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Top Billing: Leading Women of Dallas

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The women leaders of our Dallas office consistently bring home the high-profile wins and awards and their leadership is felt throughout in the rewarding community engagement opportunities and mentorship for women at every stage of their personal and professional life.

The three women leaders of the Dallas office -- Samantha Crispin, Christa Sanford and Jessica Pulliam -- have made Baker Botts their home for their entire careers, a testament to the opportunity, growth, mentorship and community of the firm and the office.  They continue to make the office a powerhouse for Corporate, IP, Litigation and a destination for lawyers -- men & women -- across all practices and industries who will find opportunities and support wherever their careers take them.

Samantha Hale Crispin

Samantha Crispin’s recognition as the Outstanding Woman Lawyer for 2020 by the Dallas Women Lawyers Association and as one of the "Top Women in Dealmaking" 2021  by The Deal cements over two decades of achievement.  She received these honors for her tireless work in elevating the role of women in the legal profession, for her leadership in the greater legal community and for displaying excellence in her field of corporate M&A transactions.

“The women in this legal community get it – we may find ourselves on different sides of the negotiating table or the courtroom, we may practice at competitor organizations, but at the end of the day, we understand the fundamental importance of women supporting women. It propels us all forward.  When we support one another and create opportunities for each other, we all win,” she says.

Active and committed to diversity throughout her career, over 10 years ago, as a brand new partner, she raised her hand and took on a relatively new role for the firm – leading what at the time was a newly reorganized women’s initiative – to harmonize and leverage local efforts happening across the firm in different offices to create a single a firmwide effort.  That women’s initiative, known as the Global Women’s Forum, supports and encourages hundreds of women attorneys at the firm at all stages of their lives and careers.  She also serves as a Leader for the Center for Women in Law at the University of Texas at Austin.

“I am so incredibly fortunate to have worked at a place where when I raise my hand and say ‘I want to do this’ it is met not only with an open door, but with both men and women who say ‘how can I help you make it happen?,’” she notes.

Samantha also leads the firm's global Corporate TMT pillar, is Chair of the Dallas Corporate group and serves on the firm's Executive Committee.

 “It has never been more important for younger women see the successes of the women just above them.  ‘Seeing is believing’.  And it is also believing in yourself.  The more we see women leading negotiations, leading trials, leading meetings, leading departments and leading firms, the more we will believe it to be our future.”

Samantha has been guiding corporate clients and private equity funds in complex M&A, capital markets and strategic business transactions for 20+ years.  She has worked on cutting edge transactions with high profile clients and she understands that in such a highly competitive industry, success depends on the satisfaction of her clients and her ability to be “all in” every day. 

With a focus on tech and innovation, she is behind recent strategic partnerships with a number of Texas incubators.

“In forming these partnerships, we are thrilled to get the chance to  work with a range of innovative, Texas-based companies from the ground up, allowing the most promising companies to gain exposure to potential investors” she said. “In the last couple of years, we’ve seen explosive growth of tech here in Texas – both with our home-grown innovators and the migration of established household-name companies moving in from Silicon Valley. It’s the perfect marriage with our Texas and California ECVC practices.”

She has been named to D CEO magazine's 2020 Edition of the Dallas 500 for the second year in a row. The Dallas 500 is a special edition that celebrates the most influential business leaders in North Texas. When asked what she’d tell her 18-year-old self, Samantha told the publication, “Believe in yourself and work hard to achieve your goals. Don’t give up; perseverance pays off.”

“Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t been a walk in the park, everyone has setbacks along the way – they are what make us smarter, more determined and often lead to different doors that we wouldn’t otherwise have thought about going through – and for me – that has made all the difference.”

Christa Brown-Sanford

Christa Brown-Sanford works relentlessly to help bring up women behind her, particularly women of color.  “Getting black lawyers in leadership positions is going to have an effect on Black lawyers making partner,” she said during a panel discussion on legal hiring at the SMU Law Alumni Association last October.

In an article in D CEO Magazine’s June/July 2020 issue, Christa was labeled as “The Pioneer.” The former first lady of Dallas, Matrice Ellis-Kirk, described Christa as a “superstar … the type of strong leader the community needs.”  In 2017, Christa worked with a small group of friends and colleagues to form The Village Giving Circle, which provides a forum for black women professionals to give back and promote others in the community who are interested in civic leadership.

Her active and prominent role in the community earned her a title recently that has never yet been bestowed: She is the first black woman to hold the position of Junior League of Dallas President– one of “the region’s most revered civic institutions” – for 2021/2022, made even more significant as it is connection with the organization’s 100th anniversary this year.

“If I can help the League gain exposure with pockets of women where we’re not as well-known…if I can make change that way, that would be huge for the future of the League,” Christa said in the magazine. “That would be the ultimate way to give back to an organization that’s been such an important part of my life.”

There were few people of color when Christa originally joined the Junior League. As the League’s President, she will bring a new perspective to leadership.

“One of the things I want to do with this role is change how the League’s leadership looks,” Christa said. “I want the communities we serve, the city, and other leaders to see that African American women … women of color are a part of this, too.”

