The Best Lawyers in Dallas

Jim Coleman was overwhelmingly voted the most respected lawyer in town—to no one’s surprise but his own. PLUS: our exclusive list of the top 188 attorneys in 20 specialties, as voted by their peers.

Before you object to the subjective nature of this list, let us explain how we did it. D Magazine mailed ballots to 2,500 attorneys across Dallas-Fort Worth who were licensed to practice with the State Bar before 1994, asking them to vote for the lawyers who represent the best of the profession. The ballot was also posted on our web site. Anyone with a valid Bar number was eligible to vote.

We asked each attorney two questions. First—and new to the ballot this year—we asked them to name the most respected lawyer in Dallas, regardless of concentration or firm. We also posed the following: which Dallas lawyer, of those whose work you’ve witnessed firsthand, would you rank among the current best? With that question in mind, lawyers were asked to provide three names—one from inside their firms and two from outside their firms. They had to vote for two attorneys from outside their own firms for the same-firm votes to be valid.

That said, we took great pains to prevent any bias in favor of large firms and to prevent ballot-box stuffing. We hired a marketing research company to tally the votes. Same-firm votes were assigned less weight than outside-firm votes, so a large number of same-firm votes didn’t guarantee a best listing. Only ballots signed by the attorney with his or her State Bar number were counted. We also enlisted the help of a panel of well-respected local lawyers to review the list. Final decisions regarding confusing ballots or close calls were deferred to our committee.


Please note that the lawyers name listed in RED link to a profile listed in D Magazine.

Jerry Beane

Andrews Kurth LLP

Curtis L. Frisbie Jr.
Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP

Debra L. Goldstein
Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP

Gregory S.C. Huffman
Thompson & Knight, LLP

John McDowell
Hughes & Luce, LLP

Barry McNeil
Haynes and Boone, LLP

Danny S. Ashby

Hughes & Luce, LLP

Nina Cortell
Haynes and Boone, LLP

Charles T. Frazier Jr.
Cowles & Thompson, P.C.

Robert B. Gilbreath
Jenkens & Gilchrist

Deborah Hankinson
Law Offices of Deborah Hankinson PC

Cynthia C. Hollingsworth
Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP

Steve Baughman Jensen
Baron & Budd, P.C.

P. Michael Jung
Strasburger & Price, LLP

Jeffrey S. Levinger
Carrington, Coleman, Sloman & Blumenthal, L.L.P.

Brent M. Rosenthal
Baron & Budd, P.C.

Chad M. Ruback
Godwin Gruber, LLP

Ben Taylor
Fulbright & Jaworski, L.L.P.

Rick Goyne
Baker Botts L.L.P.

James R. Littlejohn
Winstead Sechrest & Minick P.C.

James A. Markus
Vinson & Elkins LLP

Dan Nicewander
Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP

Scott Night
Haynes and Boone, LLP

Emeline Yang
Winstead Sechrest & Minick P.C.

Bob Albergotti

Haynes and Boone, LLP

Sander Esserman
Stutzman, Bromberg, Esserman & Plifka

Toby Gerber
Fulbright & Jaworski, L.L.P.

Patrick J. Neligan Jr.
Neligan Tarpley Andrews Foley, LLP

Holly O’Neil
Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP

Robin E. Phelan
Haynes and Boone, LLP

Alan Rich
Baron & Budd, P.C.

Judith Ross
Baker Botts L.L.P.

Dan Stewart
Vinson & Elkins LLP

Chip Babcock
Jackson Walker, L.L.P.

Amy Davis Benavides
Hermes Sargent Bates, LLP

John W. Bickel II
Bickel & Brewer

George W. Bramblett Jr.
Haynes and Boone, LLP

William A. Brewer III
Bickel & Brewer

Craig Budner
Hughes & Luce, LLP

James E. Coleman
Carrington, Coleman, Sloman & Blumenthal, L.L.P.

Jim Cowles
Cowles & Thompson, P.C.

