What were the firm’s biggest or most important (non-client) achievements as a firm in 2020?
We achieved a great deal in 2020. For starters, we created an innovative partnership with Official Black Wall Street, agreeing to provide $10 million in legal services over the next three years to support Black entrepreneurship. In addition, we were once again named “Mansfield Certified Plus” by Diversity Lab in recognition of our diversity and inclusion efforts.
We also continued to invest heavily in our future – including building on our strength in Texas. We welcomed 12 lateral partners in 2020 and promoted 14 lawyers to partner effective January 1, 2020. In addition, we promoted 12 lawyers to partner in our 2021 class. We have welcomed six lateral partners this year and will continue to announce many more new partners throughout the year.
We also saw a healthy balance of revenue in our key industry sectors – 39% of our 2020 revenue came from tech and 35% came from energy.
Further, we received many significant accolades in 2020:
- GlobalData ranked us No. 1 in their league table rankings for oil & gas M&A for the first half of 2020, and Mergermarket ranked us No. 1 in U.S. energy M&A deals for the same period;
- AmLaw named us “Texas Litigation Department of the Year” for the second straight year;
- Law360 recognized us as a “Practice Group of the Year” for Energy for the second straight year;
- Chambers ranked 153 of our lawyers;
- We enjoyed an 80% increase in lawyer recognitions in The Legal 500 US; and
- The National Law Journal named us once again to both their Appellate Hot List and Pro Bono Hot List.
As a firm, what were your biggest challenges and how did you address them?
The challenges brought on by the pandemic enabled us to see “over the horizon” in terms of the working environment in a post-COVID world. Our work force has operated well in these circumstances, and we will embrace the positives of the new environment as we move forward – from service delivery methods to people to technology.
Our IT investments paid off by enabling us to transition to a remote working environment for our clients in a seamless way. This underscored for us the importance of our ability to collaborate with our clients in the most demanding of circumstances, and positions us well for the future.
Our people were also extremely nimble in responding to the changed environment, stepping up to contribute even more for the benefit of our clients, each other and the firm.
Certainly, a negative impact of the pandemic was that we saw less of each other and our clients in person – which is something we have always valued.
That said, the pandemic provided many valuable opportunities for our lawyers to assist our clients – and each other – on a personal level – not just professionally.
In addition, we completed the rollout of our new strategic plan immediately before the implementation of the remote working environment, and we benefitted from having that strategic clarity and focus going into the unprecedented times of 2020 when so many of our clients were enduring economic upheaval.
What were three of the most important successes your firm’s Texas lawyers achieved for clients last year?
Our Texas lawyers successfully handled a wide range of high-profile transactional and litigation matters for our clients in 2020. Three such examples are as follows:
- Among the multi-billion-dollar M&A deals we handled in Texas, we advised BP America in the sale of its midstream Alaska business to Hilcorp’s Harvest Alaska unit, including BP’s ownership in the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) and TAPS operator Alyeska Pipeline Service Company, for $5.6 billion.
- We secured a favorable jury verdict for Oxford Nanopore Technologies Ltd., developer of a DNA analysis tool used in 100 countries for a range of scientific applications including viral/bacterial outbreak surveillance, cancer research and human genetics, in a landmark patent infringement case. The significant competitor case, Pacific Biosciences of California Inc. v. Oxford Nanopore Technologies Inc. in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, involved two of the leading companies in the sequencing technology space. The jury invalidated all four patents asserted by PacBio.
- Among our numerous litigation successes last year, we successfully represented ExxonMobil in a trial in the Southern District of Texas, in one of the most significant and closely-watched wartime claims case against the United States. ExxonMobil sought reimbursement from the United States for its share of past and future environmental cleanup costs at two of Exxon’s oil refinery complexes – at Baytown, Texas and Baton Rouge, Louisiana – under the federal CERCLA/Superfund law. In August, following a 14-day trial – which began as an in-courtroom proceeding but was eventually completed via a virtual platform – the Court ruled in favor of ExxonMobil.
Who are two Texas lawyers – one partner, one associate – who really shined in 2020 and why?
Samantha Crispin, Chair of the Dallas Corporate Group at Baker Botts and a member of the firm’s Executive Committee, had a standout 2020, handling a wide range of marquee transactions.
