As Austin’s Legal Market Explodes, Firms Rush In

This article originally published in Texas Lawyer magazine on April 4.

When John Gilluly started practicing law in Austin in 1998, the city’s legal market lived and breathed real estate, government and practices surrounding those areas.

But everything was changing.

The growth of the city’s technology sector in the dot-com boom of the late 1990s was attracting West Coast firms that wanted to expand in Austin, recalled Gilluly, who then was an associate in the Austin office of the West coast firm of Gray Cary Ware & Freidenrich, a predecessor of DLA Piper.

Then everything changed again.

The dot-com bust of the early 2000s dashed the hopes of some of the firms, which closed their doors, causing partners to scurry to other firms. Gray Cary remained, although it shrank its size, said Gilluly, now managing partner in the Texas offices of DLA Piper in Austin.

Since then, he said Austin’s legal market—and his firm—have grown steadily.

“Other firms’ lawyers have either transitioned to become aligned with the business economy in Austin by working with tech companies or other growth companies,” Gilluly said. “Now, unlike the early ’90s when I started, you have a reasonably robust market of lawyers who have worked in this area for a long time now—over 15 years. Across the board, the firms for the most part have grown.”

By every marker, the economy in Austin is booming—spurring startups and business relocations, creating impressive numbers of jobs and flooding the city with new residents. The growth has also boosted the legal market—and law firms are reacting by opening new offices or expanding existing operations.

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Nonprofit Law Firms Benefit Disenchanted Attorneys, ‘In-Between’ Clients

This article published originally on on Sept. 7, 2016.

Lee DiFilippo earned hefty paychecks for 13 years as a corporate transactional attorney in Big Law and later as in-house counsel to a couple of corporations.

But it wasn’t enough.

“I was pushing paper for corporate America. I was paid a lot of money. But I never felt I was doing anything that benefited anyone,” DiFilippo said.

In 2012, she found her true calling when she helped a poor woman get a divorce from an abusive husband. “I never knew there was such a need. I was always in an ivory tower in big high rises, working for firms, and I was shielded from it.”

Following her passion and joining a growing movement across the country, DiFilippo now runs a nonprofit law firm in Austin—DiFilippo Holistic Law Center—to serve people who make too much money to qualify for legal aid, but too little to afford a traditional lawyer. Previously, DiFilippo worked at Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton and then at Reed Smith, before going-in-house at Textron Systems and Bell Helicopter.

The growing popularity of nonprofit law firms aimed to help the “in-between” economic demographic stems, in large part, from a 2014 article in The Atlantic, which profiled Shantelle Argyle’s organization, Open Legal Services, in Salt Lake City. Argyle, co-founder and executive director of Open Legal Services, said that since then, people in 35 states have called her, and she’s consulted with two dozen to help them create nonprofits.

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Going freelance

I’ve been a professional, full-time journalist for 10 years. Most recently I was  staff reporter at Texas Lawyer, a legal-news publication owned by ALM Media Inc. But this May, I had my second son and made the decision to go back to work part time so I can spend more time raising my children. Now I’m working part time as a freelance reporter, still writing mainly for Texas Lawyer and

Cycling Lawyers Improve Their Bods and Their Business

Lawyers who want to get fit have a lot of options—running, lifting weights, cross-training, yoga. But for some attorneys, cycling is yielding more benefits than just shedding pounds.

These lawyers say that the sport fosters camaraderie and conversation, which allows them to meet new clients, get closer to existing clients and strengthen relationships with colleagues.


PDF: Cycling Lawyers Improve Their Bods and Their Business _ Law