Four UT Classmates Launch Litigation Boutique in Austin, Houston

Oct 4, 2012 | News

By Natalie Posgate
Staff Writer for The Texas Lawbook

Johns Marrs Ellis & Hodge isn’t just a new litigation boutique with offices in Houston and Austin. It’s a reunion for four law school classmates, who always dreamed about working together.

Chris Johns remembers his days at the University of Texas School of Law spent drinking endless amounts of Diet Coke to stay awake, receiving hot meals from his wife while studying with friends, and becoming paler by the day during his third year as he spent 40-plus hour weeks in a windowless office while fulfilling his duties as editor-in-chief of the Texas Law Review.

But what makes these memories fond for Johns are his close friends and classmates, who now, after 10 years, are his law partners.

After a decade of carving their own paths in their legal careers, Johns, Luke Ellis, Justin Hodge and Joseph Marrs have reunited. Johns and Ellis work in Austin, while Marrs and Hodge are in Houston. The firm focuses on trials and appeals in eminent domain, condemnation, probate, fiduciary and commercial disputes.

Ellis and Marrs also worked on the law review staff while Hodge served on the staff for Texas Review of Law and Politics. Johns believes the camaraderie and trust between the four of them make their litigation boutique unique in the market.

“I think a lot of boutiques will start up because they’re looking for complementary practice areas they have,” he said. “In our case it’s not even so much that our practice areas complement each other, but the personalities and skillsets we have complement each other. There’s always an understanding that we’re doing whatever we’re doing for the best interest of our clients.”

Johns specializes in appeals in federal and state courts, and has represented clients for complex business disputes, eminent domain, intellectual property, admiralty, probate, legal ethics and constitutional questions. He worked at Weil, Gotshal & Manges with former Texas Solicitor General Greg Coleman and clerked for Hon. Phyllis A. Kravitch of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. He earned a post-graduate law degree from the University of Oxford in England.

Ellis focuses his practice on representing property owners facing condemnation. His client base includes Fortune 500 companies and individual owners of shopping centers, office buildings, gas stations, developing subdivisions, ranches, residential and recreational tracts and vacant land. Ellis was a clerk at the Texas Supreme Court and worked as an associate at Jackson Walker.

Marrs is a trial lawyer who mainly represents clients in trust and will contests, disputes involving fiduciaries and probate matters. After law school, he served as a law clerk for the Travis County Probate Court and practiced at Bracewell & Giuliani.

Hodge is a civil litigator and focuses on condemnation and real estate disputes. A licensed realtor himself, Hodge represents the landowners in the disputes. After graduation, Hodge practiced at Vinson & Elkins, where he was trained under respected Houston trial lawyer Knox “Ocho-Ocho” Nunnally.

Hodge explained that JMEH Law is unique from other boutique firms because of the excellent training the attorneys received from legendary lawyers and judges.

“This unique wealth of knowledge has allowed each of us to establish an unparalleled record of courtroom victories in complex and sophisticated litigation,” Hodge said.

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