By Jack Witthaus – Reporter, Houston Business Journal
Denman Heard was 10 years old when his grandmother took him to Austin to watch his grandfather, an attorney, argue in front of the Supreme Court of Texas.
The courtroom was packed for the case that Denman Moody Sr. had been working on for years. His grandfather walked out of the attorneys chambers up to the bar to take a seat at the table.
Then, his grandfather looked over at Denman and winked. He later won the case.
“I grew up all around the law,” Heard said. “I grew up being comfortable in that environment.”
Heard, a longtime Houston attorney, is the founder of Heard Law Firm PLLC. His firm moved into a new 6,000-square-foot office in Kirby Grove at 2925 Richmond Ave. about a month ago. The firm currently employs three attorneys and plans to add one more.
He recently spoke with the Houston Business Journal about tossing newspapers, joining the debate team and a failed job attempt that would impact the rest of his career.
How are you enjoying the office space you recently moved into? I really love the location at Kirby Grove. It is centrally located and perfect for out-of-town visitors. We have a great view of the city from multiple angles, and it is nice to have a beautiful green space in Levy Park right outside the front door.
What was your first job as a kid? During the summers, I mowed lawns starting when I was 8 years old and charged $5 a yard. I used my dad’s mower. It was legal back then. No one got arrested.
My friend and I also sold address markers to put in front of people’s homes. We’d knock on doors and point out to people that their address marker was broken.
I also had a paper route for the Houston Chronicle. I’d wake up around 4 a.m. I got the newspaper in about 10 different pieces and had to put all the sections together, roll them up and stick them in the wrapper. Then, I delivered the newspaper on my bike by 6 a.m.
When did you know you wanted to go into law? Outside of my grandfather, my father, Wyatt Heard, was a state district court judge in Harris County. He was appointed in 1969 by Gov. Preston Smith and was unopposed for 21 years until he retired.
Once I joined the debate team at Baylor, it reignited the flame that always burned in me to be an advocate for people. It allowed me to see how structurally one thinks logically in creating and presenting arguments. I won my first debate tournament, and my team won the national championship. Later in law school, I won the national moot court championship and the University of Houston Law Center open mock trial championship.
How did you get your first job? I cold called Williams Bailey law firm. John Eddie Williams took me to lunch at China Garden downtown. I was pulling my resume out of my coat pocket to ask him for a job, and I said, “I would love to come work for y’all.” My resume was halfway out of my jacket when he said, “Well, we’re not hiring right now.” I just put my resume back in my jacket and carried on the conversation. I later got my first job at Gray Reed in Houston.
What was it like starting out? I wanted to try commercial cases at Gray Reed, but successful business people aren’t going to allow a first-year lawyer to try their multimillion-dollar lawsuits. A few months later, John Eddie Williams came back and offered me a job and I took it. I spent the first three years of my career trying these very complex product liability cases on behalf of clients who had been occupationally exposed to asbestos. My first verdict I was involved in was $26 million.
What do you do with your spare time? I spend time with my family. I coached my boys in football and baseball. I spent a lot of time with my daughter training in horse cutting. I never wanted to look back at the end of my life and say I didn’t spend enough time with my kids.
Why do you like to do work at your ranch in Rocksprings, Texas? I do trial preparation out there because I can think creatively. It’s an awfully pretty place. Being in a place that I love, that’s different than the office, can spark the creativity that’s necessary to do what I do at a very high level. Half of my office is a war room, which is fantastic. But for me getting into a different space from time to time allows me to do what I do.
What’s your best piece of advice for people entering law? Look for the intersection of what you’re passionate about, what you’re really good at and what serves others.
Closer Look: Denman Heard, founder and trial lawyer at Heard Law Firm
College: Baylor University, University of Houston Law Center
Favorite TV show: “The Blacklist”
Recent read: “Little Britches” by Ralph Moody
Favorite Houston restaurant: Goode Co. Taqueria
Hobbies: Ranching, hunting, watching Baylor football
Pets: Chesapeake Bay retriever named “Call”
Favorite movies: “Lonesome Dove;” “The Last of the Mohicans;” “Braveheart;” “A River Runs Through It;” “Remember the Titans”