October 9, 2019
Dear Friends, Clients and Colleagues,
As Reynolds Frizzell prepares to celebrate its tenth anniversary, we felt it appropriate to reflect on the events of our first decade, and to express gratitude for the success we have enjoyed and for the people, including you, who have made it possible. My partners asked me to take the pen for this endeavor, and I was happy to do so.
You will recall that the firm was formed in 2009 by six lawyers and friends who were longtime colleagues and had achieved great successes for a wide range of clients in the courtroom and in settlements. The six of us were eager to practice in a smaller firm, and we aimed to become, in fact and by reputation, one of the state’s great trial boutiques. At the same time, embarking on this venture meant leaving a firm and friends whom we admire and respect. With permission from our former partners, we invited a longtime and valued paralegal to join us on this venture—Natalie Fleming. Natalie agreed, and we were off and running.
To this day we are thankful for the outsized and generous support of our clients and friends in those early days of the firm. Your engagements, referrals, and kind words gave us immediate momentum and provided our young firm with a solid financial foundation. That gave us the luxury of focusing from day one on what we love to do: representing our clients and trying cases.
Almost immediately, we enjoyed success in a series of trials and arbitration hearings, including a big win for a construction company in a dispute with the Port of Houston (a case tried by Brandon Allen alongside Robin Gibbs and our other friends and former partners). Jean Frizzell was the lead counsel in three further successes in 2010, including a verdict and judgment for fraud in federal court, an arbitration award in a case tried in Corpus Christi, and a verdict in state court in connection with a failed real-estate investment. Within the first year our efforts had resulted in more than $100 million in judgments and awards in a variety of fora.
Many of the key people at the firm today joined in the early years. During our first year, we added a brilliant associate, Nathan Smith, who today is a hard-working partner and a core part of many case teams. We built out our staff, including numerous staff members who remain with us to this day. In 2011 we added Chris Hogan (likewise now a partner, with a thriving practice) to the ranks of our associates. In 2012, we added two more outstanding attorneys to the fold who now are partners. Solace Southwick, an experienced trial lawyer with substantial appellate expertise, has played an integral role in a large share of our cases since joining the firm. James Schuelke, our first Harvard Law graduate, has played key roles in a number of jury trials over the past 7 years.
We also continued to enjoy the trust of clients. Mike Oldham and Jeremy Doyle successfully defended Exxon in a jury trial in Harris County in 2011, and in 2012 the firm successfully resolved a large contingent-fee case of Jean Frizzell’s after obtaining a favorable summary judgment ruling. That same year, Mike Oldham and I teamed up to achieve a multi-million-dollar award in a hotly contested arbitration in Arkansas. In 2013 a group of longtime residents who lived near the proposed Ashby High-Rise (many of whom are well-known lawyers) trusted a team led by Jean Frizzell and Jeremy Doyle to try a nuisance case against the developer. The jury found that the project, if built, would constitute a nuisance. As of this writing the high-rise has not broken ground.
The firm saw some major changes in its fifth year. John Black, a partner with outsized trial skills, chose to leave the firm to partner with another of his longtime friends and pursue first-party insurance claims on behalf of homeowners. We miss having our friend John here but are proud of his continued success. Rather than continue to add new partners to an already unwieldy firm name (you may remember our poor receptionist trying to take a breath deep enough to greet callers to “Reynolds Frizzell Black Doyle Allen and Oldham”), we decided to shorten the firm name to Reynolds Frizzell LLP. Last but not least, 2014 was the year in which Jean Frizzell was elected as a Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers, becoming our second partner in the College.
2015 was also eventful. Jean Frizzell and Brandon Allen teamed up to defend Energy Transfer against several hundred million dollars in damages claims asserted by Enterprise Products. The jury awarded damages amounting to less than ½ of 1% of the amount claimed. We added yet another talented and experienced lawyer—Lindsey Raspino—to our team. In October, we learned that Benchmark had ranked our firm as one of the top ten litigation boutiques in the United States. We considered this high praise for a firm only six years old!
2015 also was a time of loss. Natalie Fleming was diagnosed with a terminal form of brain cancer, forcing her to take leave from the firm. Natalie was an integral part of the firm from its earliest days and a cherished friend to all of us. Her subsequent passing left us with sadness but also gratitude and wonderful memories.
In 2016, we launched a new firm website and added Jim Weiss (a young lawyer who had clerked for Judge Sam Sparks) to our team. In September, we celebrated our 7th anniversary in our newly built-out space by hosting a party that was well attended by judges, clients and peers. The presence at that celebration of so many of you made the milestone all the more treasured.
2016 was one of the firm’s best years in terms of results as well, though much of the good news came in connection with confidential settlements or behind-the-scenes representations. A more public success came after a federal judge appointed Chris Hogan and our former associate Drew Pennebaker (now with the Department of Justice), to represent, on a pro bono basis, a prisoner who had been beaten by his guard. Against all odds (nearly every prisoner loses such cases), they prevailed and obtained damages. All things considered, Texas Lawyer Magazine named Reynolds Frizzell the Texas small firm litigation department of the year for 2016.
Benchmark again ranked our firm as one of the top ten litigation boutiques in the United States in 2017, and we added more horsepower to the firm’s ranks in the form of Will Langley and Harris Wells, both graduates of the University of Texas and editors of the Texas Law Review. A high point in the courtroom occurred when Chris Hogan and James Schuelke teamed up to win a jury trial in Harris County district court that involved ownership of a website popular with Longhorn fans. In the fall of 2017, Jean Frizzell and James Schuelke teamed up to win a jury trial for Huntsman Chemical.
The firm continued to frequent the courtroom in 2018, with Jean Frizzell leading a team that tried and won a major case for the Hearst Corporation, and Chris Hogan leading a team in securing a fantastic arbitration decision for a major oil and gas producer. Jeremy Doyle and Nathan Smith worked on a pro bono basis as an important part of a team of lawyers that favorably settled a high-profile class action challenging the lack of air conditioning in a Texas geriatric prison.
We added to our strength with new lawyers as well. Early in 2018, Jennifer Josephson, an experienced appellate specialist, joined the firm as senior counsel. Late in the year, Samantha Thompson and Matt Sheehan completed their judicial clerkships and joined the firm as new associates.
The firm has continued on track in 2019. Early in the year, Jean Frizzell led a team that secured a large judgment from a non-jury case tried in 2018. In April, I was proud to be inducted as a Fellow of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers, an organization counting fewer than 500 lawyers among its ranks. In August, we added Adi Sirkes, a recent grad of UT and editor on the TLR to the ranks of the associates. As of this writing the firm has grown to seventeen lawyers, whom I am proud to call my friends as well as colleagues.
On that note I must mention that during the firm’s first decade we benefitted from working with several talented individuals who have moved on to other professional and personal endeavors in a variety of settings. We have many fond memories of lawyers and staff who joined us in the early days and are now alumni of the firm. We appreciate their contributions to Reynolds Frizzell.
At ten years, we celebrate the clients we have been fortunate to represent and the achievements and camaraderie we have as a firm. In matters big and small, high-profile or confidential, we have been honored by the confidence our clients have placed in us.
We express our appreciation for the trust and goodwill that we enjoy in the legal community of which we are proud to be a part. We recognize that our success as a firm is bound up in the relationships and interactions we experience with clients, judges, and arbitrators, and with other lawyers including co-counsel, allied counsel, and opposing counsel in our cases. Those relationships and interactions have brought us to where we are, and we look forward to seeing where they take us from here. Thank you for being a friend of our firm.
With warmest regards,