O’Melveny takes team from Thompson & Knight to launch Austin office

The office of law firm O'Melveny & Myers in Washington, D.C., May 10, 2021. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
  • O'Melveny hires include Thompson & Knight practice head
  • Thompson & Knight sees several exits since announcing plans to merge with Holland & Knight

(Reuters) - Los Angeles-founded O’Melveny & Myers on Monday became the latest firm to set up shop in booming Austin, and also the latest to tack on senior lawyers from Thompson & Knight ahead of the Texas firm’s planned merger with Holland & Knight.

On Monday, O'Melveny announced that it is establishing an outpost in Texas with a team of four energy-focused attorneys from Thompson & Knight, including the head of the firm's Austin office, Phillip Oldham.

Oldham, a partner, and senior counsel Rex VanMiddlesworth have already joined O'Melveny, the firm said. Katie Coleman, the leader of Thompson's government and regulatory practice, and Benjamin Hallmark will join at a later date, O'Melveny added.

"O’Melveny’s strengths were key considerations for what we believe is necessary to really stand out in the legal market in Texas" Oldham said. "The intersection between technology and energy has never been stronger. They have a world-class project development practice, which fits nicely with ours."

The team's practice centers around project development, acquisitions, energy transactions, federal and Texas state regulatory and administrative law, and litigation.

O'Melveny is the latest in a string of firms to either open offices in the Lone Star state or beef up their Texan bona fides through lateral hiring. Kirkland & Ellis, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan and Rimon announced their own office openings in Austin earlier this year.

Some of the biggest legal victories and transactional deals O'Melveny has scored over the years have been for Texas companies with a global footprint, said firm chair Bradley Butwin.

"We concluded that the time was right to establish a Texas presence," Butwin said.

Other firms, both homegrown and out-of-state, have also been turning to Thompson & Knight for Texas talent. The Dallas-based firm will have seen at least nine partners make for the exits since April once Hallmark and Coleman depart.

Last week Jason Loden, an executive compensation and benefits partner at the firm, left for Baker Botts. In May, five Thompson & Knight partners found new homes, including Holt Foster, an energy transactions partner who led Thompson & Knight's Dallas office before jumping to Sidley Austin. Other partners have left for Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, Baker Botts, and BakerHostetler.

None of the lawyers have told Reuters that the looming merger between Thompson & Knight and Miami-based Holland & Knight factored into their exits. Oldham also said the merger had no role in his team's decision to leave.

"This was really all about the opportunity to join O'Melveny, the opportunity to help O'Melveny start its Texas office and try to grow the practices here," Oldham said.

Representatives for Thompson & Knight and Holland & Knight did not respond to requests for comment the latest departures and the status of the merger.

(Correction: Due to a typo, this story originally misquoted Phillip Oldham in the fourth paragraph as stating O’Melveny has a world-class product development practice. It was corrected to refer to O'Melveny's project development practice.)

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David Thomas reports on the business of law, including law firm strategy, hiring, mergers and litigation. He is based out of Chicago. He can be reached at d.thomas@thomsonreuters.com and on Twitter @DaveThomas5150.