Partners fighting through figuring out how to develop profitable alternative fee agreements should take heart — the skill could come in handy in your future political career.
Texas gubernatorial candidate Bill White’s most recent job was as the mayor of Houston. He also served as the deputy secretary of the Energy Department under Bill Clinton. But before that he graduated from law school in 1979 and made partner in three years at the then-new Susman Godfrey.
By 1984, Susman was experimenting with what many firms are looking to do now — accepting commercial litigation cases on a contingent fee basis. And one of White’s main tasks in his position on the firm’s management committee was to evaluate the strength of incoming cases, the Austin-American Statesmen reported.
White used these risk-assessment skills in 2006, the article indicated, to convince oil company executives to agree to a calculated property value — one that would include profit margins — for the Houston-area’s four largest refineries. It was a time when oil profits were soaring, so the companies instigating litigation in order to avoid higher property taxes was all but certain. Avoiding this “inevitable” litigation would be the best course for everyone, White told the executives.
We have not considered it before, but a politician being able to explain to a lobbyist exactly how much future litigation will cost if they do (or do not, depending on the circumstances) support whatever law or regulation is being pursued really could come in handy.
Clients have, of course, spent the last year insisting that firms begin to support alternative fee arrangements. We think it’ll be 2011 before we see how successful that campaign has actually been.
White will learn the results of his election before then. He has to make it through the democratic primary and then would likely face either Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison or current Governor Rick Perry in the November election.
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