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Overview

Introduction

Founded in 1995 in Houston, Texas, Smyser Kaplan & Veselka is a litigation boutique with just under 30 attorneys. The firm’s practice includes commercial disputes, white collar, energy, intellectual property, healthcare, and securities. The firm is known for litigating high-profile matters to trial but also skillfully steers cases to arbitration when necessary. Among Smyser Kaplan & Veselka’s clients are Shell Oil Company, Michael’s Organization, Celotex, Visa, Quantlab Financial LLC, BNSF Railway Company, and BHP Billi...

Firm Stats


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Total No. Attorneys (2021)


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Featured Rankings

Top 150 Under 150...

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Base Salary

1st year: $205,000...


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No. of U.S. Offices



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No. of International Offices



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Major Office Locations

Houston, TX...

Vault Verdict

Not just anyone can land a spot at Smyser Kaplan & Veselka—a federal clerkship and stellar grades are standard for successful candidates. An affable personality will go a long way too, as the firm boasts a professional yet social atmosphere where attorneys regular lunch together and get together outside of work hours. Partners are eager to mentor and provide substantive work to associates. If you are hoping to dip your toes in the water for a while, Smyser Kaplan & Veselka probably won’t be the best fit—associates plunge into high-level work early on. The firm doesn’t abide by any hours targets, and associates are positive about their work schedules. They are also pleased with their compensation, and feel it is competitive with peer firms. Reaching the partnership ...

About the Firm

Founded in 1995 in Houston, Texas, Smyser Kaplan & Veselka is a litigation boutique with just under 30 attorneys. The firm’s practice includes commercial disputes, white collar, energy, intellectual property, healthcare, and securities. The firm is known for litigating high-profile matters to trial but also skillfully steers cases to arbitration when necessary. Among Smyser Kaplan & Veselka’s clients are Shell Oil Company, Michael’s Organization, Celotex, Visa, Quantlab Financial LLC, BNSF Railway Company, and BHP Billiton Petroleum.

Jury Whisperers

While Smyser Kaplan & Veselka’s ranks may be small, its litigation chops are mighty. Stacked with a team of career trial lawyers and former law clerks, the firm is no stranger to high-stakes cases. It boasts a bustli...

Associate Reviews


  • “The firm has a good social culture. The attorneys regularly eat lunch together and hang out at the firm's weekly happy hour. The firm also has a yearly retreat, which includes all the attorneys and their families.”
  • “Very informal, family-type environment, but still manages to be professional office with rewarding work. Groups of associates do things outside of the office together on a regular basis. It's not out of the ordinary to have group dinners at partner's homes. Politically, the firm is very diverse and tolerant of all viewpoints. Vigorous debate at the lunchroom is encouraged!”
  • “Lawyers eat lunch together daily as a large group; female attorneys have several dinner gatherings a year; associates have several fun outings/events a year.”
  • “The partners look for opportunities to give associates substantive experience and arguments in court.”
  • “During our firm's annual retreat, we have an all-attorney meeting wherein all of the firm's financials are disclosed, we talk about business development, associate development, etc. All attorneys, including non-partners, are treated as equals in the discussion. At our 2019 retreat, an associate directly asked, ‘When I am up for partner, what are you going to be looking for? What do I need to be doing now and in the next years to ensure I'm promoted?’  The partners answered that question very explicitly and concretely. SKV does not hide the ball.”
  • “Overall [I’m] very pleased with expectations regarding work-life balance. I have no trouble finding work, but also don't feel overworked.”
  • “There's no [hours] target that I know of. I think everyone is encouraged to bill between 1,800 and 2,000 hours, and you are rewarded for high billing like any other place. But they also see your hard work during particular cases and reward that even if you may have had slower spots in other parts of the year.”
  • “I generally come into the office during regular business hours, but I feel 100% comfortable coming in late or leaving early for personal appointments. SKV understands that personal matters come up, and no one has ever questioned me arriving after 9 a.m. or leaving before 5 p.m..  …”
  • “The firm pays close to market and gives pretty generous bonuses. I used to work in BigLaw, and the minimal trade off in salary is completely worth the increase in collegiality, atmosphere, and quality of work.”
  • “My compensation is competitive with other large firms in the [local] area, and I have received yearly bonuses.”
  • “I spend most of my time performing substantive legal work. As a [mid-level] associate, I have taken and defended depositions, drafted and argued dispositive motions, handled discovery, and routinely interfaced with clients and opposing counsel.”
  • “I rarely receive ‘assignments.’  I am the associate staffed on a case, and I do all the work for that case.  The quality of work is great because nothing is held back from me. I do everything from draft discovery, motions, briefing, and argument.”
  • “SKV does not have a formal training or mentoring program, but I have received extensive informal training and mentoring given how lean cases are staffed.”
  • “This is not a place where you are going to get a ton of workshop training and manuals.  The training happens informally as you work your cases.  You learn by doing, but you aren't out to sea by yourself.  You are supported enough so that you can grow and learn to do your job well.”
  • “Associates frequently make partner, and the firm hires associates with the intention of that associate making partner.”
  • “SKV hires associates with the expectation that they all make partner within 6-8 years.  However, if I choose to take an of counsel position in the future, I understand that is something the firm will accommodate.”
  • “I definitely feel supported in my career here and think the chances I make partner are good.”

Why Work Here


Getting Hired Here


  • “SKV looks to hire federal judicial clerks who attended top tier law schools and are ready and willing to take on significant responsibly in a case. We are a collegial group of lawyers, so we also want to hire folks that fit in with the lawyers at the firm.”
  • “Our firm expects top grades and a prestigious clerkship. Our firm hires personable attorneys who we will want to eat lunch with on the regular because we eat lunch together on the regular. We come from a diverse array of law schools.”
  • “Given the size of our firm, we want to make sure everyone really wants to be here and has a specific reason for doing so. We're interested in how you learned about our firm, what you think you like about our firm, and why you think you would be a good fit. We're also looking for ambitious, independent young lawyers who aren't afraid to take ownership of their cases and run them.”