LAW 360 TRIAL ACE: ROBIN GIBBS

 

Law 360 highlighted Gibbs & Bruns LLP’s founding partner Robin Gibbs in its special “Trial Aces” feature.  The feature recognized accomplished U.S. trial lawyers whose track records stand testament to their years of dedicated service to their clients and their trade.

The article feature focused on Robin’s four-decades long career which is studded with brilliant wins for his clients:

Gibbs is passionate about his work and enjoys mentoring younger attorneys at the firm and indicated he has no intention of slowing down.

As for the risk of becoming complacent, Gibbs said he’s not concerned because he doesn’t rest on his experience — as long as he’s practicing law, he’ll prepare as much as possible.

Ultimately, it’s the results in the courtroom that matter and let you know whether you’re performing at a high level, not awards or recognition, Gibbs said.

“Results tell you whether or not you’re still performing, no matter who’s stroking you at any particular time,” he said.

Read the feature here :

The nerves don’t go away.

Richard Nixon was in the White House when he started practicing law. He’s reigned atop the Houston legal scene for the better part of two decades and has already won more cases than many of his peers will ever try. But despite all his experience, accolades and success, attorney Robin Gibbs still gets anxious before the start of a new trial.

“The anticipation is almost like nothing else that you can experience,” Gibbs said.

That anxiety is what fuels his intense, almost ritualistic preparation. Gibbs isolates himself from family and friends in the weeks before the beginning of a trial, taking things so far that sometimes he moves into a hotel room by himself to ensure he has “complete focus” on the case at hand.

“Once I go into trial, I absolutely block out everything else 24/7 until it’s done,” he said.

The results of that extreme dedication to his craft speak for themselves. Gibbs, 68, is the founder of Gibbs & Bruns LLPone of the top litigation boutique firms in Texas, and has been recognized this year as a Law360 Trial Ace for his top-flight work as a litigator over his 44-year career.

Gibbs makes his opening statements in trial for Huntsman Corp. v. Credit Suisse on June 15, 2009. (Video: Courtroom View Network)

Gibbs’ track record is long and includes success on both sides of the docket. In 2014, Gibbs helped client Baker Botts LLPdefeat malpractice liability in a suit launched by a former client who worked as a natural gas trader for Reliant Energy Services Inc. He was also part of the team at Gibbs & Bruns who won a $196 million jury verdict in 2011 for client D. Bobbitt Noel Jr. against Dallas billionaire Trevor Rees-Jones and Devon Energy Production Co. LP.

Gibbs has guided the 29-lawyer firm to major results. Last year, Gibbs & Bruns hammered out a $1 billion settlement with Citigroup Inc. for 18 institutional investors who sought to have the bank repurchase mortgage loans sold into residential mortgage-backed securities trusts. Under the $1.13 billion deal, Citigroup will make a binding offer to the trustees of 68 Citigroup-sponsored trusts that issued a total of $59.4 billion in RMBS.

The firm teamed with Ropes & Gray LLP to strike a $7 billion deal with defunct Residential Capital LLC on behalf of 17 institutional investors. In December 2013, a New York bankruptcy judge signed off on ResCap’s liquidation plan, allowing settlement distributions to begin flowing.

In 2013, JPMorgan Chase & Co. reached a $4.5 billion settlement with 21 institutional investors represented by Gibbs & Bruns, with the bank agreeing to make a binding offer to the trustees of 330 RMBS trusts issued by JPMorgan and The Bear Stearns Cos. Inc., to settle mortgage repurchase and servicing claims.

“[Gibbs’] commitment to building a firm was incredibly strong from Day One and only got stronger over time,” said Chris Reynolds, who was at Gibbs & Bruns for more than 20 years before starting his own firm, Reynolds Frizzell LLP. “As a consequence, he was always very fair in making people partners.”

Reynolds said Gibbs’ strong preparation helped bring about significant changes in Houston-area trial work, which had been dominated by charismatic attorneys who got by on personality alone.

That was never Gibbs’ style, Reynolds said.