Ernest E. Figari Jr.
Figari & Davenport, LLP

Donald E. Godwin
Godwin Gruber, LLP

Brad Jackson
Law Offices of Brad Jackson

Alan Loewinsohn
Loewinsohn & Flegle, L.L.P.

Mike Lynn
Lynn Tillotson & Pinker, L.L.P.

Mike McKool Jr.
McKool Smith, P.C.

Tom Melsheimer
Fish & Richardson P.C.

Robert H. Mow
Hughes & Luce, LLP

Terrell W. Oxford
Susman Godfrey

Rod Phelan
Baker Botts L.L.P.

Mark S. Werbner
Sayles Werbner

Betsy Whitaker
Bracewell & Patterson, L.L.P.

Robert J. Witte
Winstead Sechrest & Minick P.C.

Fletcher Yarbrough
Carrington, Coleman, Sloman & Blumenthal, L.L.P.

Patrick M. Arnold

Powell & Coleman, L.L.P.

John E. Bromberg
Stutzman, Bromberg, Esserman & Plifka

W. Robert Dyer Jr.
Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP

M. Lawrence Hicks Jr.
Thompson & Knight LLP

C. Ted Raines Jr.
Haynes and Boone, LLP

Harry M. Roberts Jr.
Thompson & Knight LLP

Ralph G. Santos
Greenberg Traurig LLP

James H. Wallenstein
Jenkens & Gilchrist

Robert E. Wilson
Haynes and Boone, LLP

Andrew Baker
Baker Botts L.L.P.

Michael M. Boone
Haynes and Boone, LLP

Jeffrey A. Chapman
Vinson & Elkins LLP

Shane Egan
Wick Phillips

Mark A. Girtz
Munsch Hardt Kopf & Harr, PC

Lawrence E. Glasgow
Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP

Glen J. Hettinger
Fulbright & Jaworski LLP

Thomas W. Hughes
Fulbright & Jaworski L.L.P.

Brian Lidji
Lidji & Dorey

Gregory R. Samuel
Haynes and Boone, LLP

Larry Schoenbrun
Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP

Mark Solomon
Andrews Kurth LLP

Michael D. Wortley
Vinson & Elkins LLP

Thomas H. Yang
Haynes and Boone, LLP

Jeffrey A. Zlotky
Thompson & Knight LLP

Jim Burnham
Law Offices of Jim Burnham

Kenda Culpepper
Culpepper & Pruitt

Ronald L. Goranson
Law Office of Ronald L. Goranson

S. Michael McColloch
McColl & McColloch

Tom Mills
Mills & Williams, L.L.P.

George Milner III
Milner & Finn

Reed W. Prospere
Prospere & Russell

Barry Sorrels
Sorrels & Udashen

Vicki Blanton

J.C. Penney Corporation, Inc.

E. Philip Bush
Locke Liddell & Sapp, LLP

Barry W. Cowan
Winstead Sechrest & Minick P.C.

T. David Cowart
Jenkens & Gilchrist

Nancy Furney
Hallett & Perrin, P.C.

James R. Griffin
Jackson Walker, L.L.P.

Riva T. Johnson
Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP

John A. Kober
Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP

Karen Suhre
Law Offices of Karen Suhre

Angeline Lindley Bain
Goranson, Bain, Larsen & Greenwald, LC

Kevin Fuller
Koons, Fuller, Vanden Eykel & Robertson, P.C.

Thomas Goranson
Goranson, Bain, Larsen & Greenwald, LC

Rhonda Hunter
Law Offices of Rhonda Hunter

Paula Kurko Larsen
Goranson, Bain, Larsen, & Greenwald LC

Kelly McClure
McClure Duffee & Eitzen, LLP

Mary Jo McCurley
McCurley, Orsinger, McCurley Nelson and Downing

Mike McCurley
McCurley, Orsinger, McCurley, Nelson and Downing

Kathryn J. Murphy
Koons, Fuller, Vanden Eykel & Robertson, P.C.

