For the first time in more than four decades, Baker Botts has elected a litigation partner to lead the 627-attorney, Houston-headquartered corporate law firm.
In a Friday morning interview, David told The Texas Lawbook that his top priority is to “grow smart to the strengths of our leading practices” and to build on the firm’s positions in Texas, California, New York, London, Brussels and Singapore.
“We are going to sharpen our differential in areas where we already stand out,” he said. “DEI is a business imperative to the firm — it is an imperative of mine.”
Nearly two-thirds of the 34 first-year associates joining the firm this fall and nearly two-thirds of the 93 summer associates clerking at Baker Botts currently are diverse.
David takes the helm at Baker Botts at a time when the firm, like all other Texas-based legacy firms, has been under siege by larger, deeper-pocketed national corporate firms expanding aggressively in Texas by hiring away rainmaking partners from competitors such as Baker Botts.
The Texas Lawbook reported in April that Baker Botts had merger discussions with DLA Piper in the first half of 2022 but that the two sides could not reach an agreement. The American Lawyer reported last year that Baker Botts met with leaders at Shearman & Sterling about a combination. But leaders at both law firms told The Lawbook that there we no serious discussions of a merger.
“We don’t dignify these reports with a response,” David said. “A merger may be in our future, but it is not our key strategy for growth.”
Baker Botts reported total revenues of $752 million in 2022, including $382.5 million from its Texas offices, according to the 2022 Texas Lawbook 50. The firm has about 300 lawyers in Austin, Dallas and Houston.
Baker Botts’ Texas lawyers reported revenues per lawyer of $1.284 million and profits per equity partner of $2.6 million.
David, a 2000 graduate of Harvard University Law School, has been at Baker Botts for 22 years and serves as its co-chair of litigation. He will be the first litigation partner to lead Baker Botts since Bill Harvin held the reins from 1972 to 1984.
Asked if he thought litigation partners are better suited to be managing partner, David responded, “Do you want to get me impeached before I start?”
David declined to discuss the other partners who vied for the position of managing partner.
“Danny is a proven leader who is ideally suited to lead our great institution,” Martin said. “He is a Baker Botts lifer who has the dedication, instincts and skill set required for the firm to continue its momentum and tremendous success. The future of the firm will be in very capable hands with Danny at the helm.”
The Texas Lawbook published an in-depth article in April called “The Big Three in Texas: Different Journeys, Different Results, Still Big.” The article focused on the competition the past 25 years between Baker Botts, Vinson & Elkins and Fulbright & Jaworski (now Norton Rose Fulbright).