About Us

Susman Godfrey is America’s premier litigation boutique. Our talented group of lawyers handle high-stakes litigation for both plaintiffs and defendants nationwide. Because we work on both sides of the docket, we know what our opposition is thinking. With more than 130 trial lawyers in four offices from coast to coast, we handle the most challenging cases throughout the country. We offer a broad range of creative, flexible fee structures which align our and our clients’ interests. Traditional hourly billing accounts for a very small percentage of our work. Because we often share risk with our clients, evaluating cases accurately is crucial, and we do it early and often.

Excellence is a core value of the firm.We hire the best, reward success, and handle every case with a relentless focus on winning at trial.

Learn about our firm history, flexible and success-based fee arrangements, commitment to diversity, and exciting pro bono wins.

In 1976, our founder Steve Susman set up a plaintiffs’ commercial litigation practice inside a small Houston maritime law firm. Four years later, Susman’s band of fledgling trial lawyers won the then-largest verdict in antitrust history in the Corrugated Containers case. Ultimately, the group formed their own commercial litigation boutique, adding Lee Godfrey in 1983. Godfrey continued as a co-managing partner until his retirement in 2013.

Susman pioneered the idea of handling large commercial cases on a contingency basis. At the time, the use of contingent-fee arrangements was largely limited to personal injury cases. But Susman believed that if a lawyer was not willing to take a case on contingency, the case was not worth bringing. Clients liked the concept, because it signaled the lawyer’s confidence in the case, aligned their interests with their lawyer’s, and conserved cash. Decades before “alternative fee arrangements” became a catchphrase at corporate counsel gatherings, Susman had made them a key ingredient in the firm’s recipe for success.

Susman Godfrey reaped the benefits of this high-risk, high-return model by carefully selecting its cases, handling them efficiently, and winning some of the largest jury verdicts in the country.

In the 1990s, the contingent-fee model gave way to a spectrum of alternative arrangements, including reverse-contingent, part-hourly and part-contingent, flat, part-flat and part-contingent, performance kickers, and everything in between.

The firm has grown organically, with few lateral hires and many lawyers who have spent their entire careers here. Susman Godfrey offices in Los Angeles, Seattle, and New York have grown into powerhouses, yet the firm remains a cohesive whole, with two managing partners and an Executive Committee periodically elected by the partnership as a whole. Trial teams often include personnel from two or more offices. All firm lawyers meet weekly to discuss and act on case acceptance matters and other issues. Each partner, of counsel, and associate has the same vote on most questions, including employment and case acceptance decisions.

Today, Susman Godfrey continues to be the leader among law firms using alternative fees and success bonuses of one sort or another. We like to bet on ourselves, and we’ve mastered the art of picking the right cases and pricing them so that both Susman Godfrey and our clients share risk and reward.

Susman Godfrey enters into a variety of fee arrangements with our clients. These often bespoke agreements range from fully contingent, fixed, or hourly arrangements to hybrids that combine contingent, fixed, or hourly components. Our flexibility allows us and our clients to better align our incentives and interests while balancing predictability and flexibility.

  • Contingency fee and success bonus arrangements. On the plaintiff side, contingent fee arrangements stop the endless stream of bills, penalize busy-work, and drive results by rewarding lawyers for effectively and efficiently resolving our clients’ disputes. On the defense side, we can achieve a similar alignment of incentives with reverse contingency and success-based bonus arrangements.
  • Fixed fee arrangements. Built with budgets in mind, fixed fees provide predictability and accountability. After exploring and understanding the particulars of our client’s needs and the case at issue, we tailor a fair, fixed fee arrangement that accounts for the ebb and flow of litigation. Fixed fees protect our clients from the uncertainty and monitoring burden of hourly billing.
  • Hybrid fee arrangements. Flexibility is the hallmark of hybrid fees. These structures combine a fixed or hourly fee at a reduced rate with a partial contingent or success-bonus component to best suit the needs of the case. Hybrid arrangements reduce the out-of-pocket expense of a fixed or hourly representation while aligning interests in achieving favorable results.
  • Hourly fee arrangements. Some clients prefer hourly fee arrangements. When they do, they benefit from having lawyers who have honed their skills in an environment where results and efficiency truly matter.

We have litigated successfully under each of these fee arrangement variations and many others, and we pride ourselves on having flexibility to find the right fee arrangement for each client’s case.

Susman Godfrey is committed to growing and maintaining diversity among its trial lawyers. This commitment is one of the firm’s core values and is essential to maintaining our position as the nation’s premier litigation firm. Diversity enriches the experience and ability of all of our lawyers, and it is critical to achieving winning results for our clients.

Susman Godfrey seeks to attract the brightest legal minds from diverse talent pools. We are proud of where we are today, but promoting diversity is an ongoing mandate that we strive toward. The firm strongly encourages members of all underrepresented groups to apply. Susman Godfrey does not discriminate on the basis of race, creed, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, age, marital status, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

The following are some of our initiatives and policies related to our dedication to diversity, inclusiveness, equity, and equality.