Thomas L. Raggio
Raggio & Raggio

Ike Vanden Eykel
Koons, Fuller, Vanden Eykel & Roberston, P.C.

Gayle Cannon
Thompson & Knight, LLP

Deborah Coldwell
Haynes and Boone, LLP

Ann Hurwitz
DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary US LLP

Joyce Mazero
Haynes and Boone, LLP

John Cone
Akin Gump

Herb Hammond
Thompson & Knight, LLP

Wei Wei Jeang
Haynes and Boone, LLP

V. Bryan Medlock Jr.
Sidley Austin Brown & Wood

Jerry Mills
Baker Botts, LLP

P. Weston Musselman
Fish & Richardson P.C.

Jerry R. Selinger
Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP

Bart Showalter
Baker Botts L.L.P.

Bruce Sostek
Thompson & Knight, LLP

Andy Szuwalski
Jenkens & Gilchrist

Robert Turner
Jones Day

Betsy Whitaker
Bracewell & Patterson, L.L.P.

Matthew E. Yarbrough
Fish & Richardson P.C.

Jennifer Burr Altabef
Carrington, Coleman, Sloman & Blumenthal, L.L.P.

Kim J. Askew
Hughes & Luce, LLP

J. Derek Braziel
Edwards & George, LLP

Edward Cloutman
Law Offices of Edward Cloutman

Rogge Dunn
Clouse Dunn Hirsch, LLP

Stephen E. Fox
Fish & Richardson P.C.

Hal K. Gillespie
Gillespie, Rozen, Watsky, Motley, & Jones P.C.

Andrew Gould
Wick Phillips

Michael P. Maslanka
Ford & Harrison LLP

Mark A. Shank
Hughes & Luce, LLP

Fredrick Baron

Baron & Budd, P.C.

William S. Dahlstrom
Jackson Walker, L.L.P.

L. Suzan Kedron
Jackson Walker, L.L.P.

Jill Kotvis
Jill A. Kotvis, P.C.

Susan Mead
Jackson Walker, L.L.P.

Dwight “Ike” A. Shupe
Hughes & Luce, LLP

Scott Summy
Baron & Budd, P.C.

Robin P. Hartmann
Haynes and Boone, LLP

Coyt Randal Johnston
Johnston Tobey, P.C.

Paul M. Koning
Hughes & Luce, LLP

George M. Kryder
Vinson & Elkins LLP

Steve Malouf
Law Offices of Stephen F. Malouf

Robert H. Mow Jr.
Hughes & Luce, LLP

Mary Burdin

Burdin Mediations

Earl F. Hale Jr.
Offices of Earl F. Hale Jr.

(Hon) Harlan A. Martin
(Former) JAMS

Christopher Nolland
Law Offices of Christopher Nolland

Will Pryor
Will Pryor Mediation & Arbitration

Sid Stahl
Sid Stahl, Attorney – Mediator

Ross W. Stoddard III
Attorney – Mediator

Charla Aldous
Aldous & McDougal

Lisa A. Blue, Ph.D.
Baron & Budd, P.C.

Frank L. Branson
Law Offices of Frank L. Branson

Russell W. Budd
Baron & Budd, P.C.

Rob Crain
Crain & Montes, L.L.P.

Ralph “Red Dog” Jones
Parham Jones & Shiver

Paula Sweeney
Howie & Sweeney, L.L.P.

Windle Turley
Law Offices of Windle Turley, P.C.

Les Weisbrod
Morgan & Weisbrod

William Bowers

Fulbright & Jaworski L.L.P.

Jeff W. Dorrill
Hughes & Luce, LLP

Thornton Hardie
Thompson & Knight, LLP

Vester T. Hughes Jr.
Hughes & Luce, LLP

C. Ronald Kalteyer
Locke Liddell & Sapp, LLP

Emily A. Parker
Thompson & Knight LLP

David Wheat
Thompson & Knight LLP

Todd Amacher

Law Office of Todd R. Amacher

John F. Bergner
Winstead Sechrest & Minick P.C.

