Crain, Caton & James in Houston celebrated its centennial on Sept. 13 at the Hall of Paleontology at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.
Crain, Caton president Robert Wisner says the firm chose to have the celebration at the Hall of Paleontology because it is “an awesome space.”
“It was just really intimate and broken up around the exhibits; it flowed wonderfully,” Wisner says. “Plus, the museum is also 100 years old this year.”
Tom Ivey, director of administration, says Crain, Caton started as an oil and gas firm in downtown Houston on Main Street.
“The first firm name, in 1912, was Kennerly & Warnken, and it was more oil and gas,” Ivey says. “Back in the day an attorney did everything, though. The firm has evolved over the years but has pretty much been a single-office midsize firm.” Now, Crain, Caton has a variety of practice areas, including a large environmental practice group, a large group that does probate litigation, and a group that does a combination of tax, estate and business planning, Wisner says.
Ivey says the firm was “in the Scanlan building at 405 Main St. until 1927, then we moved to the Petroleum Building, 1314 Texas Ave. We stayed there until ’52. Then we were in the San Jacinto building at Main and Walker where we stayed until 1975,” Ivey says. “In 1975 we moved to 2 Houston Center. We’re still in the Houston Center complex. Since 2003, we’ve been in 5 Houston Center.”
Ivey says the firm became Crain, Caton & James in 1988. The firm now has 35 attorneys and 35 support staff, he says. “Our partners average over 25 years of experience, so we have a lot of attorneys who have been doing it a long time,” Ivey says. “We also have a lot of long-tenured staff. Last time we did a count we had around 40 percent of staff who had been here more than 10 years.”
Ivey and Wisner say Crain, Caton’s culture is part of the reason it has been successful.
“From a partner perspective, the firm is very entrepreneurial,” Ivey says. “And from a staff perspective, it is still small enough to be a family-friendly environment.”
Wisner says two words explain why the firm has been successful for 100 years: integrity and generosity. “We’ve had a lot of partners who’ve had a lot of integrity and who are very generous with their time and with mentoring,” he says. We have a very democratic system that rewards people for the work they actually do. People just don’t leave; it’s a fun place to work.”
He adds, “We owe it to a lot of people who had a lot of foresight. They did what was fair and right for the longevity of the firm and it shows.”
-- Christine Lesicko