4 Texas Attorneys Partner in Litigation Boutique

Jess Davis, Law360

Four former law school classmates have opened a Texas-based civil litigation boutique that has offices in Houston and Austin with an emphasis on eminent domain, complex commercial disputes, and probate and fiduciary matters, the firm said Wednesday.

Johns Marrs Ellis & Hodge LLP reunites the founding partners, who met in their first year at The University of Texas School of Law in 1999 and have since worked for Vinson & Elkins LLP, Jackson Walker LLP, Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP and the former Bracewell & Patterson LLP. The firm was set to celebrate its opening with a launch party in Houston on Thursday evening and will host a launch party in Austin next week.

Chris Johns and Luke Ellis will head the Austin office, with Joseph Marrs and Justin Hodge heading the Houston office. The firm also has four associates and an of counsel member.

“We have a lot of affection for each other, we trust each other, we share the same values and we knew we would enjoy practicing law together,” Johns told Law360 Thursday.

The four friends bonded during their first-year classes and stayed in touch as they clerked, moved on to different firms and developed their specialties. Ellis and Hodge most recently worked for Dawson Sodd Ellis & Hodge LLP, and both specialize in representing property owners in condemnation cases. Marrs specializes in probate litigation and trial advocacy, and Johns is a specialist in appellate work.

Johns said the firm wants to stay at a boutique size, with every attorney “operating at a very high level,” something he said can be difficult to maintain at a very large firm.

The team’s track record includes wins at the U.S. Supreme Court, eight-figure settlements, verdicts for plaintiffs and the successful reversal of a nine-figure liability determination for a defendant, the firm said.

The firm handles trials and appeals in commercial disputes, probate and condemnation cases, and it also specializes in fiduciary regulations. Johns said that while the firm naturally has a Texas focus, it handles cases across the country, in both federal and state court.

The partnership evolved naturally. Johns and Ellis had talked about starting a firm together long ago, and three of the four men at one point worked together at Jackson Walker. They knew one another and they knew they would work well together, Johns said. As they all began to feel comfortable in their practices and confident in the work they were delivering to clients, the time seemed right to branch out for themselves, he said.

“We just want to be a really excellent trial and appeal shop,” Marrs told Law360. He said their specialties all complement one another’s and he’s excited about the transition.

“Working with your friends is what you always dreamed of doing,” Marrs said.