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Dee J. Kelly. Honored to Support His Community. By Amile Wilson. Photography by Shirley Che. Kelly Hart & Hallman is a law firm rooted in the belief that it serves the community in which its lawyers work...
M A G A Z I N E ®www.AttorneyAtLawMagazine.com
Dee J. Kelly
Attorney of the Month
Kight L. Higgins
Mediator of the Month
Judge Billy Mills
Association of Attorney-Mediators
GREATER FORT WORTH EDITION | PREMIERE 2013
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John W. Hughes
Tips From The Top
Stephen L. Tatum
elly Hart & Hallman is a law firm rooted in the belief that
it serves the community in which its lawyers work.
Kelly Hart & Hallman doesn’t keep a comprehensive
record of the charity work its lawyers perform. There are no giant
timecards chronicling hours of community and civic service.
Earlier this year, the firm did try to document its effect in the Fort
Worth area and those numbers even surprised managing partner,
Dee Kelly Jr. In fact, what he found was that hardly a charity,
community group or cause exists in the greater Fort Worth area
in which Kelly Hart & Hallman lawyers have not made an impact.
The firm’s dedication to the community has become a given in
the culture of Kelly Hart & Hallman.
While Dee Kelly Jr. may think that helping the community
should be instinctive, the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce
took note of the firm’s exceptional service to the community and
made it the city’s first law firm to be recognized with the annual
Spirit of Enterprise Award.
“Lawyers by their nature are individualistic,” explains Dee
Kelly Jr., managing partner of Kelly Hart & Hallman. “Creating
a culture of service has never been a company policy, but reflects
the vision and leadership of our senior partners.”
Of course, this level of dedication to the community should
be expected by anyone who knows founding partner, Dee J.
Kelly, a man whose dedication to his work is matched only by
his dedication to the community. Born and raised in Bonham,
Texas, he credits his parents for instilling in him a strong code of
values, the difference between right and wrong.
Founding partner, Dee J. Kelly, has long been the driving force
behind the firm’s dedicated work ethic. After graduating from
Texas Christian University in 1950, he moved to Washington
to work for House Speaker Sam Rayburn and attended George
Washington University School of Law. He met Speaker Rayburn
when he interviewed him for his high school newspaper. He also
volunteered to work on Rayburn’s campaigns. “It was because of
Mr. Rayburn that I was able to go to law school,” Kelly says.
By the time he was 25 years of age, he had received a degree
from TCU, a law degree from George Washington University and
spent two years serving in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean
Honored to Support His Community
By Amile Wilson
DeeJ. KellyDeeJ. KellyDeeJ. KellyDeeJ. KellyDeeJ. KellyDeeJ. Kelly
Photography by Shirley Che
12 | www.AttorneyAtLawMagazine.com
In 1979, Kelly Hart & Hallman began to handle a wide variety
of business needs for Bass and quickly began amassing other
clients needing the same service. According to Kelly, they were
fortunate to have clients like the Bass family, Anne Marion, John
Justin, Kay and Ben Fortson as well as the Moncrief family. It was
a very good way to start a law firm.
From its humble beginning of seven attorneys to its present
size of 142 lawyers, the firm continues to stress service to the
community. Dee J. Kelly has received the Golden Deeds Award,
which is awarded to an outstanding citizen of the community
and the Blackstone Award, the highest award given by the Tarrant
County Bar Association. In fact, the Star-Telegram named him
as one of the ten most influential citizens in the city of Fort Worth
for the first half of this century.
Kelly Hart & Hallman strives to be successful without letting
that success cloud the root of company culture – service to clients
Dee Kelly Jr. says, “Every lawyer has cases they are proud of
and cases they remember, but we don’t want to dwell too much
on the past. We don’t quantify, we just move forward. Each case
is an educational experience and we just press on, always learning
so that we can provide the best service possible for our clients.
“We built something special and made a difference in people’s
lives, that’s really what it’s all about,” says Kelly Jr.
Assembling such a caring and hardworking team is itself hard
work. But according to Kelly Jr., there is no cookie cutter that fits
exactly what the firm is looking for in a new associate.
“We look for lawyers
fit our clients’ needs,”
he explains. “And we
look for people who
seem to fit the culture of service that is so important to the way
this firm functions.”
As part of their team of legal professionals, Kelly Hart &
Hallman has true strength in diversity. From young lawyers fresh
out of judicial clerkships to former judges, the strength of the
firm comes from a solid mixture of experience and innovation.
That experience is no more prevalent than with attorneys such
as Bob Grable, founding partner and one of the foremost oil and
gas practitioners in the state, and Dan Settle, also a founding
partner and a principal financial and bond expert in Texas.
Other well-known lawyers in the firm include David Keltner, a
former justice on the Texas Court of Appeals and John H. Cayce
Jr., former chief justice of Texas’ Second Court of Appeals both
are co-chairs of the firm’s appellate practice; Marshall Searcy, who
recently was chosen as the Outstanding Trial Lawyer in Texas
War. When he separated, he was a first lieutenant.