In preparation for a high-stakes case in 1995, Reynolds recalled Gibbs moving into a DoubleTree Hotel a week before trial that involved client M.W. Kellogg Co. Gibbs stayed at the hotel through the duration of the trial and after a full day in court, often worked into the early morning preparing for the next day, Reynolds said.

Gibbs secured an $11.5 million verdict for Kellogg.

“Robin introduced to this city and this region the notion that the way you win cases is preparation, preparation and more preparation. He wore you out with preparation,” Reynolds said. “It introduced a new paradigm.”

Gibbs’ professionalism has also garnered the admiration of attorneys who have challenged him in court. Attorney Jeff Joyce of Joyce McFarland LLP, who bested Gibbs at trial in a case involving MetLife Inc., said he remembers Gibbs’ thorough witness questioning and his polished presentations.

“Anybody that’s been up against him knows he’s an excellent lawyer,” Joyce said. “He’s thorough, and he remembers all the details. He has a supersharp mind and is a supersmart guy. … He’s a terrific trial lawyer in a city that has many terrific trial lawyers.”

The strong results are a testament to a lifetime of work. Gibbs knew as a teenager that he wanted to be a trial lawyer, swayed by stories from his uncle, Pat Maloney, a personal injury attorney. And as he started out on his chosen profession, Gibbs said Maloney provided support and guidance.

Gibbs recalled that Maloney would sometimes get so nervous before jury selection that he’d get sick to his stomach and have to go the men’s room. The lesson for Gibbs was clear: Trial work is a pressure cooker, and anxiety is just part of the game — if attorneys aren’t at least a little nervous before trial, they’re doing it wrong.

“I took great comfort in that,” Gibbs said. “[Maloney] was an enormously successful lawyer, and he still felt a good case of the nerves before he picked a jury. That gave me a lot of comfort.”

Gibbs began his career in 1971 doing insurance defense work as an associate at Vinson & Elkins LLP and left three years later to form Wood Campbell Moody & Gibbs PC. Gibbs said he saw a demand, especially in Houston, for an alternative to the large firms that at that time dominated hiring and trial work. A small firm could be more nimble and wouldn’t be burdened by conflicts.

This was before the term “boutique firm” was widely used, and Gibbs didn’t immediately take to the terminology.

“We don’t sell any lavender, and we don’t sell any lace,” Gibbs said, explaining his preference to describe the firm as what it was: small. But, he said, “the nomenclature stuck, and I’ve long since come to accept it.”

By 1983, the partnership at Wood Campbell decided to break up, and Gibbs found a new partner in Debora Ratliff, who had joined Wood Campbell’s trial team in 1975 after graduating first in her law school class at Gibbs’ alma mater, the University of Texas. Together, they opened the doors to Gibbs & Ratliff LLP, which rebranded as Gibbs & Bruns in 1993 when Ratliff retired.

Gibbs & Bruns found success throughout the 1990s, but the firm turned a corner in 1997 when Gibbs, working as lead counsel, secured a $309 million verdict for Avia Development Group Inc. in a case alleging American General Realty Investment Corp. breached contracts to develop air cargo facilities at Newark Liberty International Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport.

The firm celebrated the verdict. All the lawyers and staff “were ecstatic,” Gibbs said. “It was extraordinary.”

“That really put us on the map, big time, as a firm that could handle and successfully conclude plaintiffs litigation,” Gibbs said.

Gibbs is passionate about his work and enjoys mentoring younger attorneys at the firm and indicated he has no intention of slowing down.

As for the risk of becoming complacent, Gibbs said he’s not concerned because he doesn’t rest on his experience — as long as he’s practicing law, he’ll prepare as much as possible.

Ultimately, it’s the results in the courtroom that matter and let you know whether you’re performing at a high level, not awards or recognition, Gibbs said.

“Results tell you whether or not you’re still performing, no matter who’s stroking you at any particular time,” he said.

Results tell you whether or not you're still performing, no matter who's stroking you at any particular time.
– Robin Gibbs