Santo Bisignano Jr.
Bisignano & Harrison LLP

R.W. Calloway
Calloway, Norris, Burdette & Weber

Thomas H. Cantrill
Jenkens & Gilchrist

John Collins
Haynes and Boone, LLP

Barbara B. Ferguson
Thompson & Knight LLP

James J. Hartnett Sr.
The Hartnett Law Firm

Kathryn G. Henkel
Hughes & Luce, LLP

Robert H. Kroney
Kroney-Mincey, Inc.

Lawrence Wolfish
Wolfish & Newman, PC

Jim Burnham
Law Offices of Jim Burnham

Paul Coggins
Fish & Richardson P.C.

Robert E. Davis
Hughes & Luce, LLP

Michael P. Gibson
Burleson Pate & Gibson

Barry McNeil
Haynes and Boone, LLP

Charles M. Meadows Jr.
Meadows, Owens, Collier, Reed, Cousins & Blau

Tom Melsheimer
Fish & Richardson P.C.

Edwin J. Tomko
McManemin & Smith, P.C.

The Gentleman’s Lawyer
To no one’s surprise but his own, Jim Coleman’s peers voted him the most respected lawyer in Dallas.
by Tim Rogers

The first thing you should know about James E. Coleman is that he will not enjoy this story.

The man’s been practicing law for more than 50 years, his name’s on the stationery of the firm he helped found—Carrington, Coleman, Sloman & Blumenthal—yet still, as best anyone can tell, he’s never once been profiled.

That’s the way he likes it.

“He doesn’t really like to talk about himself,” says Judge Barbara M.G. Lynn, who’s known him for 30 years. “Jim would be thrilled if no one ever mentioned his name in any news story.”

So he is ambivalent when presented with the news that in a survey conducted by D Magazine, he was overwhelmingly voted by his peers as the most respected lawyer in town. The No. 2 vote-getter was a highly respected man, a jurisprudential giant in this city—he didn’t come close. Coleman is flattered. But the news comes with a request for an interview and even a sitting for a photograph. He doesn’t relish the prospect of either and says he needs a few days to think about it. He doesn’t think he warrants all the fuss and attention.

This is a lawyer, understand, who is shunning free publicity.

But then the call comes and Coleman says he’ll sit for the photo and meet for an informal interview on two conditions: one, the story will have to make it plain that the last thing he would do is indulge in self-promotion. And, two, lunch is on him.

And so on a recent afternoon at the Crescent Club, wearing a gray pinstriped suit, Coleman does something very unusual, for him. He sits down to lunch and, in his buttery Georgia accent, talks about himself for nearly two hours. He lets slip a few biographical details that are apparently too flattering; he asks that they not be printed. But the basic outline is this:

Coleman was born in Georgia six years before the Great Depression. He went to high school in Atlanta and met his wife Margaret in their senior year while he was “jellying,” which, for those who don’t know, was a courting ritual wherein gentlemen would go from house to house on a Sunday, calling on girls. Sometimes, you’d call on a girl and she’d already be entertaining other callers. When Coleman met Margaret, the phonograph was playing a Frank Sinatra record. Or it could have been Duke Ellington.

Coleman graduated from high school in 1941 and went on to Georgia Tech, but when the United States entered World War II, he enlisted. That’s when he learned he was colorblind. They stuck him in the Army. And in 1945, he crossed the Rhine with General George Patton’s Third Army.

But that detail doesn’t surface at lunch. Coleman simply says he “served in the Army.” Another detail that somehow escapes him and that would be volunteered later by one of his law partners: as a combat infantry officer, Coleman handled himself well enough in battle that he was awarded the Silver Star.

After the war, he finished up at Tech in 1948, one year after he’d married Margaret. He graduated from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1951.
He planned to come to Dallas, where the oil and gas business was booming.