Racial Justice Working Group

The Susman Godfrey Racial Justice Working Group comprises a group of partners and associates who are dedicated to improving diversity within the firm and advocating for racial justice in our community. Its core goal is to implement the commitments outlined in the statement the firm made in the wake of the wanton killing of George Floyd. The principal objectives include:

  • Donations to racial justice organizations. The firm donated 100% of its 2020 year-end charitable donations to organizations that work for racial justice. In addition, the firm matched $2 for every dollar donated in 2020 by a Susman Godfrey employee to non-profit organizations working for racial justice.
  • Pro bono representation for racial justice. The firm is committed to increasing pro bono representation in cases that address racial justice. For example, we have partnered with ACLU of Louisiana in connection with their Justice Lab: Putting Racist Policing on Trial initiative, which seeks to bring up to 1,000 cases challenging racially-motivated stops and seizures under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, and any other applicable law in Louisiana.
  • Minority hiring, retention, and mentorship. The firm has doubled its 1L Diversity Fellowship Program as part of its proactive efforts to recruit and retain minority attorneys, paralegals, secretaries, and staff.
  • Implicit bias and race conscious trainings. The firm is working with speakers, professors, and organizations to provide ongoing training to our attorneys and staff.

Diversity Committee

In addition to the Racial Justice Working Group, the firm has a robust and active Diversity Committee that regularly meets to discuss and execute diversity-related initiatives at the firm. The Diversity Committee is focused both on recruitment and retention of diverse lawyers.

Gender Fairness Commitment Statement

Susman Godfrey has signed a Gender Fairness Commitment Statement as part of the Houston Bar Association’s Gender Fairness Initiative.

Unlimited, Gender-Neutral Parental Leave

Susman Godfrey offers unlimited paid parental leave to new parents, regardless of gender or caregiver status.

Diversity Fellowship For 1L Students

The firm offers a two-week fellowship to first-year law students who are women, people of color, individuals who identify as LGBTQ, or members of other groups underrepresented in today’s legal profession. The firm seeks diverse applicants who have excelled in their first semester of law school and want to learn firsthand about trial work at Susman Godfrey. Fellows receive $5,000 upon completion of the program.

The Susman Godfrey Prize for 1L and 2L Students

In 2020 the firm announced the Susman Godfrey Prize, an honor awarded annually to up to 12 students of color who are finishing their first or second year at an eligible law school. Recipients of the SG Prize will receive $2,500 plus an offer for a summer clerkship at any of the Susman Godfrey offices.

From high-impact pro bono litigation to assisting individuals who need a helping hand, Susman Godfrey is committed to improving the laws and the legal system by representing those who cannot afford to pay for legal services. We encourage our attorneys to participate in pro bono opportunities and make firm resources available to ensure our pro bono efforts are meaningful and effective.

We have partnered with various human rights organizations to drive forward significant and timely pro bono litigation. These organizations include, among many, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Civil Rights Corps, the Texas Fair Defense Project, the Next Generation Action Network Legal Advocacy, and the International Rescue Committee.

Susman Godfrey has been included on National Law Journal’s Pro Bono Hot List and our lawyers have been honored with awards such as Texas Lawyer’s Attorney of the Year, University of Texas School of Law’s Distinguished Alumnus for Community Service Award, and Texas Appleseed’s J. Chrys Dougherty Good Apple Award.

The cases below illustrate the variety and importance of the matters we litigate pro bono.

Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination

  • Faculty, Alumni, and Students Opposed to Racial Preferences v. New York University Law Review.  Susman Godfrey defended New York University Law Review against allegations that its diversity and inclusiveness initiatives violate federal bias law by favoring female and minority applicants and authors. The Hon. Edgardo Ramos of the Southern District of New York granted the motion filed by Susman Godfrey to dismiss the case. The Second Circuit later affirmed the decision.
  • Texas v. United States of America and the International Rescue Committee. We represented the International Rescue Committee (IRC) pro bono when the state of Texas sued to block the federal government and the IRC from resettling any Syrian refugees in Texas. Working with the ACLU, and the Southern Poverty Law Center, the team defeated the state’s multiple requests for injunctive relief. The federal district court later dismissed all of the state’s claims.
  • Jared Woodfill et al. v. Annise Parker et al. The firm served as lead trial counsel for the city of Houston and won a jury verdict and a final judgment in a closely-watched trial over a challenge to Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance, a law that prohibits discrimination based on an individual’s sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, military status, religion, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity, or pregnancy in city employment and city services, city contracts, public accommodations, private employment (excluding religious organizations), and housing. The city asked Susman Godfrey to represent it pro bono and defend the ordinance. After a two-week trial, the jury issued its verdict resoundingly in the city’s favor. After two months of post-verdict briefing, the court issued a final judgment in favor of the city.
  • International Franchise Ass’n, Inc. et al. v. City of Seattle, et al. Susman Godfrey was retained by the city of Seattle on a partial pro bono basis to defend its landmark $15 per hour minimum wage ordinance. Several Seattle franchise businesses challenged the ordinance on a number of legal grounds, including violation of the Equal Protection Clause and Dormant Commerce Clause of the US Constitution. The district court denied the plaintiff franchise group’s motion for a preliminary injunction and found that the plaintiffs had failed to demonstrate a likelihood of succeeding on the merits of any of their claims.

