Baker, Ahles & Kaskovich

Attorney Marshall Searcy honored with Blackstone Award

Bill Burns of Encore Vision, left, and Fort Worth investor Les Kreis, who is a board member of the company.
Bill Burns of Encore Vision, left, and Fort Worth investor Les Kreis, who is a board member of the company. Star-Telegram

Marshall Searcy was 15 years old and helping his uncle harvest onions on his Collin County farm when practicing law first crossed his mind.

“It was one bad, hot summer and he said, ‘What you need to do is go be a lawyer and sit in an air-conditioned office with your feet propped up on a desk,’ ” Searcy joked. “The price of onions also went to nothing and further convinced me that is what I wanted to do.”

A lot of people are glad Searcy made that career choice, so much so that the Tarrant County Bar Association gave him the Blackstone Award last week. The association’s most prestigious honor is given in recognition of a career that exemplifies professional aptitude, integrity and courage.

He received the award at the 2016 Law Day Awards dinner at the Fort Worth Club.

Searcy, 70, is well known in local legal circles. He has been a lawyer for 45 years, 23 at Kelly Hart & Hallman, the city’s largest private law firm. He worked 22 years at a Dallas firm before being lured to Fort Worth by the late attorney Dee Kelly, one of the firm’s founders.

“It is a great honor. I’m humbled by it. A lot of great guys have gotten it before,” Searcy said.

Besides being included on several “best lawyer” lists, Searcy in 1990 was elected as a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, an invitation-only organization composed of the nation’s top trial lawyers. He also belongs to the American Board of Trial Advocates.

During his career, Searcy has focused mostly on commercial litigation, legal malpractice and personal injury. But because he’s “done any and all” kind of cases, he’s also dabbled in criminal law. In the late 1980s, he defended two men from Dallas accused of bribing the chairman of the board of governors of the U.S. Postal Service. Searcy’s defense earned them acquittals.

Sometimes seen as gruff with a gravelly voice adding to that persona, Searcy has a softer side, too. He and his wife, Annette, have raised seven children, the youngest a Russian orphan who Searcy adopted in his late 50s. The boy, Timothy, is now 18.

“He’s a great kid. He is a lot of fun and he’s overcome a lot,” Searcy said. He said all of his kids have grown up to be “kind and gentle people.” Two are even attorneys.

Looking back on his career in the law, Searcy says he “doesn’t know what else I would do.” And don’t worry, Searcy doesn’t have plans to quit anytime soon.

“I find it to be a deep calling. It is the fulcrum of our democracy, and in these days and times I believe it more than ever,” Searcy said.

Startup gets good news

Encore Vision reports good news from clinical trials for an eyedrop it has developed to treat presbyopia, the hardening of a lens that causes the need for reading glasses.

The Fort Worth startup said the 90-day study of its EV06 solution — aimed at softening the lens in the eye that tends to stiffen — met both primary safety and efficacy outcomes, with a significant improvement in near vision observed in the study group, which had 75 subjects. Results were presented Thursday at the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons Symposium in New Orleans.

That’s a big step for the company launched by former Alcon Labs executive Bill Burns out of the Tech Fort Worth business incubator with support from local investors. Next, the company will proceed with a follow-up study to gauge longer-term effects on the subjects.

“Topical EV06 has the potential to address a massive unmet need and improve quality of life by restoring near vision and lessening or even eliminating patient dependence on ‘readers,’ ” Burns said in a statement.

In a telephone interview, he added that the company hopes to begin the next phase of trials later this year, to test different concentrations of the compound. A third phase of trials will also be necessary, meaning the drug is still likely about three years from reaching the marketplace.

Encore gained some funding from the Cowtown Angels investor network in Fort Worth. Bios Partners, a 2-year-old Fort Worth venture capital firm run by Les Kreis, is one of Encore’s largest shareholders. Kreis, who also is involved with the Cowtown Angels, sits on Encore’s board.

According to Encore, presbyopia is the most prevalent eye condition in the United States, often affecting people by the age of 45.

Fort Worth Chamber wins award

The Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce was selected as one of the nation’s top 12 economic development agencies by Site Selection magazine.

The chamber was recognized with the newly minted Mac Conway Award for Excellence in Economic Development, the eighth time in 12 years that the Fort Worth Chamber has received the distinction, formerly known as the Top Groups.

The award is based on criteria including the total number of jobs created and the total amount of investment, as well as per-capita results. The chamber said last year was its best year ever for economic development, with 15 deals completed representing $3 billion in capital investment and 5,336 jobs, led by the big Facebook data center project.

“David Berzina and the Fort Worth Chamber team, along with their partners at the city of Fort Worth and Tarrant County, are to be congratulated for this consistent national recognition,” Mark Nurdin, the chamber’s chairman of the board, said in a news release.

The Austin Chamber of Commerce, the Dallas Regional Chamber and the Greater Houston Partnership were also among the winners.

Best Workplaces for Women

The Fort Worth Chamber presented Best Workplaces for Women Awards to Fort Worth ad firm Balcom Agency, Girl Scouts of Texas Oklahoma Plains and the Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base.

“Companies are competing every day on the basis of their workforce, and this award recognizes the most original and effective approaches for advancing female talent,” said Marilyn Gilbert, the chamber’s executive vice president of marketing.

This spring, 26 applicants and 12 finalists were judged on compensation and leave, ethics, work flexibility, training and mentoring, facilities, community involvement and wellness initiatives, the chamber said.

Andrea Ahles: 817-390-7631, @Sky_Talk

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

Steve Kaskovich: 817-390-7773, @stevekasko