After completing law school, Kelly returned to Texas
where he took a job as a legal examiner for the Texas
Railroad Commission, which regulated the oil and
gas industry in Texas. After briefly serving in private
practice in Fort Worth, he served as general counsel
for W. A. Moncrief and W. A. Moncrief Jr., prominent
Texas oil producers, and continued to work on energy,
regulatory and business law. He began a solo practice
in Fort Worth in 1964.
Kelly’s reputation and work ethic made him stand
out in the legal world, and caught the eye of Sid Bass,
president of Bass Brothers Enterprises. Despite having
another law firm on retainer, Bass wanted a local lawyer
in Fort Worth and was very clear that he wanted Kelly
to be that lawyer.
The origination of Kelly Hart & Hallman actually had
its beginnings when Sid Bass notified Dee Kelly that
he had made an arrangement with Vinson & Elkins
in Houston under the terms of which Kelly would
continue to be independent and Vinson & Elkins would
furnish lawyers to work on the Fort Worth accounts.
“I have been, from the very first second, with Kelly
Hart & Hallman because I told Dee Kelly he was going
to be my lawyer,” Bass says, “But he was a single lawyer
without a firm. I needed a tax lawyer, an oil and gas
lawyer, a real estate lawyer and a securities lawyer. So,
I told him I was going
to make a deal between
him and Vincent &
Elkins, LLP, and that was
going to be my law firm.”
Mark Hart came to Fort Worth first as an associate of Vinson &
Elkins and Bill Hallman came next, also an associate with Vinson
& Elkins. The arrangement with V & E lasted until March 1,
1979, when Kelly Hart & Hallman was formed. Bob Grable and
Dan Settle were among the original founders along with Mark
Hart and Bill Hallman. Pete Geren, former secretary of the army
and a member of Congress from Fort Worth, was the firm’s first
Dee Kelly, Mark Hart and Bill Hallman enlisted a bright team
of young lawyers dedicated to the idea of what the firm could be.
Pulling through all-nighters in crammed work conditions, the
firm’s founding members struggled to grow the practice.
“Back in those days, lawyers didn’t advertise,” Kelly explains.
“The only way you grew and got more clients was to develop a
reputation for hard work and success.”
I love all aspects of
the practice of law
Premiere 2013 Attorney at Law Magazine® Greater Fort Worth Edition 13
by the Texas Bar Foundation and Michael McConnell, a former
bankruptcy judge who heads up the bankruptcy and business
reorganization section of the firm, and who is receiving the A.
Sherman Christensen Award for his work for the American Inns
While the team of attorneys continues to grow, Dee J. Kelly
remains an active part of the firm that established him as a
community leader in Fort Worth. Kelly has been a significant
supporter of his alma mater TCU, where the alumni center
building is named in his honor. He has also supported the Law
School at Texas Wesleyan University, which in 2005, named the
law school library in his honor.
no plans on retiring any time soon. “I love all aspects of the practice
of law,” Kelly says. “I’ll be here practicing as long as I’m healthy.”
Carrying on the legacy of one of the 50 most influential
Texans may seem daunting, but for the entire staff at Kelly Hart
& Hallman, the drive and dedication instilled in them from the
top down will always be with them.
As will the honor of being able to look out into the Fort
Worth community and see a city much better off because of the
decades of work by their founding partners, Dee Kelly, Mark
Hart and Bill Hallman.
At A Glance
Kelly Hart & Hallman LLP
Wells Fargo Tower
201 Main Street, Suite 2500
Fort Worth, TX 76102
Administrative / Regulatory Law, Bet-the-Company
Litigation, Commercial Litigation, Corporate Law,
Natural Resources Law and Oil & Gas Law
• LL.B., George Washington University School of
• B.A., Texas Christian University, 1950
• UT Southwestern Moncrief Cancer Center, Board
• Horatio Alger Association, Board of Directors
• Performing Arts Fort Worth, Board of Directors
• Texas Bar Foundation, Founding Member
• American Bar Foundation, Fellow
• American Bar Association
• Fort Worth Bar Association
• Tarrant County Bar Association
• The Best Lawyers in America, 1990-2013
• Texas Super Lawyer by Texas Monthly Magazine
• Fort Worth’s Outstanding Business Executive, 1993
• Horatio Alger Award, 1995
• Fort Worth Tarrant County Bar Association’s
Outstanding Lawyer, 1997
• Named one of the 50 Most Influential Texans by
Texas Business, 1997
• Fort Worth’s Outstanding Citizen, 2000
• Distinguished Achievement Award, George
Washington University, 2001
• Distinguished Citizen of the Year, Longhorn
Council of the Boy Scouts of America, 2003
14 | www.AttorneyAtLawMagazine.com