Yvette Ostolaza, a first-generation Cuban American who grew up in a working-poor neighborhood in Miami, learned English from Sesame Street and almost didn’t go to college. On Friday, Ostolaza becomes chair of the management committee of Chicago-founded Sidley Austin, a 2,000-lawyer global corporate law firm that reported nearly $2.8 billion in revenue in 2021. She is the first Latina and the first Texan to lead a top 50 global corporate law firm. Ostolaza joined Sidley from Weil Gotshal in 2013 as the leader of the infamous “Seven-Plus-One.” During her time leading Sidley in Dallas, the firm has tripled its Texas lawyer headcount and quadrupled the revenues it generates in the state, according to The Texas Lawbook 50.
Vinson & Elkins vs. Kirkland & Ellis. One is a storied Houston-based firm with deep connections in the Oil Patch that has been a powerhouse in law, energy and politics for more than a century. The other is a Chicago-founded firm that came to Texas just eight years ago with deep pockets, high profits and an aggressive strategic growth plan. Lawyers for the two corporate law giants often sit across the table on some of the biggest mergers and acquisitions involving energy companies and private equity firms. Both firms are always in the top three of The Texas Lawbook’s Corporate Deal Tracker scorecard of corporate transactions.
Exclusive new Texas Lawbook 50 data shows that Kirkland and V&E lawyers in Texas achieved record highs in revenues and profits in 2021. The runner up in their battle for No. 1 in Texas has to settle for having their best year ever.
The Texas Lawbook 50 ranking by firm revenues in Texas is out. The financial numbers are staggering. For corporate law firms operating in Texas, 2021 wasn’t just a great year – it was almost certainly the best year ever. Thirty-eight of the 50 law firms achieved record revenues. Seventeen law firms grew Texas revenues by 20 percent or more. Six law firms grew Texas revenues by 40 percent or more.
No law firm had ever come close to generating $600 million in revenue from their Texas operations. In 2021, two surpassed that mark. One skipped right over it and went straight to $725 million. This Texas Lawbook exclusive shows, 2021 will go down in corporate legal history as one for the ages.
Corporate law firms operating in Texas went on a hiring spree in 2021, using six-digit signing bonuses, promises of faster promotions to partner and two hikes in base pay in a high-stakes race to build the staffs needed to meet rising client demand for legal work. The result was the largest – and most expensive – game of musical chairs ever witnessed among the biggest corporate firms in Texas.
Correction: The previous version of this article reported the wrong lawyer count numbers for Kirkland & Ellis. The firm actually grew from 290 Texas lawyers in 2020 to 371 last year. The Lawbook apologizes for this error.
The Gensler Research Institute reports that while many industries are cutting back on their real estate footprints, law firms and other top performing companies continue to increase square footage. This article explores the ways firms are trying to create a “truly experiential” environment to attract and retain talent.
Pictured: Hunton Andrews Kurth’s Houston office (courtesy of Gensler)
Three middle-market law firms achieved record revenues and profits in 2021. All three jumped above the $700,000 mark for revenue per lawyer. All three predict 2022 will be even better ― so all three are in expansion mode and looking to grow headcount. And none of the three sees any advantage in merging with an out-of-state law firm. Legal industry analysts say Munsch Hardt, Gray Reed and Munck Wilson sit in a strategic sweet spot.
Raymond Kane, Gordon Russell, Joe Coleman and Mike Logan started KRCL in 1992 to flee financial bad habits of their old firm. Thirty years later, the firm they built is entrenched in the Texas middle market of corporate law firms, ranking 46th statewide in revenues in the upcoming 2021 Texas Lawbook 50. But the four partners discovered much more than success. They and their firm used fiscal restraint and commitment to long-term client service to find peace and friendship. At the twilight of their careers, they still love the practice of law and each other.
The second-largest law firm by Texas lawyer headcount, according to The Texas Lawbook 50, has landed six lateral partners so far in 2022. The Texas Lawbook visited with Bridgette Stahlman, the firm’s chief of recruiting and lateral partner integration, about the firm’s growth in recent years and the ins and outs of recruiting.
Correction and Update – Texas Lawyer Hiring Hits Record Highs in 2021, But Firms Still Struggling to Hire More
Corporate law firms operating in Texas went on a hiring spree in 2021. The 50 largest firms representing businesses in Texas added more lawyers in 2021 than they did in any of the past 12 years. A handful of elite national practices grew headcount at a spectacular pace, but many regional law firms also swelled to record levels.
With business booming, The Texas Lawbook 50’s record-setting 2021 was built on five firms with truly big net gains in staff size, another nine with double-digit increases and just two firms with net losses of more than 10 lawyers. Despite all the growth, many corporate law firm leaders say they would have hired even more attorneys if there were lawyers available. Editor’s note: The Texas Lawbook wrongly reported earlier that Bracewell’s lawyer count declined by 11 in 2021. It declined by only two. The Lawbook regrets the error.
Corporate law firms in Texas promoted more attorneys to partner this year than ever before. The Texas Lawbook looks at all 196 lawyers voted into the partnership by 55 law firms for 2022 and breaks down the numbers by law firm, practice group and the city where they office. The Lawbook has brief bios on all 189 newly minted partners.