‘A True Advocate’
Whether uncovering appealable flaws or improving life for foster children, Marcy Hogan Greer infuses her work with passion
Published in 2022 Texas Super Lawyers magazine
on September 20, 2022
Updated on January 23, 2023
You could say Marcy Hogan Greer came to the law by way of the Middle Ages. But she has spent much of her career fighting to make sure that how we treat women, children and the poor doesn’t stay stuck there.
Despite having an attorney/law professor for a father, she didn’t plan on becoming a lawyer herself. She left her hometown of Houston—named, incidentally, after her great-great-great-grandfather, Sam Houston—to pursue her love of language and the past, double-majoring in history and French at Emory University. Then, thinking about grad school and a career in international banking, she stumbled into a class on the history of English common law, which was shaped a millenium ago after the Norman Conquest.
“That kind of cemented my interest in that area,” she says. “Of course, my dad’s influence was heavy. He loved the law.”
She decided to take the LSAT, just to see.
“And then it just all came together for me. When I got my LSAT score, I thought, ‘This is really what I want to do.’ So I called my dad and I said, ‘I’ve decided I’m going to law school.’ He was thrilled.”
Now the Austin-based managing partner of Alexander Dubose & Jefferson, Greer was a founder of the Center for Women in Law at the University of Texas, an instrumental part of a Texas Supreme Court project aimed at the needs of foster children, and the driving force in establishing the Texas Bar Appellate Section’s pro bono program. Then there’s her own pro bono work representing death row inmates and championing women and children in need.
An appellate attorney focusing on mass torts, class actions and other complex civil matters, she’s also the three-time (so far) national editor of the American Bar Association’s A Practitioner’s Guide to Class Actions, an encyclopedic, 2,700-page book on complex litigation and procedure.
Fate has often intervened in her life. When she was a student at Emory’s School of Law, she went to a party and bumped into the boy she’d had a crush on in elementary school at St. Michael’s Catholic School. “He didn’t know I existed,” she says.
Now he did. He proposed as she finished her first year of law school, “contingent on my moving back to Houston.”
She got accepted to the University of Houston Law Center and landed an internship with U.S. Circuit Judge Carolyn Dineen King of the Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.
“I got that job and absolutely fell in love with appellate practice. I learned so much about how it really works and just found it to be fascinating.”
But her dad encouraged her to go into his area: transactional law. So after graduation, she went to work in the corporate section of Hutcheson & Grundy in Houston. When the head of the appellate practice left, they asked if anyone was interested in doing appeals. Greer jumped at the chance. Which got her thinking about Judge King’s offer to take Greer on as a full-time law clerk anytime she wanted. Greer concluded it was then or never; she decided to spend a year with Judge King.
“There was no going back after that,” she says. “I knew that this is what I wanted to do.”
When the clerkship ended, her husband accepted a new position that took them to the state’s capital.
“He wanted our daughter to have wide-open spaces and greenbelts,” she says. “And I said, ‘Well, I guess there are lawyers in Austin. I suppose I’ll be able to find a job.’”
She worked at the appellate firm Fulbright & Jaworski for 20 years, 10 as partner, and moved to her current firm as a partner in 2014. “I was turning 50 and I had this opportunity,” she says. Wallace Jefferson, former chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court, was also joining her new firm.
Her practice has evolved over the years to entail behind-the-scenes strategizing, complex “heavy-lifting briefing,” as she calls it, in class certification and other matters; and one of her favorite aspects of her work: partnering with trial lawyers in laying the groundwork for appeals.
“It’s like a giant chess game, and everything that you do has implications elsewhere and you’ve got to keep track of all that. I find that fascinating and I love going to trial. I mean, I love, love, love it, but I go to trial in a different capacity than what you see on TV,” she says.
“I tend to handle the more technical sides that are super-important but not as interesting to laypeople, or even to trial lawyers—which is called job security. … The jury often pretty much wonders who I am, and then I fly into action when the jury leaves the room.”
It demands acute attention and, often enough, instantaneous decision-making.
“There are things that happen in real time that you cannot address later. You can’t pick up the phone and call somebody. You have to bring that error to the court’s attention before the jury’s discharged, which often, at the end of a long trial, happens very quickly.”
Greer’s practice also involves dissecting past proceedings to uncover appealable flaws, crafting convincing briefs to open the door for review, and arguing—whether to defend or urge overturning—decisions affecting her clients. She has done so in federal and state courts across the country.
