 pm

The latest fight brewing in the Barnett Shale oil patch just west of us is not about who can round up leases and mineral rights the fastest. The law firms of Sayles
 
Werbner
, PC, and Provost Umphrey, L.L.P., are suing one of the big players in the Barnett Shale drilling bonanza, Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake Energy Corp., charging that Chesapeake disingenuously sidled up with ICC Energy Corp. because of its status as a minority contractor. According to Sayles Werbner cofounder Mark Werbner, once Chesapeake secured the 18,000-acre lease with the promise of as much as one trillion cubic feet of natural gas below, the comany left Dallas-based ICC Energy high and dry.

ICC Energy is the largest African-Amderican-owned marketer of natural gas in Texas and had invested more than $3 million in the bidding process. The lawsuit charges that D/FW Airport's longstanding policy of awarding contracts only to companies that commit to utilizing minority-and women-owned businesses made Chesapeake's association with ICC Energy vital to securing the drilling lease, among other things.

by Robert Tharp at 11:24:47 am

There's a certain amount of truth to the cliché that most lawyers have a secret ambition to pen a courtrom thriller. Like (ahem)former newspaper reporters, most lack the
 
discipline to sit down and start, let alone finish their Great American Novel. But some do manage to get something done in their spare time. Dallas lawyer Mark Werbner has been named as a finalist in the 2008 Texas Bar Journal Short Fiction Writing Contest, for his short story, "The Test." Werbner's tale recounts a big-shot civil attorney's somewhat bumbling representation of a thuggish client in a gritty murder case. And it wouldn't be fair if the story didn't have an unexpected plot twist.

Werbner, cofounder of Dallas-based Sayles Werbner, is a veteran trial attorney who has handled some of the country's most notable cases during his 30 years of practicing law. His courtroom victory in a $200 million contract dispute between members of the de Boule mining family was been recognized by the National Law Journal as one of the top defense victories last year. I can see a screenplay-in-the-making for his efforts to strike a blow against terrorism by going after their financing sources, a case that has already received national media attention.

by Robert Tharp at 10:51:50 am

Federal climate-change legislation may be dead in the water this year following today's Senate vote, but attorney SCOTT DEATHERAGE says it's now only a matter of time before Congress passes such a cap-and-trade system for U.S. industries to limit carbon emissions. Deatherage, who leads the Climate Change

and Renewable Energy Practice at Thompson & Knight, says such far-reaching legislation typically get's off to a slow start but the time has come for such restrictions. The proposal, which failed to get enough votes to end a Republican filibuster, would cap production of of greenhouse gases and force industries to buy permits to emit carbon dioxide. "Cap-and-trade is already developing in other countries. Without a combination of free market and regulatory incentives, the U.S. could fall behind not only in energy conservation but in the development of valuable environmental technologies," Deatherage says. Deatherage notes that both presidential candidates have expressed support for such legislation, so prospects are good for similar legislation next year.

by Robert Tharp at 4:09:36 pm

Even outsiders sensed that the state's child welfare system was wholly unprepared to handle the seizure of hundreds of children following the raid on a polygamist ranch in Eldorado. Recently released e-mails between Texas child welfare, law enforcement and other government officials following the raid paint a picture of a state system in disarray, says attorney BETSY BRANCH of Dallas-based McCurley Orsinger McCurley Nelson & Downing. Branch and other attorneys at the Dallas family law firm

 
are among those volunteering to represent children as guardians at litem following the raid at the Yearning For Zion Ranch. While it seemed obvious at the time that authorities were disorganized and unprepared, Branch says e-mail communications paint a clearer picture of a child welfare system ill equipped for the challenge. "The more discovery we do, the more this looks like a ‘Keystone Cops' approach to the whole thing," Branch says. "This is a Gordian knot of a mess to be untied." Branch says all parties would be better served if the children's cases are treated individually instead of lumped together as a single case.

by Robert Tharp at 3:13:27 pm

When Kenedy Ranch patriarch John G. Kenedy Jr. died childless more than 50 years ago, his will left control of one of the state’s legendary ranches to his widow and sister. But what if there was an unacknowledged heir to the dynasty now valued at between $500 million and $1 billion? Since 2000, the family of former
 
Kenedy maid Ann Fernandez has maintained in court filings that Ms. Fernandez secretely gave birth to Mr. Kenedy’s daughter in 1925. A definitive answer could finally be on the way after the 13th Court of Appeals in Corpus Christi, Texas, ruled that the dispute can proceed. Marcos Ronquillo lead trial counsel for the Fernandez family and Managing Partner of the Dallas-based law firm of Godwin Pappas & Ronquillo PC, says the Fernandez family is not interested in taking money away from the John G. and Marie Stella Kenedy Memorial Foundation and the John G. Kenedy Jr. Charitable Trust, which control funds generated by La Parra Ranch. "This family is not interested in coming in and dismantling the good work that these groups do," he says. "This is about family heritage. What the family wants is the rightful recognition of Mrs. Fernandez and her children."