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McDermott Targets Texas Growth—in Everything But Oil & Gas

Jason Krieser

Jason Krieser, McDermott Will & Emery. Courtesy photo

McDermott Will & Emery, like many Big Law firms, is looking to grow in Texas. But unlike the others, its plans have little to do with the energy industry.

Jason Krieser, the new managing partner of McDermott's Houston and Dallas offices, said the firm is targeting growth in a number of "premier" practice areas, including health care, private equity, private client, ERISA and employee benefits, tax, and technology and outsourcing.

The oil and gas industry, the lifeblood of many Texas legal practices, isn't on that list, he said.

"We are not focusing on the core energy area that is the strength of some of the indigenous firms and some of the firms that have come to town, with the exception of renewables," Krieser said—a group McDermott recently hired on the coasts has Houston-area renewable energy clients.

Krieser said there's room in Texas to be different.

"We don't try to be all things to all people. We have a number of premier practices and we look to grow strategically in all of those as well as complementary practices. Those don't happen to be the core oil and gas," said Krieser, who joined McDermott's Dallas office four years ago.

Chicago-based McDermott moved into Texas in 2008, opening an office in Houston staffed, ironically in the view of the current strategy, by three energy lawyers from Bracewell. At the time, the firm said it had was interested in Houston because McDermott had an energy trading practice and also planned to grow its M&A and intellectual property practices there.

But the firm's more recent growth in Texas has been centered in Dallas.

McDermott opened a satellite office in Dallas in 2012 for one lawyer who joined as part of a group of tax attorneys from Gardere Wynne Sewell (now Foley Gardere).

The Dallas office grew considerably in 2015 when a tax controversy group led by Todd Welty latched on, coming from Dentons, and a group from K&L Gates joined the M&A and technology and outsourcing practice at McDermott. Krieser, who co-leads the technology and outsourcing practice, was part of that group.

On April 1, Krieser succeeded Welty in the Texas management role. Welty, now chief legal officer of ThreeCo, a private equity company in Atlanta, could not be reached for comment.

McDermott currently has 20 lawyers in Dallas and two who work in Houston. Bankruptcy partner Nathan Coco is based in Houston but spends some of his time in the Chicago office, while technology and outsourcing partner David Guedry splits his time between Dallas and Houston.

Krieser said while it's true the firm launched its Houston office with a group of energy transactions lawyers, who have since gone elsewhere, that's simply not a core practice of the firm.

Over the short term, Krieser said he expects most of McDermott's Texas hiring to be in Dallas, because of the number of corporate headquarters in the area.

But Krieser said one potential opportunity for growth in Houston is the renewable energy sector. He said the firm recently hired a group in Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles who do private equity and project finance work in the renewable energy sector, and they have clients in Houston. McDermott may add to that practice in Houston, he said.

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