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Our History

Our Beginning. On November 1, 1945, two brothers, Searcy and Fentress Bracewell, just home from their World War II service, joined their father, J. S. Bracewell, and another leading Houston lawyer to open the doors of a new Houston law firm. From the beginning, the Bracewells understood that for their firm to succeed they must maintain a relentless focus on professional excellence. As they dreamed of building a larger firm, they also understood that the firm’s roots must be deeply embedded in a culture emphasizing personal relationships and teamwork. Finally, based on J. S. Bracewell’s great success as a statewide and community leader before the war, the Bracewells believed that a commitment to public and community service should be a key component of their firm. More than seventy years later, this commitment to professional excellence, to personal relationships and teamwork, and to public and community service remain the cornerstones of our partnership.

Born in the Courtroom. Our reputation for professional excellence began in the courtroom. J. S. Bracewell was well known as a fierce and relentless litigator, and the post-war era saw the firm assume and extend that reputation. From that beginning, our reputation for professional excellence grew from insurance defense to labor, tax, condemnation and business litigation. In the 1960s and early 1970s, as the growing Texas economy began to attract business enterprises from all over the world, as well as financing from money center banks, our litigation practice evolved to the representation of stakeholders in large-scale commercial disputes.

Development of our Business Practice. As the energy and financial services sectors grew dramatically in Texas in the 1970s, the firm’s reputation for professional excellence attracted clients focused on transactional and commercial matters. This inspired firm leaders to significantly expand the firm’s transactional practice, and in the mid-1970s the firm began adding like-minded partners focused on corporate transactions and bank finance. Our firm’s reputation in the courtroom was soon matched by our growing reputation for handling major M&A transactions and financings.

Beyond Texas, Beyond the United States. As the firm’s reputation and size grew, in the 1970s and 1980s we expanded our geographic reach to service our increasingly diverse client base. New offices throughout Texas and in Washington, D.C. were anchored by long-time Bracewell partners and carefully selected laterals.

Inspired by the globalization of the world economy, we recognized the need to distinguish ourselves among law firms. We successfully met this challenge by focusing primarily on certain core industries, namely energy, finance and technology, and certain strategic practice areas which complement our industry focus, including public finance, government relations, financial restructuring, complex commercial litigation, real estate and white collar defense. Over the past three decades, our successes resulted in the expansion of our geographic footprint to New York City, Seattle, Hartford, London and the Middle East.

Perspective. Adherence to the original commitments made by the Bracewells’ and the Bracewell lawyers who followed them—professional excellence, personal relationships and teamwork, and a shared commitment to public and community service—is evidenced by the culture of Bracewell today and through the recognition of our firm by others:

Professional Achievement. Our lawyers have been recognized by their peers with membership in a number of prestigious groups, including the American College of Trial Lawyers, the International Academy of Trial Lawyers, the American Board of Trial Advocates, the American College of Bond Counsel, and the International Insolvency Institute, among others. In addition, many of our lawyers and practice groups are recognized by virtually every prestigious legal ranking organization that exists in the US, London and the Middle East. A few recent examples of our professional excellence recognition include being named as the 2019 “Law Firm of the Year” in Energy Law an “Energy Team of the Year” in the “Best Law Firms” report by U.S.News – Best Lawyers, as the “Legal Service Provider of the Year” by Petroleum Economist (2018 and 2015), as the “Infrastructure and Energy Projects Team of the Year” at the 2018 Middle East Legal Awards (2018 and 2017), as a “Litigation Powerhouse” by Law360 (2016), and as “Large Law Firm Litigation Department of the Year” by Texas Lawyer (2017).

A Shared Commitment to Public and Community Service. Bracewell partners and other senior lawyers have served in a variety of roles in the US federal government, including in the US States Senate, in the United States House of Representatives, as United States Ambassador to Mexico, in the Executive Branch of the United States government, as Federal District Judges, as Circuit Judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, as law clerks for Justices of the United States Supreme Court, and as leading Assistant US Attorneys. In addition, many have also served in State government positions, including as Governor of Texas, as Secretary of State of Texas, as members of the Texas State Senate and House of Representatives, as justices on the Texas Supreme Court and as the District Attorney for Harris County Texas. Finally, Bracewell lawyers have served as Regents of several leading public Universities and University Systems in the State of Texas, as chairpersons of some of the most important state and municipal regulatory authorities including the Port of Houston and the Metropolitan Transit Authority of the City of Houston and, importantly, on the boards of various arts and medical organization in the cities which are served by the firm.

Firm Culture. Our firm is grounded in a strong and unwavering commitment to a culture of professional excellence, teamwork and personal relationships based on trust and respect among all Bracewell lawyers and staff. Each Monday, we hold a video meeting of all attorneys and senior staff in all offices worldwide to highlight professional achievements, client successes and significant new client projects, with an emphasis on the recognition of teamwork across multiple offices and practice areas. We operate as a traditional, transparent partnership, and we carry our emphasis on teamwork and transparency into our relationship with our associates, counsel, staff, and most importantly, our clients.