Editor: Please give us a snapshot of your history with the firm.
Feld: I was born in Dallas, one of the few native sons, hold degrees
from Southern Methodist University (SMU), and came to the firm out of law school
in 1960. I was the sixth lawyer hired. My career here attests to the wisdom of
remaining in your original venue since the firm has now grown to nearly 1,000
lawyers today. The best part of the story is that the firm did not attempt to
grow in a strategic way, but, as it happened, the outcome proved very fortuitous
as if it had been part of a strategic plan. In truth, it was really a random
Editor: You have been involved in many organizations that have played an
important role in the life of Dallas. Is there something about Dallas that draws
people into becoming involved in community affairs? Tell us about some of the
organizations with which you have been involved and how the business community
contributes to these organizations.
Feld: Let's go back to the 30s, 40s and 50s in Dallas when it was run
as an oligarchy by the business community. Unique among large cities, Dallas
still has a city-manager system - one where the mayor and city council do not
have responsibility for day-to-day operations. The business community has always
had a special relationship with city governance, which has changed slightly
after the method for electing city councilmen was changed and for other reasons.
The city fathers believed you could not have an outstanding community without
a great university. For many years the business community has staunchly
supported SMU in improving academics, especially on the graduate level. It
continues to grow with moneys granted to increase its cutting edge scientific
capabilities for biotech and other high tech research. I am fortunate to serve
on the Board of Trustees of SMU which is in large part composed of civic
leaders, including the CEOs of major corporations in Dallas - Tom Engibous of
Texas Instruments, Ray Hunt of Hunt Consolidated, Ross Perot, Jr. of Perot
Systems, and others.
Robert Storey, a prominent Dallas lawyer, was involved in the Nuremberg
trials and came back after World War II to become dean of SMU Law School. He had
the idea that we needed to set SMU Law School apart from others and went about
setting up an SMU International Studies Program. As a result, SMU has more
international alumni than many of the other major law schools. Many of the
alumni have gone on to become important government leaders in their respective
countries. This has been very good for Dallas, giving us the sense of being an
Another organization of which I am a member is the Dallas Citizens' Council,
an organization composed of business leaders, educators, and others. Its goal is
to improve Dallas in every major way. A primary concern is public education -
the need to recruit good managerial personnel, pass bond issues so physical
plants can be improved, etc. Besides the school district there are many other
projects upon which the Council focuses.
Another organization with which I am connected is the University of Texas
Southwestern Medical School complex, which also consists of Zale-Lipshy and St.
Paul hospitals. It boasts several Nobel prize winners and is doing cutting edge
medical research. Also in Dallas are Baylor, Presbyterian and Methodist
Hospitals, each a major medical center. All of these features contribute to the
fine quality of life.
Editor: Are there cultural institutions which also contribute to the
quality of life?
Feld: We have an arts district located on the edge of the downtown
which has a world-class symphony hall, an art museum, and the Nasher sculpture
garden with one of the largest collections of contemporary sculpture of any
In regard to sports we have a team in every professional area and have just
built a large field house for basketball and hockey.
Editor: I am impressed with Dallas' ability to attract major businesses.
Would you mention some of the major businesses?
Feld: The business community has always led the way. Eric Johnson,
former head of Texas Instruments, was mayor for many years. His idea was to have
a major regional airport. We joined forces with Fort Worth to build DFW airport.
It accommodates any person traveling for business to travel to any community in
the U.S. and return home the same day. The time zone is also a major asset since
many large companies have more employees in the Central Time Zone than in the
Eastern Time Zone.
Firms that led the exodus from New York were American Airlines (AMR), J.C.
Penney, and Exxon. Quaker State moved from Pennsylvania, Nortel has a big
operation in Dallas, Flowserve, one of the largest manufacturers of pumps,
recently moved. Many of these companies have located just outside Dallas in
Plano and Richardson, Texas.
One of the main attractions in Texas is the low tax burden since there is no
personal income tax. The difference is a reduction of 15% or so as compared with
New York with its state and city personal income taxes. One of the chief
executives expressed his happiness in opting to come to Texas: "The quality of
life was better; why did we wait so long to make the move?"
The business community is also involved in county government as well as state
government. Texas is trying to be more accommodating to business. There has been
a sea change in tort reform with the legislature and voters passing caps on
medical malpractice, some legal doctrines have changed in allowing venues to be
shifted from those favorable to plaintiffs, and there has been a concerted
effort to provide an even playing field. Our Texas Supreme Court has swung from
one considered to be favorable to plaintiffs to one that is more likely to
produce a level playing field.
Other considerations besides the business climate include the moderate
weather and the ability to educate one's children in a choice of good public and
private schools without the problems of admission faced by parents in the East.
Editor: What is the Dallas business community doing to benefit minorities?
Feld: I believe that minorities feel welcome and are welcomed here.
The Dallas Citizens' Committee has a standing committee which devotes time to
securing good housing and seeking investment in the south side of Dallas where
many low income minorities live, and while the progress has been slow, we have
had some successes. The professional service firms and businesses in Dallas run
active programs focused on recruiting minorities. Diversity is important to the
Editor: What emphasis does the firm place on pro bono activities?
Feld: We have a significant commitment to pro bono. We have a lawyer
here in the firm who spends all of her time on pro bono work. It is very
beneficial for the younger lawyers in the firm to have the sense that they are
doing something of real value for the community. Our firm has won many awards in
this area. We probably get more out of this than we give.
Editor: How do you see the landscape in Texas shaping up in corporate law,
which is one of your areas of expertise?
Feld: With the corporate scandals and Sarbanes-Oxley, I think we are
seeing a sea change in corporate values. At least, I hope so. While investors
should invest for the long term , companies have been running
their businesses by the quarter. They have given the analysts guidance, who in
turn want to know whether the companies will achieve those results. They are
pressured by money managers to achieve projected results, leading in many cases
to the smoothing out of earnings; money managers are anxious to achieve their
good returns, which adds to such pressures. However, I think we are seeing a
shift in the way companies are operating.
Editor: What is being done in Dallas to ensure its growth?
Feld: We have a substantial corridor north of Dallas consisting of high
tech companies. We don't have a smokestack economy; in fact, the principal
manufacturing area is aerospace in the mid-cities area. We have significant
venture capital firms such as Sevin Rosen and significant private equity firms,
such as Hicks-Muse. SMU is expanding its science base - building more labs and
trying to attract superior research scientists who will also teach. The
University of Texas Southwest Medical Center in Dallas is committed to being a
research institution. The University of Texas at Dallas is committed to becoming
a major research university. We have the atmosphere to attract scientific
research leaders. Also, Texas Instruments in Dallas has a substantial research
facility which has spawned a number of companies that have been started by
Dallas has long been noted for hiring innovative city planners. Our
long-range planning is excellent. Our transportation infrastructure is strong,
having a regional transportation authority with a light rail facility, many
expressways, etc. A large amount of work has been done downtown in converting a
once stagnant area into lofts and converted buildings inhabited by about 3,000
people surrounded by ancillary businesses - dry cleaners, grocers, etc.
One of the most interesting things about Dallas is that any young people who
come to town who would like to participate in civic activities can, by applying
themselves, get on the boards of the various civic organizations. There is no
lockout of outsiders as is true in many
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