Law Practice

Nice Job: World's Richest Representation

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Ten years ago, Steven Selsberg left the Houston office of Weil, Gotshal & Manges because he didn’t make partner. Today, his professional future is looking a lot brighter.

Although has racked up a number of professional accomplishments in the meantime, including partnerships at two major law firms, one in particular stands out, according to Texas Lawyer. The 45-year-old Selsberg now represents a client who is reputed to be the world’s richest man, Carlos Slim Helu, with a net worth estimated at $59 billion.

“We didn’t just hire him because he represents Mr. Slim,” says Michael Niebruegge, the partner in charge of Mayer Brown’s office in Houston. “We hired him because he’s an excellent lawyer.”

Nonetheless, his representation of the Mexican billionaire clearly has helped bump Selsberg, now a Mayer Brown partner, several rungs up the career success ladder. A key step that led him to his present acme was defending tobacco litigation, Texas Lawyer reports in a lengthy profile of Selsberg and his work for his super-rich client. Slim at the time was on the board of what was then known as Philip Morris Cos., and he asked in-house counsel to recommend a Texas attorney to represent him in an appeal.

Selsberg got the nod, and went on to win an important appeal for his new client. Additional work resulted, and Selsberg, who was then a partner at Shook, Hardy & Bacon in Houston, eventually reached a crossroads in his career in 2004. At that point, executives from Slim’s enterprises had a big bankruptcy case, and Shook Hardy at the time didn’t have a bankruptcy practice—or do transactional work.

The question was clear, Selsberg says: “Was I going to stay at Shook, Hardy and do tobacco litigation work and turn down the Mexican transactional work?” In response, he started looking to move to a full-service international law firm. Later that year, with the help of a former colleague at Weil, Gotshal, he joined Mayer Brown.

Selsberg bills $600 per hour, but declines to say how much the Slim companies paid Mayer Brown in 2006. While Selsberg “charges a lot of money,” says Arturo Elias, Slim’s son-in-law and spokesman, “of course it’s worth it.”

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