by Jessica Huseman, Staff Writer
DECEMBER 13 — Fourteen partners and possibly a dozen more counsels and associates in Vinson & Elkins’ public finance group announced Tuesday they will join Bracewell & Giuliani in January.
The addition of these partners significantly expands Bracewell’s public finance practice, which had previously been managed by one partner.
Three of the new partners, Ben A. Brooks III of Dallas, W. Glenn Opel of Austin, and Barron F. Wallace of Houston, will lead the group. Legendary municipal bond lawyer and V&E Counsel Ray Hutchison also will be making the move to Bracewell. Hutchison has represented public agencies such as DART, Tarrant County Community College District; Texas Stadium in Irving, the Ballpark in Arlington, American Airlines Center in Dallas, and the Republic of Guam.
Brooks said the move was a result of internal conflicts with V&E and the public finance practice.
“V&E has a very successful condemnation practice, and that’s good, but that presents conflicts with our public finance progress,” he said.
Joe Dilg, managing partner at V&E, said the split was amicable and “a result of the strategic direction of the firm” to deemphasize public finance.
“This will eliminate our public finance practice,” Dilg said. “We are focused on doing the things we do extremely well, and while public finance was one of those areas, we are putting more emphasis on energy and technology and allowing those to expand.”
Dilg said he felt the move was best for both the attorneys and their clients.
“[The attorneys] believe that the different platform offered by Bracewell & Giuliani will allow them to flourish in their practice area, and it will be good for Bracewell as well as the clients,” he said.
Mark C. Evans, the managing partner of Bracewell, described the transition as the “perfect fit” for both parties. “Its so hard to break into this business, so when this group made the decision that they might consider leaving we thought it was wonderful,” he said.
The talks began two months ago, when Frels talked to his father – coincidentally the former managing partner of Bracewell – and Frels spoke to Evans. Evans then called Wallace, and the proposition was made.
Brooks said the partners are also interested in expanding into South Texas, something they can now do easily because Bracewell has an office in San Antonio.
“It’s the fastest growing population area of the state, said Brooks. “South Texas and along the border is where you see the need for public finance, and the reason is beause you need schools, hospitals, community colleges and roads. All of the things we do in public finance South Texas has been lacking in, and the demographics of the area demand more attention in that area.”
Evans and Brooks expect associates, counsel, paralegals and staff to leave V&E and join Bracewell as well. Nothing is confirmed, and Evans said decisions will most likely be made between now and Jan. 17, when the deal is expected to become final.
Evans said there have been “virtually zero conflicts” with clients, and he expects all of them to follow the V&E lawyers over to Bracewell. Dilg has no problem with this, and said he assumes all clients will make the move.
Brooks said these clients will most likely include the City of Dallas, Dallas Area Rapid Transit, DFW Airport and Dallas Independent School District.
The partners leaving V&E for Bracewell include:
Charles L. Almond, who focuses on federal taxation, including tax controversy work and transactional planning, with particular emphasis on Federal tax treatment of state and local government bonds of all types.
Elizabeth Rippy Bowes, who represents issuers and underwriters in public offerings of tax-exempt bonds. She represents both state and local issuers in conduit financings with an emphasis in single and multi-family housing.
Ben A. Brooks III, who has served as bond counsel for cities, counties, school districts, special law districts, higher education authorities, and other political subdivisions throughout Texas and elsewhere.
Robert R. Collins III, who focuses on public law and public finance, with an emphasis on tax-exempt financings.
Cristy C. Edwards, who practices in the area of public and tax-exempt finance, with a primary focus on transactions involving hospitals and other health care facilities, colleges and universities, nonprofit organizations, industrial development, waste disposal facilities, airports, and state agencies.
Jonathan Kelly Frels, who serves as bond counsel, underwriter’s counsel, and disclosure counsel in public finance transactions for cities, counties, school districts, economic development corporations, water districts, and water authorities.
Steven H. Gerdes, whose practice is focused on the tax aspects of state and local government obligations.
R. Todd Greenwalt, who focuses on tax-exempt organizations, resolving tax-exempt status issues and advising with regard to tax-exempt financings and other business transactions.
Jonathan C. Leatherberry, whose practice focuses on public debt offerings and other business transactions, particularly those in the health care industry.
Paul S. Maco, who focuses on federal securities and commodities law, corporate governance and public finance. He is a former Director of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Office of Municipal Securities and a former attorney in the SEC’s Division of Enforcement and the SEC’s Office of General Counsel. Maco offices in Washington, D.C.
W. Glenn Opel, whose principal area of practice is financial institutions and finance law.
Victoria N. Ozimek assists issuers with the tax aspects of the issuance of tax-exempt and tax credit obligations. She focuses her practice on advising state and local governmental issuers in connection with new money and refunding obligations.
George G. Rodriguez, who focuses on public debt offerings and business transactions, involving the health care industry, single- and multi-family housing, school districts, and a Texas state agency.
Barron F. Wallace, who focuses on public finance, urban infrastructure and transportation development, state legislative matters, and public/private partnerships.
Jessica Huseman is a staff writer for The Texas Lawbook. Her email is email@example.com.