Facing a bit of a midlife crisis as he neared age 40, Baker Botts government relations partner Jim Grace (pictured) of Houston signed up for an eight-year stint in the U.S. Naval Reserve. Nearly four years later, Grace, who entered the Reserve with a direct commission as an officer, will take a leave from the firm for nine months because he’s being deployed to Afghanistan. Grace, a lieutenant junior grade, says he can’t reveal much about his mission. He’s in “intelligence” — not a military lawyer — and can’t say specifically where he is going, to what unit he will be attached or what his responsibilities are. Grace says he joined the Reserve on Sept. 5, 2007, the day before his 40th birthday, because he wanted to get in through a direct commission program that called for recruits under age 40. “It’s sort of an abbreviated officer training program. . . . This program was available and seemed to fit with my practice,” says Grace. “They were looking for people who were experienced and had critical thinking skills,” Grace says about the Navy. ”I had regretted not serving as a young man.” Grace says the timing of his deployment actually fits well into his lobbying practice, since he will return to Texas in July 2012, in time to prepare for the next session of the Texas Legislature. He spent much of the first six months of this year lobbying for clients before the Legislature. Grace says Baker Botts has been “very supportive” of his military commitment and is making up the difference between his military salary and his income as a partner for the time he’s deployed. “Without the support of the firm, I couldn’t do this,” Grace says. While he’s out, Grace says others in the Baker Botts government relations group will assist his lobbying clients. He says his wife, Michele, and his son Connor, 13, and daughter Isabelle, 8, support him, although they are concerned about his safety. Grace says he will work through this Friday and then start a month of training on Aug. 28 before he flies to Afghanistan.
-- Brenda Sapino Jeffreys