Constitutional Challenges

  • ODonnell v. Harris County. For decades, the Harris County Jail held tens of thousands of people who were arrested for misdemeanors but were financially unable to post bail. Though arrested for the same minor offense, a person with money could avoid jail entirely while an indigent person would spend days or weeks in jail before determination of merits. Along with Civil Rights Corps and the Texas Fair Defense Project, Susman Godfrey represents on a pro bono basis a class of indigent arrestees who challenged the constitutionality of Harris County’s money bail practices. After an eight-day evidentiary hearing, the US District Court found Harris County’s system unconstitutional and ordered broad injunctive relief. After the bail reforms went into effect, the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s rulings that the system was unconstitutional. In the first year in which the injunctive relief was in effect, more than 12,000 people were released from jail.

Death Penalty Appeals and Prisoners’ Rights

  • David Daniels et al. v. Dallas County Sheriff Marian Brown. Susman Godfrey partnered with the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Texas, Civil Rights Corps, and the Next Generation Action Network Legal Advocacy Fund to bring a federal class-action lawsuit for emergency relief to remedy the Dallas County Jail’s ongoing failure to manage the extraordinary risks COVID-19 poses to its detainees, staff, and the larger community.
  • In re Alfred DeWayne Brown. Mr. Brown was released from Death Row in 2015 after his murder conviction was reversed. We represented him in his efforts to obtain a declaration of “actual innocence” and compensation from the State of Texas. In 2019, we obtained an “actual innocence” finding from the Harris County D.A.’s office and a district court. When the State still denied Mr. Brown compensation, we litigated the issue to the Texas Supreme Court, which ruled unanimously in favor of Mr. Brown in 2020. The landmark decision will make it easier for future exonerees to recover compensation for their wrongful imprisonment.
  • Harris v. Fischer. Susman Godfrey secured an important pro bono appellate victory on behalf of a former Bedford Hills Correctional Facility inmate who alleged her Fourth and Eighth Amendment rights were violated during a body cavity search while she was incarcerated. In its ruling, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit vacated the district court’s decision dismissing the case and remanded for further consideration.
  • Death penalty appeals. The firm has handled several death penalty appeals focusing on the requirement for the state of Texas to release information about the chemicals used to put prisoners to death in order for counsel to protect the rights of their clients not to be subject to cruel and unusual punishment. In one case, the Susman Godfrey team obtained an injunction against execution due to this issue.

Other Significant Pro Bono Work

  • Alley Theater v. Hanover Insurance Co. The Tony Award-winning Alley Theatre, the oldest professional theatre company in Texas and the third-oldest resident theatre in the country, suffered devastating destruction during Hurricane Harvey, incurring millions in losses from property damage, lost income, and expenses. Susman Godfrey represented the theatre pro bono in insurance litigation related to hurricane-caused business interruption. We first secured a partial summary judgment ruling on behalf of Alley in a coverage lawsuit against Hanover over claims the theatre was not properly reimbursed for hurricane-related business interruption losses. The firm later scored a second victory for the theater when they settled the final piece of the litigation.
  • First Presbyterian Church of Houston v. Presbytery of the New Covenant, Inc. We represented First Presbyterian Church of Houston (FPC), one of the oldest congregations in Houston, in a property dispute against Presbyterian Church (PCUSA), which claimed for close to 30 years that it has a trust interest in an FPC property in Houston. The court ruled in FPC’s favor on summary judgment, entering final judgment and a permanent injunction against the Presbytery of the New Covenant, and finding that the PCUSA has no interest in FPC’s property. After appellate arguments, the parties settled, with the denomination releasing any claim to any intent in FPC’s property.
  • Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Susman Godfrey has provided pro bono legal research, consultation, and strategy advice to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence for years regarding measures to regulate the sale and use of firearms.
  • Las Brisas Energy Center. We volunteered our services to represent the Cities Coalition, a group of more than 30 Texas cities that opposed the construction of the Las Brisas Energy Center, a petroleum coke-fired power plant in Corpus Christi, Texas. The proposed plant would significantly contribute to climate change; Las Brisas’s own projections estimated that it would emit approximately 10 million tons of carbon dioxide during each year of its operation. After several hearings, two trials, and many recommendations to deny the building permit, Las Brisas abandoned its attempt to build the plant.