The firm effectively started in 1976 when Steve Susman created a plaintiffs’ commercial litigation practice at a small Houston maritime firm. By 1980, his group of six trial lawyers had won what was at the time the largest verdict in antitrust history in the Corrugated Containers case and they broke off to establish their own commercial litigation boutique. Lee Godfrey joined the firm in 1983, and continued as a co-managing partner until his retirement in 2014.
Susman was one of the first lawyers to recognize an opportunity to try large commercial cases on a contingency basis. It was a novel idea; at the time, the use of contingency fees was limited largely to personal injury cases. He believed that if a lawyer was not willing to take a case on contingency, then the case ought not to be filed, and so Susman started promoting the idea of contingency fees in the commercial context long before the phrase “alternative fee” came into fashion.
Susman Godfrey reaped the benefits of this high-risk/high-return model by carefully selecting its cases and winning some of the largest jury verdicts in the country while efficiently working and trying the cases. In the 1990s, the contingency fee model transformed into a whole spectrum of alternative fees, from reverse contingency fees on the defense side, to flat fees and hybrids with both fixed and contingent components. Today, Susman Godfrey continues to be the leader among law firm using alternative fees of one sort or another. It likes to bet on itself, and has mastered the art of picking the right cases and pricing them so that both the law firm and its clients share fairly in the risk and the reward.
Much of Susman Godfrey’s growth outside Houston resulted from the firm’s desire to keep practicing with lawyers who wanted to live elsewhere. In the late 1980s the firm opened a Dallas office in order to continue practicing with Terry Oxford, Barry Barnett and eventually Ophelia Camina—all of whom remained with the firm after it merged the Dallas office into its Houston office more than 25 years later. 1995, the firm opened its Seattle office because Parker Folse decided to move his family there, and the partners wanted to continue practicing law with him. In 1998, the firm opened its Los Angeles office because it wanted Marc Seltzer, with whom the firm had worked as co-counsel for decades, to join the firm as a partner. Finally, in 2006, the firm opened its New York office because Steve Susman saw a big opportunity there for a firm willing to handle large commercial cases in the financial industry on an alternative fee basis.
Susman Godfrey lawyers are part of the firm, not just part of an office. They were together across office lines on typical cases, and the firm’s recruiting in every office focuses on hiring the very best lawyers completing federal judicial clerkships, not via mergers or lateral hiring. This is one reason why Susman Godfrey operates seamlessly as a single firm and can field an integrated trial team with lawyers from any of its four offices to handle litigation national in scope.
2015 BP MS 150 Susman Godfrey’s Team Swift Justice raises over $225,000 in the fight against Multiple Sclerosis
When the annual BP MS 150 charity bike ride to benefit multiple sclerosis concluded on April 19 in Austin TX, Susman Godfrey LLP’s “Swift Justice” team completed the ride having raised more than $1,100,000 to date and with firm founder Stephen Susman crossing the finish time as the #1 fundraiser for the fourth year in a row. Swift Justice Team Captain Trey Peacock noted that this year’s MS 150 will be the tenth BP MS 150 in which Swift Justice has participated. In that time, the Susman Godfrey team has raised more than $1,100,000 to benefit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Read more about this story here.
2013 J. Chrys Dougherty Good Apple Award
Steve Susman and Lee Godfrey are the recipients of the 2013 J. Chrys Dougherty Good Apple Award for their pursuit of justice and for actively encouraging pro bono involvement. Steve and Lee have supported Texas Appleseed from its very beginnings and are longtime supporters of the organization’s justice work. Texas Appleseed is a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote social and economic justice for all Texans by leveraging the skills and resources of volunteer lawyers and other professionals to identify practical solutions to difficult systemic problems.
