Bonds

A second group of Texas-based public finance attorneys at Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe has jumped to a different firm in the state.

Jackson Walker announced this week the launch of its first public finance practice group with four Orrick attorneys — Rick Witte, Todd Brewer, Tanya Fischer, and Hoang Vu — along with Russell Miller, a tax lawyer who previously worked at Hawkins Delafield & Wood in San Francisco.

In February, five other public finance attorneys left Orrick for Greenberg Traurig‘s Houston office.

Witte, who leads Jackson Walker’s new practice in Houston, praised Orrick and declined to expand on comments he made to Law.com that his former law firm was deemphasizing traditional public finance in Texas.

He called the move to Jackson Walker “a great ground floor opportunity at a Texas-based firm that’s doing really well with people that we really like and we were able to put a good group together.”

Justin Cooper, co-leader of Orrick’s public finance department and chair of the firm’s housing finance group, reaffirmed the firm’s commitment to traditional public finance in an interview.

“Our strategy is to maintain and grow our traditional public finance practice,” Cooper said. “And, to grow in more non-traditional areas, like healthcare, securitizations, and housing. The idea is not to deemphasize one, but expand the scope in other areas.”

Orrick has topped the league tables for law firms nationally in public finance for years. It ranked fourth last year for Texas deals.

Even with the loss of nine Texas-based bond attorneys this year, Cooper said the firm is continuing its expansion path in that state and across the country.

“Our public improvement district practice in Texas is really exploding and we are heavily involved in that area,” Cooper said.

Land-secured development financing is a growth area in Texas, and Orrick’s practice in that sector has “tripled in the last few years,” he said.

Jackson Walker Managing Partner Wade Cooper said the new partners have more than 140 years of collective experience and have represented clients in over $200 billion of public finance transactions. 

“Adding this accomplished team propels Jackson Walker into the top ranks of Texas public finance,” he said in a statement.

Witte said he’s interested in growing the practice by putting attorneys on the ground in Austin and Dallas, as well as adding a few more in Houston.

The group has experience in working for governmental entities, nonprofits, and for banks that directly purchase debt or serve as credit and liquidity providers in public finance transactions, according to Witte. 

“Texas is probably the best place in the country to be a public finance lawyer,” he said, adding the state continues to attract residents and has wide-open spaces with a lot of infrastructure needs. 

Witte added, the lawyers have also advised clients about 2021 Texas laws that prohibit state and local government contracts with banks and other companies determined to be “boycotting” fossil fuel businesses or “discriminating” against the firearm industry.

He said law firms, investment banks, and others are keeping their eyes peeled for legislation that could impact their business in Texas. While some legislators said last year they would target lawyers and investment banks for their abortion-access policies, bills failed to materialize in the 2023 session. 

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