Christa brings her change-making mindset to her full-time patent practice, with the ability to advise on a number of different issues – working together with her clients to be a true counselor. With an electrical engineering background and keen business sense, her ability to communicate with anyone, from clients, opposing counsel, inventors, or patent examiners alike, in a clear and digestible way, underscores her commitment to being a true partner at every stage of the process. She is the Deputy Chair of the Intellectual Property Department and Co-Chairs the Diversity & Inclusion Committee.

She is an oft-requested speaker and panelist, and is consistently recognized for her legal acumen and community leadership. Last summer, she was named as one of 44 local changemakers, executives, and innovators as part of the 46th class of the Dallas Regional Chamber leadership development program, Leadership Dallas. She will join the program’s more than 2,200 graduates who continue to impact the Dallas region. She was also recognized as one of the "50 Most Powerful Women in Technology" by the National Diversity Council for 2020.

Part of what drives Christa is her ability to be resilient. It’s a characteristic that she sees in her mom who has battled Parkinson’s Disease for nearly 30 years. It’s a characteristic she shares with younger lawyers seeking advice. “It’s not if you’re going to have difficulties in your career, but when you’re going to have difficulties and how you respond to those challenges.  I can go through countless times when there have been setbacks in my career and where I had to deal with naysayers, but being resilient, and learning how to bounce back and learn from those challenges, really differentiates you and helps you to move forward in your career.”

When Christa isn’t meeting with clients to discuss their patents and business or spending time with her husband and three kids, she carves out at least several hours a week to kickbox.  Says Christa, “It is helpful for this job to have that avenue and take it out on that bag.”

Jessica Bateman Pulliam

Some of the biggest enterprises in the world turn to Jessica Bateman Pulliam to handle their most complex disputes.  As the Chair of the Trial Department in Dallas, Jessica leads a trial boutique within a big firm. 

One of Jessica’s most important goals for her team is to have fun.  Early in her career clerking for the legendary Honorable Barbara M.G. Lynn, Jessica observed Judge Lynn working harder than anyone but also stopping to have parties in chambers and care deeply about her clerks’ families.  Trial work can be adversarial and stressful.  But as Jessica told the Dallas Business Journal in 2015, Judge Lynn taught her “there is no reason we can’t have a lot of fun along the way.” 

Jessica believes that, at the end of the day, judges and juries are human.  While it is important to know the facts and the law better than anyone else in the courtroom, it is equally important to be friendly with the court staff and know when to laugh.  Drawing on her life experiences as an art major in college and now a mother to teenage twin daughters, Jessica views disputes through the lens of human experience. 

“I love the courtroom, preparing witnesses, and cross examination. I believe that legal advocacy is an opportunity to tell the story of my clients, who are typically hard-working professionals with families much like mine,” she commented to the Dallas Business Journal.

This gives Jessica versatility.  She has gained the respect of the many chief executives, partners in professional firms, and even a former Vice President of the United States, all of whom she has prepared to testify.  But she also believes that working with witnesses is much like being a good mom—giving clear instruction, allowing space for emotion, knowing when to take a break, and always packing a snack.  

Jessica’s focus on intangibles is not without significant subject matter expertise.  Chambers, Legal 500, and Law360 have all recognized Jessica for her know-how – including the first recognition from Legal 500 as a “Next Generation” lawyer for 2020.

She Co-Chairs the Firmwide Securities and Shareholder Litigation Group and went toe-to-toe with David Boies in one of the most closely watched securities litigation matters of all time.  Jessica has driven critical legal change in various subject matter areas.  Just as one example, Jessica crafted the defense for a large financial institution resulting in a take-nothing judgment and the Texas Supreme Court clarifying the standard for reliance in business fraudulent-inducement cases.

One of Jessica’s greatest professional joys is passing down the craft of trial lawyering to the next generation.  She worked with a team of associates, along with the professionals of Advocates for Community Transformation, to represent residents of a West Dallas neighborhood against the owner of a of a notorious drug and prostitution house.  The Baker Botts team of associates deftly handled difficult witness examinations.  And after Jessica closing arguments, the court ordered demolition of the property from the bench. 

Many residents of West Dallas were present throughout the proceedings and expressed their deep gratitude for the efforts of Baker Botts and ACT in helping them bring justice and peace to their community.  D CEO named the Baker Botts team the winner of the “In-Kind Services Supporter” Corporate Citizenship Award in its 2020 third annual Nonprofit and Corporate Citizenship Awards for its pro bono work on behalf of the West Dallas community.

Jessica’s desire to pass the torch to others will continue in 2021 with her work as part of the Leaders Circle of the Center for Women in Law at the University of Texas at Austin.   

 

ABOUT BAKER BOTTS L.L.P.
Baker Botts is an international law firm of approximately 725 lawyers practicing throughout a network of 13 offices around the globe. Based on our experience and knowledge of our clients' industries, we are recognized as a leading firm in the energy and technology sectors. Since 1840, we have provided creative and effective legal solutions for our clients while demonstrating an unrelenting commitment to excellence. For more information, please visit bakerbotts.com.

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