2013 BP MS 150 Susman Godfrey’s Team Swift Justice raises over $220,000k in the fight against Multiple Sclerosis
In April 2013, the firm’s cycling team Swift Justice, rode 180 miles in the BP MS150 bike ride from Houston to Austin. They were led by firm founder Steve Susman who proudly wore Jersey Number One as the first top fundraiser to actually complete the route in over a decade. The team has raised over $220,000 to help fund research to fight multiple sclerosis and currently ranks in the top ten teams for fundraising in this event. Swift Justice has participated in the BP MS150 for the last six years and is lead and captained by partner Trey Peacock.
Steve Susman: Back on the Bike for Charity
Managing Partner Steve Susman is featured in an article about the 2013 MS150 ride in The Texas Lawbook.
“Steve Susman didn’t like being told “no.” And the more the Susman Godfrey founding partner
heard why he could-not-should-not ride a bicycle from Houston to Austin, the more determined
the then 69-year-old became to ride in the event benefiting the National Multiple Sclerosis
Society. That was three years ago. This past weekend, Susman not only completed his fourth
annual “BP MS 150,” but the litigator wore the coveted yellow jersey bearing the number “1”
and marking him as the top fundraiser among more than 13,000 riders.”
The Susman Godfrey Houston office participates in “Take a Student to Your Employment” – TASTE program
The Houston office participated in the TASTE Program on Friday, May 18, 2012 and hosted a group of 25 students. A group of SG staff and attorneys spoke about their careers and several others visited with the students over lunch. The 5th grade students were from Lyons Elementary School which, even though 92% receive free or reduced lunch, has been named a Blue Ribbon School. They are good kids who, in many instances, have not had an opportunity to visit an office environment and learn why it is so important to get an education.
2012 BP MS 150 Susman Godfrey’s Team Swift Justice raises $180k in the fight against Multiple Sclerosis
In April, 2012, 34 partners, associates, staff, family and friends of Susman Godfrey, L.L.P. rode 180 miles from Houston to Austin as part of the BP MS150. The group raised over $180K to fight against Multiple Sclerosis.
Susman Godfrey Partners Donate over $65,000 to Habitat for Humanity in Houston
The partners at Susman Godfrey donated over $65,000 to build a Habitat house to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Susman Godfrey, which was founded in Houston.
The firm and our employees (and their families) supplied the labor in April 2011 to build the house. The build project took place over six days and required at least 25 volunteers each day. The house was built in the Milby Park neighborhood.
Neal Manne Receives the 2011 Recipient of the Anti-Defamation League’s Karen H. Susman Jurisprudence Award
The 2011 Karen H. Susman Jurisprudence Luncheon honoring Susman Godfrey attorney Neal Manne and past recipients on this 25th anniversary of the award was an unparalleled success, both in terms of fundraising, and providing inspiration.
The luncheon raised more than 625-thousand dollars for the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL’s) Southwest Region and its programs. The luncheon also delivered a large dose of encouragement for attorneys, judges and others in the legal system to follow the principles of ADL, and strive for justice and fairness.
We have worked cooperatively with law firms nationwide. We will team with you to try your case in any forum and can staff the matter with top-notch lawyers from any of our five offices. We are experienced trial lawyers. We will bring our know-how to bear on your case and work with you as a team. We complement the resources you bring to the table.
Given our successful track record of evaluating contingent fee matters, we are comfortable taking financial risks including our time and/or expenses. Susman Godfrey has a thorough and longstanding case evaluation process to vet each alternative fee matter, including examining the potential legal and factual pitfalls and soliciting input from lawyers across the firm. We will share the work, expenses, and the fee with you equally or on whatever terms make sense. Though we often partner with other firms before litigation ensues, we have also been brought in as co-counsel later in the life of a case.
We know how to litigate a case efficiently and enjoy collaborating with other lawyers. Because our firm specializes in complex litigation, we recognize that a collaboration on one case might be appropriate in one matter but not others you may have for the same client. We respect client relationships and collaborate with co-counsel to ensure that Susman Godfrey’s role on a particular matter is clear.
If a joint venture is of interest to you, please give us a call. We welcome the opportunity.