It’s hard to really explain why Houston has been the birthplace—at least in the lawyerly sense—of so many colorful, key, flamboyant, and crucial lawyers, but perhaps the Allen brothers are really to blame.

After all, the whole town was founded based on the New York-born pair’s false advertisement that lured so many out to the Texas Gulf Coast to live in a town that was being spun as “the shining city on a hill” even though the land was flat, swampy, mosquito-ridden, and little more than a mudhole. While enough of those duped opted to make the best of things, surely some of them must have turned litigious. So maybe that’s where the legal bent crept into our city’s DNA.

Either way, Houston has long been producing lawyers who have made a dent on the local, state, and national psyche, whether with catchphrases you can’t ever get out of your head, à la Jim Adler, or a certain way of approaching cases that has helped create an indelible Hollywood take on what makes up a Texas lawyer. (Woody Harrelson’s No Country for Old Men character has always evoked shades of Dick DeGuerin and Tony Buzbee for us). Or, of course, by just being hailed as one of the best litigators of their era the way Percy Foreman and Joe Jamail both were. (Foreman is still a legend to those who were around back in his trial lawyer heydays, while Joe Jamail was counted as one of the greatest lawyers who ever lived—both by himself and by others.)

We at Houstonia are taking a look at some of the fascinating legal minds and litigators this crazy town has produced over the past 184 years—some you’ve surely heard tell of, like Richard “Racehorse” Haynes, and some that you simply should know about but who are overlooked, like Hortense Sparks Ward. We may never entirely understand how the Bayou City became such fertile grounds for legal minds, but what follows are a few select stories chronicling how key H-Town lawyers grew to prominence, and helped shape the city, the state, the nation, and law itself.

And here’s hoping that you, dear reader, never have need of a lawyer, but if you do, we wish you a Houston lawyer.

In This Feature:

Why Haven't You Heard of CES Openshaw?

The lawyer made a splash in the '30s fighting capital punishment with a high-profile Barrow Gang case.

12/14/2020 By Gwendolyn Knapp

The Life and Trials of Richard "Racehorse" Haynes

How Houston produced one of the winningest criminal defense attorneys in recent history.

12/14/2020 By Dianna Wray

The Change of Plans That Made Rufus Cormier a Trailblazer

The attorney never wanted to practice law, but he ended up in the middle of history.

12/14/2020 By Emma Schkloven

Houston’s Original Nasty Woman

Hortense Sparks Ward fought for women’s rights and permanently changed Texas law in the process.

12/14/2020 By Emma Schkloven

Leon Jaworski: The Houston Lawyer Who Got the Watergate Tapes Released

The attorney was known for his willingness to take on the tough cases.

12/14/2020 By Jeff Balke