At the outset of the pandemic, she represented Liberty TripAdvisor Holdings in a $325 million investment by Certares. Later in the year, she represented GCI Liberty in a number of deals, including its $8.7 billion merger with Liberty Broadband and the $1 billion sale of its LendingTree stake. She also played a pivotal role in the SPAC space, representing Liberty Media in the launch of a first-of-its-kind corporate-sponsored SPAC, Liberty Media Acquisition Corporation.
For her outstanding work, she was recognized by The Deal as one of the “Top Women in Dealmaking.” She was also named the 2020 “Outstanding Woman Lawyer” by the Dallas Women Lawyers Association (DWLA), and was recognized once again by D CEO Magazine in its “Dallas 500” list.
In addition to being a standout for her clients with her intellect, work ethic, creativity and drive, Samantha has also been instrumental in making the Dallas legal community the supportive and inclusive place it is today.
Carina Antweil, a corporate lawyer based in Houston, was promoted to partner in 2021. As a senior associate in 2020, she was involved in a range of transactions for prominent clients, including Bristow in its merger with Era; Halliburton in its $1 billion senior notes offering and concurrent cash tender offers; and the Conflicts Committee of CNX Midstream Partners in connection with CNX Resources Corporation’s acquisition of CNX Midstream Partners.
What was the firm’s biggest pro bono/public service success in Texas of 2020?
We have been very active in pro bono and community service and had more than 50,000 pro bono hours firmwide in 2020 – our most ever.
Our most important initiative pertained to our response to the pandemic. In 2020, more than 70 lawyers across multiple offices at the firm contributed more than 900 hours to publish and periodically update a comprehensive COVID-19 Community Resource Guide that provided an array of information and tools to help individuals around the United States navigate a variety of pressing issues created by the pandemic.
The Guide covered an array of topics, such as utility assistance, Medicaid, taxes, fraud/price gouging, shelter-in-place rules, student loans, mental health – and dozens of other subjects of critical importance to individuals. It was produced digitally to enable updating during fast-moving circumstances.
The disruption that the pandemic caused for people in our communities was unprecedented, and we had an obligation to marshal our collective resources to provide individuals with a one-stop source that offered simple and straightforward resources to address their most immediate concerns.
The Guide was divided into sections that include Federal, California, New York, Texas and Washington, D.C. and surrounding areas – the locations where we have domestic offices.
Needless to say, we were seeing a range of personal, economic and health-related issues created by the pandemic, and we believe our Guide provided much-needed assistance to people in our communities.
What was the firm’s most significant move forward in addressing diversity and inclusion in 2020?
Our firm embraced 2020’s focus on and discussion about racial injustice, and the result has been a renewed and necessary conversation about where we are as a firm and a community of colleagues. While there certainly remains much more work to be done, in September we formed a strategic collaboration with Official Black Wall Street (OBWS), an organization with a membership of more than 5,500 Black-owned businesses globally, to provide legal support to the organization’s member businesses.
The firm has committed to providing $10 million of free legal services over the course of three years, contributing to the growth and development of the organization and its member businesses.
We must acknowledge the pervasive racial inequality in our society, take ownership of it, and take action to contribute something enduring to solve the problem. This strategic collaboration is one small step in that direction. Providing equitable access to legal services is a necessary part of ensuring that Black-owned businesses thrive.
In addition to our collaboration with OBWS, we became a signatory on the Law Firm Antiracism Alliance through which the firm is working with Promise of Justice to address the issue of individuals in Louisiana who were convicted by a non-unanimous jury verdict.
To address diversity internally, we facilitated listening sessions, employee forums and town hall discussions to address the impact of racism in the workplace and across our communities.
What is your No. 1 goal as a law firm for 2021?
Our No. 1 goal is to maintain our strategic focus on the sectors that will continue to offer us robust economic opportunities in the future – those in which we also have truly differentiated strengths and are proudly technical – particularly in Technology/TMT, Energy and Life Sciences. We continue to see a great deal of confidence in our key practices and sectors in which we have distinguished ourselves.
To this end, we will continue to add strength to our existing strengths and increase scale to sharpen our differentiation, making targeted lateral hires in alignment with our strategy.
Our vision has been more important than ever as a means of further distinguishing ourselves in a crowded, noisy market as we anticipate the coming business and legal challenges of our clients, often at the intersection of our legal disciplines.
Fortunately, against a backdrop of so much change and adversity around the globe in 2020, we have witnessed a step-change in our levels of collaboration across the firm. We have demonstrated profound agility, sharpened our strategic focus, and served our clients where our business acumen and technical depth give us an advantage.