“Deals were being made, people were making money,” he says. “It seemed like a good place for a lawyer.” He pronounces the word “law-yah.”

Once again, though, his plans were interrupted. When the Korean War broke out, Coleman was still in the reserves. This time, the CIA wanted him. To this day, he won’t say what he did, exactly, during his two years with the agency, citing an agreement he signed when he left. But he will allow you this: no, he was not a paper pusher. In fact, on several occasions during his service in the CIA, he wished he were just a paper pusher. That, and what he did was so much fun that he considered not leaving when his tour was up.

About halfway through lunch at the Crescent Club, a judge and lawyer stop by Coleman’s table. His firm’s offices are in the building, and everyone knows him here. One of the men says he saw an article in Texas Lawyer that mentioned that the Carrington Coleman offices recently installed four defibrillators.

“You know why?” the other man says. “Because when Jim’s clients find out how much he charges, they need ’em!”

From Coleman’s reserved, yet polite, reaction to the joke, one gets the impression that he does not sit around laughing about how much he charges his clients. After working for two other firms in Dallas, Coleman and four others founded Carrington Coleman in 1970 as a sort of utopian shop for lawyers.
Partners didn’t squabble over compensation or even keep track of billable hours. There was no vacation policy.

Today, things have changed a little. The firm has about 100 lawyers, and billable hours are tracked—more than anything to ensure no one is overworked. And Coleman does have some fairly high-profile clients that surely pay him what his services are worth. In fact, Coleman’s most noteworthy client right now is former Enron chief executive Ken Lay. But when Coleman travels to Houston for business, he still flies Southwest Airlines.

“Unassuming” is a good description of the man. His favorite dessert is butter pecan ice cream. They keep a tub of it at the Crescent Club just for him. He brags about this special treatment as if it were the most wondrous luxury in the world. And then, when the waiter profusely apologizes for not being able to locate the tub and instead brings three substitute flavors, Coleman pretends each is butter pecan.

Unassuming. Coleman has four children. One of them is County Judge Margaret Keliher. She says “Daddy” never talked about work at home. “Actually, I didn’t even know that my dad was so well-respected until I got out of school,” she says. After she graduated in the top five of her class from SMU law and was in the profession awhile, she began to appreciate his stature. “They would say, ‘Oh, you’re Jim Coleman’s daughter, aren’t you?’”

Indeed, as evidenced by D’s survey, people in the law community do have a high opinion of the man. If you ever want to have some fun, you can call big-time trial lawyers in town and try to get them to say something bad about Coleman.

Frank Branson: “Jim Coleman is a gentleman, a scholar, and a class act. And I don’t care whether you’re on the same side he is or opposing him, he’s a trustworthy, honorable man.”

George Bramblett, at Haynes and Boone: “Jim Coleman is unique in the Dallas legal community. He is the most successful lawyer and also the most respected, and that’s not always the case. He is our Atticus Finch.”

It only gets more difficult. Judge Lynn, as previously mentioned, has known Coleman for 30 years. She, in fact, was Carrington Coleman’s first female associate (1976) and, by the way, also the firm’s first female partner (1983). You can keep her on the phone for upwards of 30 minutes, and she won’t be able to accuse the man of having even the most minor of peccadilloes. Beyond his good manners and irreproachable sense of justice, she says there’s his sharp mind.

“He is the quickest study of anyone I have met in my entire life,” she says. “I mean, he can learn the most complicated, Byzantine facts in law on short order and then go right into the courtroom and present them in the most cogent, brilliant, folksy way that anybody’s ever been able to do. I mean, it’s really miraculous.”

But, again, Jim Coleman will have none of it. The dining room at the Crescent Club long ago emptied out, and as he’s signing for the bill, he really can’t say why people think he’s the most respected lawyer in town.

“I always have to go with what my daddy told me,” he says. “He said if you keep your shirt clean and do what’s right and work real hard, sooner or later, it’ll get out on you.”

Photo: Allison V. Smith