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Collaboration Fuels Growth in Houston

Collaboration Fuels Growth in Houston: A Conversation with Cliff Vrielink and Kevin Lewis


We had a conversation with Houston office co-managing partners Cliff Vrielink and Kevin Lewis. They spoke about the office’s continued growth in key sectors and the strengths that differentiate the team in Houston.

Looking back on the office’s growth, what are some of the highlights and achievements?

CV: I think we have established ourselves as a leading firm in Houston in a very short period of time. From day one of the office’s opening to where we are right now, we continue to expand and attract the highest-quality lawyers. Most recently, we welcomed a team of five partners to our Capital Markets and M&A practices on the heels of several talented energy partners who have also joined the firm in Houston. This is pretty transformational for us, and we think that it firmly entrenches Sidley among the top-tier firms in Houston.

KL: While many national firms have opened Houston offices, few of them have succeeded in becoming a destination platform in this market. By contrast, our growth has been impressive, and is in no small part a reflection of the firm’s strong reputation in the legal and business communities nationwide. The new lawyers that are joining us will be an important addition to our office, and their work significantly bolsters our energy capital markets capabilities.

CV: Energy continues to be a huge part of what we do and continues to be very active. We have a very diverse client mix, so we represent both industry and financial investors and lenders to the industry. One of Sidley’s strengths is that we have very strong cyclical and counter-cyclical practices, so we anticipate the Houston office continuing to stay busy.

In what ways does Sidley differentiate itself in the Houston market?

KL: Sidley’s approach is one that I don’t think has been duplicated in the Houston market, which is to offer a very broad variety of high-level services. That is not something that you see with many of the other national firms in Houston. Most firms are not trying to offer the broad range of top-level litigation and regulatory advice that we offer, in addition to the expansive transactional experience that we bring to the table.

CV: This market is changing a lot. It used to be that only the local firms were major players in the Texas legal market, and there were a few national firms that would participate in certain niche areas. One of our goals is to be a destination firm in the Houston market and in the energy market, and I think we have made tremendous strides toward that goal. As Kevin mentioned, there are different parts of the landscape that firms focus on, but we have been recognized as a strong competitor in numerous areas, and our growth is a testament to that.

How does the success of the Houston office reflect Sidley’s culture of collegiality?

CV: From the beginning, our associates have been a real strength of our office. We were very fortunate when we opened in 2012 to have a number of great associates join. Several have subsequently joined us from other firms, and we continue to attract really top-tier talent out of law school. It’s exciting to be at a firm where the most talented people making decisions about their careers see the benefits of Sidley, the Sidley franchise and all the strengths we have.

The collaboration that we have with all of the other Sidley offices has been amazing. Whether we are working on a matter where we are calling on an environmental lawyer out of Chicago or a tech lawyer out of Palo Alto or, currently, a matter I’m working on with a lawyer in our Sydney office, it has been really neat to see how the firm works together. It allows us to do exactly what we hope, which is to present our clients with the best person for each issue. I think that has been an essential and critical part of the success of this office and is what we all love about being here.

KL: Cliff is right – the real strength of our office lies in our talented lawyers from top to bottom. Our associates are attracted by our mix of collegiality and professionalism, by the extensive Sidley alumni network that provides continuing opportunities for our lawyers, and by our worldwide footprint that is, from time to time, of interest to associates who are considering moving from one part of the country or the globe to another.