Kelly Hart & Hallman expands practice to New Orleans

Robert Francis

Kelly Hart & Hallman LLP, a stalwart legal bastion of Fort Worth for the past 35 years, is hanging out a new shingle in a new town, with a slightly different name. Under the moniker Kelly Hart & Pitre, the new office opened in June. The slight name variation is a nod to the attorney joining the firm as partner-in-charge, Loulan J. Pitre Jr., a veteran of Louisiana’s legal community.

Pitre, a former member of the Louisiana House of Representatives, concentrates his practice on energy and environmental law – areas that are key for Kelly Hart & Hallman, though the opening of the New Orleans office also broadens the range of services the firm can provide to its clients, according to firm officials. The office is the first outside Texas for the 140-attorney law firm that also maintains an Austin office. Joining the new office along with Pitre are Aimee Williams Hebert, Demarcus J. Gordon, Kelly E. Ransom, Jane A. Jackson and Victor E. Jones. All six lawyers, formerly with Gordon Arata McCollam Duplantis & Eagan, focus on energy and environmental law and regulatory work.

“The attorneys joining our firm are established veterans in the Louisiana legal industry, with particular strengths in oil and gas litigation, environmental litigation and regulatory work,” said Dee Kelly Jr., managing partner. “We are thrilled to have them.” Pitre said the relationship with Kelly Hart & Hallman began several years ago. “I began working with Dee Kelly Sr. and some of the other lawyers there several years ago when I was retained as an expert witness in one of their cases,” he said. “A few years later they contacted me to represent a mutual client and we got to know each other some more and worked well together,” he said.

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Several months ago, founding partner Dee Kelly Sr. suggested Pitre join the firm. “I thought it was a joke and laughed,” he admits. It wasn’t, as Pitre realized over the course of several other conversations with Kelly and other members of the firm. “I began to give it some pretty serious thought,” he said. “We had a common approach to practicing law and the firm felt it made strategic sense to have some geographic expansion. And, I guess it’s a trite buzzword, but there was some synergy between their client base that includes interests in Louisiana and my client base, which is primarily the upstream oil and gas area.” Pitre said his work representing the upstream oil and gas business has by necessity kept him tied to Texas. “I came up mostly as a straight oil and gas litigator – typical oil and gas involving contractual disputes, that sort of thing,” he said. He also served in the state Legislature for eight years, becoming involved in a variety of public policy issues. He is a leader in the field of environmental litigation and is particularly known for his practice in oil and gas legacy litigation by landowners and public entities alleging environmental damage arising from oil and gas exploration and production operations. That is the “core of our current practice,” he said. Joining with Kelly Hart, Pitre said, will allow the practice to “look for opportunities to expand the scope of the practice from there, knowing we have a full service operation behind us in Fort Worth that’s very supportive,” he said.

“That gives us the chance to accomplish some things we couldn’t strictly from a niche based practice,” he added. Pitre graduated from Harvard College, magna cum laude, in 1983 and received his J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1986 and currently teaches oil and gas law as a member of the part-time faculty of Tulane Law School. Kelly Hart’s New Orleans office will be located at 400 Poydras St., Suite 1812, right next to the U.S. District Court and the Fifth District Court of Appeals. The “1812” in the address is significant, Pitre notes – it’s the year Louisiana was admitted to the U.S. “Kelly Hart’s commitment to excellent client service and its great client base will interlace nicely with our current work in Louisiana,” Pitre said. “But there is no truth to the rumors that I have bought a pair of cowboy boots.”