Mary Goodrich Nix, a major league litigation partner with all-star credentials, is leaving Holland & Knight for Lynn Pinker Hurst & Schwegmann. Her last day at H&K was Monday.
The move comes more than a month after the Tampa-founded firm publicly acknowledged merger talks with Dallas-based Thompson & Knight. But that’s not the reason for the move, according to Nix.
“I’ve loved working at H&K. It’s been a wonderful place to work,” Nix said. She credited Steve Sonberg, the firm’s Miami-based managing partner, as “an amazing leader who has built a really collaborative, collegial place to work.”
“I’ve had a really good run here; I wasn’t looking to move,” she said, adding with a litigator’s emphasis: “But it’s LYNN PINKER!”
Actually, it’s Michael Hurst, a name partner at Lynn Pinker. Hurst is a longtime friend and mentor from their days at Godwin Gruber where Nix worked for more than six-and-a-half years. Hurst and Nix have been in touch over the years after they left Godwin Gruber in 2005. And it was Hurst who reached out with the notion of Nix joining the top shelf litigation boutique.
“Michael was the first partner I was assigned to as an associate. It was Michael and Don Godwin who taught me how to be a trial lawyer,” Nix said. “Michael is a mentor and an ally. We tried a lot of cases together. We won a lot of cases together. And it was an honor to be invited to join the firm. I feel like I’m going home.”
Hurst was similarly exuberant about Nix’s lateral move.
“Mary’s courtroom experience, including in the areas of trade secret and employment disputes, is a perfect fit with our existing team,” Hurst said in a release about the Nix lateral. “I’ve had the pleasure of working with Mary in the past and secured large jury verdicts and successful arbitration results together. She is always prepared, creative, and tenacious in representing her client.”
Added managing partner Eric Pinker: “As we move into a post-pandemic legal environment, her skills and expertise will be invaluable. She is an outstanding attorney and a leader, and we’re delighted to be able to welcome her into the Firm.”
Nix spent more than five years at Holland & Knight where she developed a broad litigation and dispute resolution portfolio in the employment, trade secrets, non-compete clauses and franchising. But Nix says her passion is the courtroom and the work that goes into being there.
“Trial work per se,” Nix says. “That has been the mainstay of my career.”
Nix said she decided she wanted to be a lawyer when she was 12 years old. It happened after reading about Catherine Crier’s 1984 election as a District judge in Dallas County. Not only was she a woman; she was, at age 30, the youngest elected judge in state history.
“Up to that point being a lawyer, for me, was wearing a cute suit and carrying a brief case,” Nix said. But the more she learned about the profession the more real the possibility became. More importantly, her parents — both professionals — began to see the law as a viable possibility for her, as well.
Her father was an engineer whose work involved satellite communications and her mother was an accountant. Both understood the value of rules and process and outcomes tied to money. They paid for her undergraduate education at Baylor but insisted that she contribute significantly to her law school education. Ultimately, that meant the affordability of a public school: The University of Houston Law Center.
“They wanted to support my decision, but they wanted me to have some skin in the game,” Nix said.
She attended UH Law primarily because of its location and its reputation in the area of health care law. But an initial flirtation with mock trials unearthed a real passion for trial work. And at that point her course was set. To this day she enjoys judging mock trials, she said.
After law school, she landed at Godwin Gruber where she stayed until 2005 when she left to practice at her own firm. After several years she moved to Gordon & Rees in 2008, where she rose to co-managing partner of the San Francisco-founded firm’s Dallas office.
That was followed by three years as a shareholder at Munsch Hardt Kopf & Harr before landing at Holland & Knight in 2015.
Nix has tried and arbitrated cases throughout Texas and across the United States and has managed nationwide legal teams for corporate clients with multistate operations. She also has frequently worked with international organizations to oversee the pursuit or defense of domestic disputes.
She’s board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. At Holland & Knight she served as co-chair of the firm’s Trade Secrets and Restrictive Covenants Team.
She also has been serving as a member of the legal non-profit Sedona Conference’s Working Group 12, an effort that aims to create best practices, standards and processes involving trade secrets litigation and dispute resolution. Nix said she became involved after attending one of their conferences and appreciated the organization’s comprehensive approaches to the often-complex issues presented in trade secrets disputes.
“Honestly, it was a Nerd Fest. I found my people,” she mused.