Baker, Ahles & Kaskovich

New era begins without a Kelly or a Hart atop Kelly Hart & Hallman

For the first time since the firm was formed, a Kelly or a Hart is no longer running the show at Kelly Hart & Hallman.

Dee Kelly Jr. has stepped down as managing partner of the Fort Worth law firm and was replaced by Marianne Auld, who has served as chairman of the firm’s appellate practice group.

Kelly, 56, who served as managing partner for 11 years, was in the first year of his third, five-year term when he decided to give up the leadership post. Kelly said he had planned to step out of the position last year, but decided to stay with it following the death of his father, Dee Kelly Sr., in October 2015.

Besides Dee Kelly Jr., the firm’s only other managing partner was Mark Hart, who founded the firm in 1979 along with the senior Kelly and Bill Hallman. Auld was elected by the partners to succeed Kelly and stepped into the post on Jan. 1.

“I’ve been thinking about it a while,” Kelly said. “It is bittersweet, but I think it is the right time.”

Kelly said he will have other responsibilities and doesn’t plan to leave the firm.

In a press release, Kelly praised Auld, saying she represents the “best of Kelly Hart.”

“Our firm has seen tremendous growth during the last decade, and I am confident it will continue under Marianne’s leadership,” Kelly said.

As managing partner, Auld will provide strategic leadership and direction as well as manage over 350 employees. The city’s largest law firm, it has offices in Austin, Midland and New Orleans.

Auld graduated from Baylor University School of Law, where she also has been a law professor. She served as a law clerk to U.S. Court of Appeals Justice Thomas Reavey.

Kelly Hart represents some of the city’s top citizens, including members of the Bass family, as well as American Airlines.

Changes at Shannon Gracey

Elsewhere in the legal world, things are really changing at Shannon Gracey Ratliff & Miller, or so it seems.

Late last year, it was reported that the venerable law firm would be shutting its doors at the end of 2016, according to a court document. Still, despite the fact that several attorneys left to join other firms or start new ones, management at the firm said “no decisions had been formalized.”

If you call the firm, someone still answers the phone. Repeated attempts by the Star-Telegram to talk to Managing Partner Richard Lowe have been unsuccessful, although an email from a former spokeswoman last week said “there was nothing new to report.” The firm also still occupies office space downtown.

Well, something must be up. One of Shannon Gracey’s storied partners, Kleber C. Miller, has decided to be “of counsel” to the law firm of Lacy Lyster Malone & Steppick, said attorney Chris Lyster. Joining Miller at his new home are two other former Shannon Gracey attorneys David Seidler and Sam Rosen, Lyster said.

But you wouldn’t know any of them had defected by looking at the Shannon Gracey website, which still shows all three men working there.

“We’re thrilled to have all three of them,” said Lyster, who himself worked at Shannon Gracey for about 25 years before joining his new firm. “It is a very sad thing. A lot of very good lawyers passed through that place and a lot of good lawyers were there when it came unwound this last year. I wouldn’t wish that on anybody.”

Solera’s latest acquisition

Solera Holdings, the Westlake-based software provider for auto claims and other industries, is expanding again with an agreement to acquire Autodata, a data firm that serves the automotive service industry.

The British company provides cloud-based diagnostics and repair information for mechanics, drawn from data covering 40,000 models worldwide. The company says it data is used by more than 90,000 repair shops in more than 40 countries.

“Throughout a car’s life, there are over 54 transactions that occur between motorists and automotive businesses,” said Tony Aquila, Solera’s founder, chairman and CEO, in a statement. “One of Solera’s missions is to digitize the vehicle ownership ecosystem by developing cognitive applications that not only power connectivity and engagement, but also proliferate awareness and transparency across the entire automotive lifecycle.”

Solera, which moved to Westlake from California, went private last year in a $3.7 billion deal led by Vista Equity Partners.

Andrea Ahles: 817-390-7631, @Sky_Talk

Max B. Baker: 817-390-7714, @MaxbakerBB

Steve Kaskovich: 817-390-7773, @stevekasko