Her wide range of cases has included mass torts and class actions over steroids and fungal meningitis, autism and childhood vaccines, and policyholders fighting a proposed settlement between the state of Texas and a large insurance company over its premiums. She has defended electronic gaming-device operators against municipal regulatory restrictions and a Parkinson’s drugmaker against a claim that its product caused a man’s pathological gambling.
David Gunn, co-head of Beck Redden’s appellate section, once faced Greer in an oil and gas dispute.
“I found her to be exceptionally professional, exceptionally prepared, cordial, easy to deal with, totally honest. If she said something, I could trust in it,” he says. “I find it very positive when I encounter somebody like Marcy who contributes to making that system work for the next generation, to raising the standards and making sure we aim higher and try and do it the right way.”
Greer carries that same zeal into her community service projects and pro bono work, whether it’s fighting for reforms of Texas’ foster care system or challenging death row convictions.
Commercial litigator Yvonne Puig, a former colleague at what is now Norton Rose Fulbright and also a founder of the Center for Women in Law, says the common thread in the cases is Greer’s “passion for the truth.”
That, and a relentless dedication to helping others.
“There is no sacrifice too big, no person too small that Marcy can’t help you, and willingly jump in, lean in, to help. She can never tire of helping people,” Puig says. “She’s tireless. She’s fearless. Without limits. She’s a phenomenon.”
Greer’s pro bono work has been recognized with the state Bar’s highest honor, the Frank J. Scurlock Award for outstanding legal services to the poor. For her dedication to the needs of women in the profession and the community, she received the Louise B. Raggio award from Texas Bar Association’s Women and the Law Section. And just last year she was given the Gregory S. Coleman Outstanding Appellate Lawyer Award, which goes to attorneys who “exhibit an outstanding appellate practice while maintaining a strong commitment to providing legal services for the underserved.” Mentoring young attorneys and having a strong moral compass are also required.
Paving the way for other women is particularly important to Greer, and a key purpose of the Center for Women in Law.
“We definitely are bringing women together to work on the bigger issues,” she says. “We’re working with young lawyers who are starting out in practice, first year out, because they get six weeks to be, basically, vetted, and that can make or break their career. And women … for the most part, they’re not getting the golf course and football game coaching, so to speak.”
So, beginning with law school students, “we teach them about the rules of engagement.” But the organization doesn’t stop there. First-year associates are taught how to write attention-grabbing memos, network and perfect their “elevator pitch.” More experienced associates are taught how to get to the next level.
“We’d like to get to gender parity in the law,” Greer says.
Then there are the things she does on her own, quietly, away from the legal associations and community groups. Like what she did for Veronica Lockett, a young woman who aged out of the foster care system, fell into an abusive relationship, and wound up serving a two-year prison sentence for aggravated assault against her boyfriend. After she got out, she dreamed of becoming an attorney, but kept getting rejected by law schools because of her past.
When Greer heard about the situation, she started making calls, including to the dean of the University of North Texas at Dallas College of Law. She even went with Lockett to the interview. When the woman hesitated nervously in the school’s doorway, Greer held her hand and told her, “You are worthy. Your past is just that—the past.”
She got accepted. She went on to graduate, pass the Bar, and now works as a public defender.
“Marcy is a selfless person. She doesn’t do things because she has to, she does them because she wants to. She’s a true advocate,” Lockett says. “I see her as somebody who truly uses her knowledge and her position in society to help people like myself, like kids who grew up in foster care, like people who are wrongfully convicted and sitting on death row; even businesses, to help them get to where they want to be.
“She opened up a door for me. She provided an opportunity.”
Safari Adventure, Hold the Leopards
“We love traveling together as a family,” says Greer, “because we get a chance to experience new worlds and spend time together.”
Marcy and Sam Greer’s oldest daughter, Jenny, is now 29 with a master’s in psychology. Julia is 24 and in law school, interning with a federal judge; Delia is 14. But from the very start, the family had an unwritten rule: Nobody stays at home.
“When Delia was three years old, we took them to Greece and Turkey,” Greer says. “She’s always been a wonderful traveler. We took them all to Costa Rica, to South Africa.”
That last one stands out.
“We had a year where our oldest graduated from college, our middle one graduated from high school, and I turned 50, and we decided, ‘You know what, we’re never going to be sorry we did this. We don’t know what the future’s going to hold.’ And so the five of us went for a month, and it was just incredible.
“We saw lions, a black rhino—which is very rare—elephants, giraffes, hippopotamus, you name it,” she says. “The only thing we didn’t see in the wild were leopards, but they are very aggressive and they’ll take out people in a truck, so I was OK with that.”