Susan Halsey, a Fort Worth real estate attorney who was also a community and business leader, died on Friday, Dec. 19. Halsey, 55, was chairman for the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce in 2013-2014, leading the chamber during a year that saw 14 major economic development announcements, the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s final speech in Fort Worth and helping pass a major school bond issue.
“Susan’s accomplishments as a lawyer were recognized throughout the state, and locally one of her honors included being named as a ‘Great Woman of Texas,’” said Bill Thornton, president and CEO of the Fort Worth Chamber. “We will truly miss this great woman of Fort Worth. As we enter the holiday season, let us honor Susan by being grateful for one another and the community we share together.” Halsey was managing partner of Jackson Walker’s Fort Worth office and she had over 25 years of experience in the Real Estate section of Jackson Walker in Fort Worth. Halsey was a graduate and lifelong Louisiana State University fan.
Jackson Walker’s Managing Partner, Wade Cooper, said: “As someone who first met Susan when she interviewed for a clerkship about 31 years ago and who was her law partner for about 25 years, I can say that we have had no finer colleague, and I am honored to have been her partner. These last few weeks were especially difficult for Susan, but she was fearless, charming, gracious, and the perfect example we would all aspire to, throughout.” In her over 30 years as an attorney, Halsey earned a reputation first as a trailblazer and later as one of the best real estate lawyers in the business. A graduate of Louisiana State University for both her undergraduate and law degrees, she joined Jackson Walker in 1983 when there were still very few women in the firm – and in the legal profession. “I wore a bow tie and suits with shoulder pads to work every day – it was the Dynasty era – but I never really thought of myself as being one of the small number of women. Everyone was so good about making me feel part of the group.” she said.
She did stand out, however, never more so than when she was asked to lunch at the Dallas’ Petroleum Club. “I was the first woman to have lunch at Dallas’ Petroleum Club. [Partner] Ben West came by and asked me to lunch on the first day the main dining room opened to women. When we got off the elevator and walked in, forks stopped halfway to mouths and I could see the looks in the men’s eyes like, ‘Oh my, they are really going to come!'” In 1988, Halsey helped open the firm’s Fort Worth office. She was named managing partner for Fort Worth in 2010. She also led the firm’s statewide Real Estate practice group, which includes around 40 attorneys, through both periods of tremendous growth and economic turmoil. As a real estate attorney, Susan’s career was distinguished by her ability to build bridges and create consensus. She represented some of the biggest players in the Dallas-Fort Worth commercial real estate market, including Crescent Real Estate Equities, Chesapeake Energy, and Texas Health Resources, often in award-winning, multimillion-dollar real estate deals. Kurt Nondorf, managing partner of the firm’s Houston office and a previous leader of the firm’s Real Estate group, said it was “no accident that Susan Halsey led the firm’s expansive real estate group.
“All of our members respected and admired Susan’s skills and professionalism. She practiced law like she approached life: with great enthusiasm and dedication. She was tenacious in defending the rights of her clients, while always maintaining good humor in any negotiation. Susan was so disarming, because she could both turn on the Miss America charm and also be one of the boys in a male-dominated industry. I can’t think of anyone else who so represented the complete package of intelligence, charm, grace, and dogged determination. We have lost a great lawyer,” he said.
Along with naming Halsey a “Great Woman of Texas,” the Fort Worth Business Press named her a “Power Attorney.” She was one of the founding members of the Greater Fort Worth Real Estate Council and later served as chairman of that organization. In 2012, the GFWRE Council honored her with its Founder’s Award. Those who nominated her for that award praised her dedication to supporting the Council’s efforts and to advancing the industry and the region as a whole, calling her “the picture of Fort Worth class and an icon to the real estate community.” Another nominator said: “Susan is the most humble, ethical, fearless, and selfless person that I know. I often tell her that I want to be her when I grow up.” In presenting the award, Cypress Equities Senior Vice President Kirk Williams said: “Not only is Susan a deal-maker, but she is also a bridge-builder, a fence-mender, and a friend-finder. She is uniquely gifted at bridging old and new, holding to necessary traditions while keeping a keen eye on the latest market influences. She is blessed with the ability to see both sides of an argument and bring together a thoughtful resolution that facilitates an agreement. And she is able to do this with a true love of people, on both sides of the argument and both sides of the river.”