2020 Vault Rankings
About Smyser Kaplan & Veselka, LLP
Founded in 1995 in Houston, Texas, Smyser Kaplan & Veselka is a litigation boutique with just under 30 attorneys. The firm’s practice includes commercial disputes, white collar, energy, intellectual property, healthcare, and securities. The firm is known for litigating high-profile matters to trial but also skillfully steers cases to arbitration when necessary. Among Smyser Kaplan & Veselka’s clients are Shell Oil Company, Michael’s Organization, Celotex, Visa, Quantlab Financial LLC, BNSF Railway Company, and BHP Billiton Petroleum.
While Smyser Kaplan & Veselka’s ranks may be small, its litigation chops are mighty. Stacked with a team of career trial lawyers and former law clerks, the firm is no stranger to high-stakes cases. It boasts a bustling white collar practice, including such past matters as Enron and Deepwater Horizon, to name a few, And its attorneys are pros in front of juries in all types of complex litigation. Recently, the firm obtained a $5.8 million jury verdict for its client Southbrook Development Corporation based on a breach of agreement and obtained a “Not Guilty” verdict for a client indicted on insider trading stemming from the acquisition of Shaw Group by Chicago Bridge & Iron.
Supporting the Scouts
When they’re not in the courtroom, Smyser Kaplan & Veselka attorneys can be found engaging with the Houston community—including by volunteering and giving back. Some of the firm’s recent good will has included donating books to Sky High for Kids, contributing to the Houston Bar Association’s Campaign for the Homeless Clothing & Diaper Drive, and participating in a corn hole tournament to support the Houston Urban Debate League.
News & Awards
SKV was named both a "Highly Recommended Firm" in Texas and a "Top Boutique" firm nationally for 2020 by Benchmark Litigation.
On August 28, 2019, a Texas State Court jury found that Defendant Crimson Exploration Operating, Inc., a subsidiary of Contango Oil & Gas Co., breached its agreement with Plaintiff BHP Billiton Petroleum (TxLa Operating) Co. to pay 20 percent of the costs for drilling a horizontal Eagle Ford well in Bee County, Texas. BHP Billiton Petroleum (TxLa Operating) Co.—a subsidiary of BPX Energy Inc. and now known as BPX Operating Company—drilled the well with the Defendant’s consent, but the Defendant then refused to pay its joint interest billings because the well was not a success.
The jury found that the Defendant, a non-operator working interest partner, breached the contract by failing to pay more than $1.25 million in joint interest billings, rejecting a claim that the plaintiff operator failed to comply with its contractual obligations during drilling operations. The amount of prejudgment interest and attorney’s fees will be decided by the trial court at a later date.
Lead counsel Land Murphy, of Smyser Kaplan & Veselka said, “We are very gratified that the jury rejected the Defendant’s argument that it could refuse to pay its share under the parties’ industry-standard model form operating agreement by second-guessing operational decisions with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight.”
Smyser Kaplan & Veselka was chosen as Texas Lawyer's Litigation Department of the Year in the small firm category. The firm noted, “We appreciate this recognition, which is earned by our lawyers, our tremendous victories, and our entire staff who make sure that whatever we do, it is done to the highest quality. Creativity and moxie mixed with thoroughness and attention to detail—from top to bottom—got us here.”
Together with Paul Hastings LLP, Smyser Kaplan & Veselka represented Align Technologies in a patent infringement matter against ClearCorrect. The matter involved Align’s teeth-straightening product Invisalign. After more than a decade of disputes, the parties agreed to settle days before they were set to go to trial in the Southern District of Texas. ClearConnect’s parent company Straumann Holding agreed to pay align $35 million and also to distribute a certain amount of Align dental scanners for a period of five years.
Why Work Here
Smyser Kaplan & Veselka, L.L.P. is a diverse and growing litigation boutique with nationally recognized civil litigation and white-collar criminal defense practices. Based in Houston, Texas, the 27-lawyer firm has significant civil trial experience (and results) in the energy sector, but also has major practices in intellectual property, healthcare, bankruptcy, and general commercial litigation. SKV’s white collar partners—a third of the partnership, and a rarity for a firm of SKV’s size—have become go-to leaders in environmental and FCPA suits/investigations. The firm prides itself on its deep bench—it hires young lawyers nearly exclusively out of federal clerkships and treats them as future partners from the outset—collaborative partnership, and commitment to staffing leanly and providing exceptional outcomes—and value—for clients.
717 Texas Avenue
Houston, TX 77002
Phone: (717) 221-2388
Managing Partners: Craig Smyser, Lee Kaplan, Larry Veselka, David Isaak, Jeff Potts
Hiring Partners: Dane Ball, Jeff Potts, Larry Veselka
Total No. Attorneys 2020:
1 - 50
1st year: $190,000
2nd year: $200,000
3rd year: $220,000
4th year: $235,000
5th year: $260,000
6th year: $275,000
7th year: $285,000
Summer Associate Offers:
No summer associate program.
Director of Communications
General Litigation Appellate
*See firm website for complete list of practice areas and industries.