In The News

Dallas-based Law Firm to Nearly Double Footprint in Pennzoil Place Downtown

Mar 29, 2022
Houston Business Journal

A Dallas-based law firm is nearly doubling its footprint in one of downtown Houston’s most prominent office towers.

Munsch Hardt Kopf & Harr has agreed to lease 40,833 square feet spread across two floors in the north tower of Pennzoil Place at 700 Milam. The law firm’s existing offices in the building encompass about 21,000 square feet.

Dallas-based Stream Realty Partners aided Munsch Hardt with the lease agreement.

San Francisco-based Gensler has been tapped to design the build-out of the expanded space, and Houston-based Miller LaPoint Construction will serve as general contractor.

The firm’s expanded Houston foothold will include offices for 80 attorneys, an internal stairwell between the two floors, a work café that will be outfitted with an indoor putting green, flexible conference rooms, a bar for social gatherings, glass doors and walls, and drop seals on doors and interior walls to the attached deck to provide soundproof workspaces.

Every workstation will have automatic standing desks, and employees of the firm will have access to “Zoom rooms” equipped with updated technology systems.

“Our sustained growth in Houston is evidence we are seeing the fulfillment of our strategic plan,” said Phil Appenzeller Jr., CEO of Munsch Hardt. “And, in today’s market of continued law firm consolidation, Munsch Hardt, instead, intends to deepen its roots and grow strategically.”

When Appenzeller stepped into the CEO position in 2014, the firm had 109 attorneys, 17 of whom were based in Houston. Since then, Munsch Hardt’s Houston office has added health care and construction practice groups; several litigation, bankruptcy and corporate attorneys; and eight attorneys from a 2014 merger with Harrison Bettis McFarland. Today, the firm’s Houston office has nearly 50 attorneys.

Munsch Hardt moved into Pennzoil place in 2012 and expanded its offices there in 2014 and 2018.

“As Houston and, generally, Texas markets continue to grow, we look forward to adding more top talent into our unique culture in order to exceed client expectations,” John D. Cornwell, managing shareholder of the Houston Office. “It is a great time to be at Munsch Hardt.”

Pennzoil Place was built in 1976 by Gerald D. Hines Interests. The office complex consists of two 36-story towers sheathed in bronze glass and aluminum. The complementary trapezoidal towers were designed by by Philip Johnson/John Burgee Architects.

The development has won a number of awards for its unique design, including being named the building of the decade by New York Times architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable in 1975.

Munsch Hardt’s decision to expand its offices in the decades-old Pennzoil Place bucks a recent trend among law firms seeking out offices in newly constructed buildings, leading the so-called flight-to-quality movement underway in the city’s office market.

Among the law firms that have recently signed leases to move into new office towers is Vinson & Elkins, which will soon occupy 212,000 square feet in Hines’ Texas Tower. The new 47-story tower at 845 Texas Ave. opened in December.

Also at Texas Tower, international law firm McGuireWoods signed an 11-year lease for 33,000 square feet on the 24th floor, and DLA Piper signed a 14-year lease for more than 31,000 square feet — the entire 38th floor.

Not far away, Hines’ 48-story 609 Main office tower, which welcomed its first tenants in 2017, boasts a number of law firms as tenants.

In 2019, McGinnis Lochridge agreed to occupy 14,000 square feet on the building’s 28th floor.

Other law firms that have moved into 609 Main include Chicago-based Kirkland & Ellis, which occupies the top four floors of the 48-story tower; Hogan Lovells US LLP, which occupies 42,833 square feet on the 42nd and 43rd floors; and White & Case LLP, which has lease 57,315 square feet across the 29th and 30th floors.

At downtown's newest tower, Norton Rose Fulbright, one of the largest law firms in Houston, signed on as the first tenant of Skanska's 1550 on the Green, which is under development.

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