About Paul Sweeney

Paul Sweeney Articles written 13

Articles written by Paul Sweeney

The Whistleblowers’ Advocate

Philip H. Hilder helps whistleblowers like Sherron Watkins do what’s right

As a teenager growing up in Chicago’s northern suburbs, Philip H. Hilder once played hooky from high school to watch F. Lee Bailey, the country’s most celebrated criminal lawyer of the 1960s and 1970s, defend notorious horse trader Silas Jayne, who was accused of having his younger brother murdered. One Chicago journalist described the now-deceased Jayne, who served prison time but beat the murder-for-hire rap, as “a classic bully, a muscled cowboy with a face as tough as saddle …

Family Law in the Age of Facebook

Be careful what you post—Plano family law attorney Rick Robertson has seen e-communications come back to haunt

Call her Ms. Smith. She was single, fun and interested in men, she declared on her Facebook profile. Photographs on her page depicted her canoodling with her latest boyfriend at a Dallas cocktail lounge. A Budweiser sign is prominently displayed overhead. But for Rick Robertson, the family law attorney who was representing her soon-to-be ex-husband (call him Mr. Smith) in a divorce and child-custody dispute, Ms. Smith’s Facebook postings afforded a Perry Mason moment. Until then, Ms. Smith …

Power Broker

Diana M. Liebmann has quietly become one of the top wind energy lawyers in Texas

It happened several years ago. Diana M. Liebmann, who heads the electric power practice in the San Antonio office of Haynes and Boone, was driving across West Texas with her daughter when they came upon a wind farm. Pointing to the clusters of wind turbines, Lauren, who is now 13, asked, “Mommy, are those your windmills?” “Yes,” Liebmann replied, explaining that the windmills belonged to her clients: “Mommy worked on them, but I didn’t actually build them.”  But if she didn’t …

The Minimalist

No one knows how to get to the essence of an appeal like Greg Coleman

Until he argued—and won—two high-profile civil rights cases before the U.S. Supreme Court last year, 46-year-old Gregory S. Coleman, who heads the appellate litigation practice at Yetter Coleman, a 30-lawyer boutique with offices in Austin and Houston, might have been the best lawyer in Texas nobody heard of. Never mind that Coleman had been managing editor of the Texas Law Review at the University of Texas School of Law, clerked for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and had already …

Mona Patel’s Tour de Force

She cycled, ran and traveled to France for Lance Armstrong. Now, as GC of LiveStrong, she works for him—and the 28 million people fighting cancer worldwide

Before she joined Lance Armstrong’s LiveStrong Foundation last year, Mona Patel flew to Europe three times, at her own expense, to attend the Tour de France and support the seven-time cycling champion. She has also devoted sweat equity to promote his “live strong” message. In 2005, she cycled in a 24-hour relay from San Diego to Washington, D.C., led by Armstrong, as part of the Bristol-Myers Squibb-sponsored Tour of Hope team. The following year, she ran 26.2 miles in support of the …

Just Plane Smart

Former Dallas City Attorney Madeleine Johnson pilots the Southwest Airlines legal team

When Madeleine Johnson joined Southwest Airlines in May 2008, a faltering economy and skyrocketing fuel costs were concerns, but more immediate was a $10.2 million fine proposed by the Federal Aviation Administration for alleged safety violations. Meanwhile, shareholders were preparing to sue, and Southwest executives were defending their actions on Capitol Hill. Throughout, national news media were unsympathetic. “Everything was highly publicized in an election year,” says Johnson, who …

A Poet, A Museum Director and A Lawyer Who Refuses To Lose

Frank Branson does just what he wants, and that includes winning cases

Frank Branson reckons that the biggest boost to his legal career was getting fired from Steak & Ale more than 40 years ago. The dismissal occurred during his second year at law school, and Branson still remembers how much it stung. “I thought I was one of their better waiters,” says the Dallas lawyer who has a reputation for perfectionism. It turned out that the restaurant manager, who disliked law students, thought otherwise. “He told me I had not properly filled the salt and pepper …

The Energy of Charles Matthews

ExxonMobil's GC discusses Valdez, the merging of two oil giants and more

Lawyers around Texas are still talking about the time, a few years back, when Charles Matthews had a little fun at the expense of longtime friend Kenneth Tekell, a prominent Houston attorney. Matthews, who is vice president and general counsel of ExxonMobil, was fielding questions at a legal conference sponsored by the International Association of Defense Counsel. An audience member asked him to describe the essential qualities in an outside counsel. Matthews asked Tekell to please rise. …

Bend ’em Like Beck Can

Clients in trouble—and the Supreme Court—beckon Dave Beck

When Harvey Sorensen, a tax and estate planning lawyer in Wichita, Kan., was sued for legal malfeasance in an inheritance case that involved the late Houston billionaire J. Howard Marshall, his law firm wanted the best representation available. Marshall's disinherited oldest son was suing Sorensen and his firm for conspiracy and fraud, seeking the show-stopping sum of $880 million. Then Anna Nicole Smith joined the legal fray. Smith, who was 26 when she married the 89-year-old Marshall, …

Van Fleet's Grand Feats

A billion-dollar win? He's got lots of those

It has been nearly 40 years, but Patsy Shook Ellis can still recall the conversation she had with Allan Van Fleet when they were both 16-year-old students at San Marcos High School and, for a short time, teenage sweethearts. "It was just before English class, toward the end of our sophomore year," Ellis, who is now a medical librarian in Johnson City, Tenn., remembers, "and we talked about what we wanted out of life. I'll always remember what he said: He wanted ‘to leave behind something of …

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