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Munsch Hardt Begins Transition to New CEO

Mar 28, 2024
The Texas Lawbook

As Munsch Hardt Kopf & Harr prepares for its 40th anniversary in 2025, deliberations have begun to find its next “Grand Poobah.”

The Dallas-based firm said this week that CEO Phil Appenzeller will transition out of firm leadership after a tenure spanning more than a decade, making him the longest serving chief executive in Munsch Hardt’s history. The firm also announced that Michael Harvey will succeed Steve Harr as the firm’s general counsel and Dennis Roossien has been named interim COO.

When Appenzeller assumed leadership in 2014, Munsch Hardt had 97 attorneys and revenues of $54 million with a goal to grow to 150 attorneys and achieve $100 million in revenues.

Appenzeller hit both goals. The firm reported headcount of 154 lawyers and revenues of $107.3 million for 2023, according to Texas Lawbook 50 research. In 2022, Munsch Hardt earned a record $112.9 million.

The firm’s notable successes last year included representing Tuesday Morning and six of its affiliates in their jointly administered bankruptcy cases in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Texas and advising the Electric Reliability Council of Texas in bankruptcy matters stemming from Winter Storm Uri.

“It’s been a really great run. We were well-poised to take advantage of the growth in Texas,” Appenzeller, who has been at Munsch Hardt since 2001, said in an interview with The Lawbook. “I am very proud of what we have achieved and I feel very positive about the direction we continue to go in.”

The firm’s path to doubling revenue and growing its headcount by more than 50 percent with Appenzeller at the helm was jumpstarted in his first year as CEO when the firm significantly expanded in Houston by acquiring Harrison Bettis McFarland. “Houston was very important to our growth strategy,” he said.

Not looking to “hire just to hire,” Appenzeller said the firm has focused on growing in the following strategic practice areas: energy, healthcare, real estate (“I feel like we have the best real estate group in Texas”), construction, and, more recently, transportation and intellectual property.

In the first quarter this year, Munsch Hardt has added energy dealmaker Clif Squibb and intellectual property litigator Dr. Chad Ray as partners and surpassed 160 attorneys.

The most consistent challenge for Appenzeller in leading the firm has been the hyper competitive Texas legal market.

“I’m not naïve. I know headhunters call our lawyers every day. We need to keep our lawyers happy economically and socially,” said Appenzeller, who noted the firm earned a “top place to work” distinction from the Dallas Morning News and the Houston Chronicle last year.

After navigating the Covid-19 pandemic and completing office build outs and moves for the firm’s Dallas and Houston offices over the past several years, Appenzeller said he is ready to return to the practice of law. “I’ve missed trying cases,” he said.

But he’s not exiting the C-suite right away. A successor to Appenzeller has not been decided on and there is “no rush” to do so. The incoming CEO will shadow Appenzeller for a period of time and then, eventually, Appenzeller will pass on the “Grand Poobah” hat (pictured above) that has been gifted to every Munsch Hardt CEO since Russ Munsch.

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