Lanier Named a “Top Lawyer Under 45”

W. Mark Lanier Named To “Top 45 Under 45” List


By Susan Beck, Tatiana Boncompagni, Paul Braverman, Matt Fleischer-Black, Alison Frankel, Jeffery Knight, Carlyn Kolker, Nathan Koppel, Robert Lennon, Andrew Longstreth, Douglas McCollam, and Heather Smith

The American Lawyer

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In 1995, The American Lawyer identified the private bar’s next generation of leaders. Now, we look back at them_and ahead to their successors.

The word “elite” comes from an Old French verb meaning “to choose.” In its modern connotation, the word has also come to stand for high achievement. Both meanings apply to the special report that follows_the culmination of an intensive effort by the staff of The American Lawyer to choose 45 of the highest-performing members of the private bar under the age of 45.

We had help. Many months ago, we contacted all the firms in The Am Law 200 to seek their nominations. We also spun our own Rolodexes, scanned Web sites and news clippings, and reached out to luminaries within particular practice areas to solicit their thoughts.

As for criteria, there were a very few. We looked for prodigies who had already notched a major trial win or complex deal, for those who had established remarkable records of professional development, for those who could point to an independent book of business, for those who might have overcome adversity. We also looked far and wide. It would be possible to construct a list of 45 young bankruptcy specialists whose accomplishments were noteworthy (particularly in this market), but we wanted to draw from many walks of law.

The result, we think, will stand up over time. That was certainly true of the alumni from our last such effort; their impressive updates appear throughout the following pages. So, for all you elitists out there, happy talent scouting.

W. MARK LANIER IS A BORN SPELLBINDER, so smooth a talker that growing up he figured he would become either a preacher or a lawyer. He stuck to the preacher route through a divinity degree, but just couldn’t let go of the lawyer idea and, so, got his degree from Texas Tech University School of Law. Twenty years later, the ministry’s loss is the trial bar’s gain. “He’s one of a kind,” says Paul Hanly, Jr., of Hanly & Conroy, a defense lawyer who hired Lanier to reverse a $1.66 billion default judgment against a client, Federal-Mogul Corporation. “He just has spectacular natural ability in the courtroom.”

Lanier began his career on the defense side at Houston’s Fulbright & Jaworski. After six years and a trial record of 22-0, he lost a case involving an injured railroad worker. “I was real depressed,” he says, explaining that he had been angling to defeat a claim that he actually thought was valid. “And then I had an almost religious experience. I realized that if I’d won, I’d be rejoicing_but his whole family history would be different.” Lanier decided at that moment to switch sides. After a short apprenticeship with a Houston plaintiffs lawyer, he started The Lanier Law Firm in 1990.

His first gigantic win came three years later. A small oil company bid $18 million to buy oil fields in Wyoming from Amoco Corporation. The deal fell through, and the small oil company hired Lanier to sue Amoco. He and co counsel John O’Quinn ended up with a $417 million verdict. He hit Amoco again in 1998, this time suing a subsidiary in an asbestos case involving Alabama steelworkers. The verdict in that case: $115 million.

Little wonder then, that when Federal-Mogul faced that $1.66 billion default judgment in an asbestos-related antitrust case brought by Owens-Illinois, Inc., the company brought in Lanier. Harvard Law School professor Arthur Miller worked with him on the case_which Lanier won. “He’s a stealth bomber,” says Miller. “Behind that pleasant demeanor is one of the most talented strategic trial lawyers I’ve ever met.” Would Miller work with him again? “I’m waiting by the phone,” he says, laughing.

For more information please contact The Lanier Law Firm.

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