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Firm History

The Bracewell that we know today has come a long way since its founding. At the same time, how we define ourselves as a firm has been greatly influenced by the values championed by our founders over 75 years ago.

Our Roots

In 1945, Searcy and Fentress Bracewell returned from World War II to open a law practice with their father, J. S. Bracewell. J. S. Bracewell began his career as a small town lawyer in Harrisburg, Texas. He quickly gained a reputation as a champion for the underdog. Burt Tunks, an energetic trial lawyer who was also a military veteran, joined the Bracewells in founding a law practice. Bracewell & Tunks officially opened its doors for business on November 1, 1945.

Our founders understood that a successful law practice requires a relentless focus on professional excellence. As the practice started to grow, the four lawyers maintained a work culture that emphasized personal relationships and teamwork.

They also shared a commitment to community service. J. S. Bracewell was active in state and local politics throughout his career, and became assistant attorney general for Texas in 1963. Searcy Bracewell served 12 years in the Texas state legislature, including two years in the House of Representatives and 10 in the Senate. Fentress Bracewell was appointed Houston Port Commissioner in 1968, and chaired the Port of Houston Authority for 15 years. Burt Tunks was appointed a district court judge in 1957 and was later named chief justice of the First Court of Civil Appeals.

Many Bracewell lawyers have followed in these footsteps, serving as federal district and court judges, ambassadors, US senators and representatives, Texas state senators and representatives, the Texas secretary of state and Texas governor.

The Emergence of a Modern Law Firm

Searcy Bracewell wrote in 1981 that if 1945 was Bracewell’s “historic beginning,” the firm’s “real beginning” was in 1966.

On March 15, seven partners — Fentress Bracewell, Searcy Bracewell, Hal DeMoss, Joe Jaworski, Harry Patterson, Bill Wilde and Carlton Wilde — committed to building a modern law firm organized around identified practice areas. Texas’ economy was booming, attracting companies from around the world, most notably in the energy and financial sectors.

Bracewell quickly became an influential player in the state’s business community. The firm established a corporate practice with the arrival of Edgar Marston in 1971, while the litigation practice evolved to meet the needs of corporate clients in large commercial disputes. An Austin office was established in 1974 to address the legislative needs of the firm’s clients.

In 1975, the then 50-lawyer firm moved into the new Pennzoil Place, which was dubbed “Building of the Decade” by The New York Times because of its innovative design. 711 Louisiana continues to be home to the Bracewell’s Houston office.

Bracewell established a national presence in April 1975 with the opening of its Washington, DC office. Forty-five years later, the lawyers, lobbyists and consultants in the DC office continue to serve the regulatory, legislative and business needs of firm clients inside the Beltway.

75 Years Strong

One of the secrets to our success as a firm has been the ability to continuously evolve to meet the changing needs of clients. The firm expanded its national reach by opening offices in Dallas (1989), San Antonio (1999), New York (2005), Hartford (2007) and Seattle (2009). Bracewell also established an international presence with the opening of office in London (1978) and Dubai (2007).

Lawyers across the firm’s 10 office work together in helping clients meet the changing needs of a global economy. Drawing on inspiration from those who came before them, they have met the challenge by focusing on the firm’s strengths in key sectors and practices.