Stephen D. Susman, a swaggering Texan who wears the requisite cowboy boots and rarely tones down his native Houstonian drawl, recently announced he intends to transplant himself in New York City. At 65, Susman says, he’s looking for a novel challenge, and Manhattan will provide that.
On March 27, partners in Houston-based Susman Godfrey met and approved Susman’s plan to set up a branch office by September. His lean first-year budget for the New York office totals $2 million — including $575,000 for three associates’ salaries, Susman says, noting that his own partner compensation is not included in that figure.
If his New York branch fails to bear fruit, Susman says starting out small will let him close the office quickly without disrupting associates’ lives unnecessarily or costing his firm a bundle.
“It’s a Steve Susman frolic,” he says about his Manhattan project.
Fun and adventure, however, hardly describe the ambitious plans of other Texas firms with Big Apple outposts.
Some smaller Texas firms do have New York offices. Most recently, in November 2005, plaintiffs lawyer W. Mark Lanier announced Houston’s Lanier Law Firm would open a four-lawyer outpost in New York. In August 2005, Lanier’s client won a $253 million verdict in Angleton, Texas, in the nation’s first Vioxx trial. Lanier opened the New York office, because he represents a number of plaintiffs in Vioxx litigation against Whitehouse Station, N.J.-based Merck & Co. Inc., the maker of Vioxx.
And eight large Texas-based firms plan to expand substantially their New York branches, adding at least 10 percent or more of their current NYC lawyer count in Manhattan by March 2007. The firms include Dallas-based Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld; Haynes and Boone; and Thompson & Knight, and Houston-based Fulbright & Jaworski; Andrews Kurth; Baker Botts; Vinson & Elkins; and Bracewell & Giuliani.