Eight Attorneys of Bell, Ryniker & Letourneau Join Blank Rome

August 1, 2013

Press Release

Addition Strengthens Houston Presence for Largest U.S. Maritime Practice

Blank Rome LLP is pleased to announce that all eight attorneys of Bell, Ryniker & Letourneau, P.C. – a leading Houston, Texas maritime law firm – joined Blank Rome today in the Firm’s Houston, Texas office.  These additions further enhance Blank Rome’s Houston presence and its maritime and energy practices, while expanding the depth and scope of services that Bell, Ryniker & Letourneau provides to its clients.

This group of attorneys and additional professional staff bring significant experience in maritime and energy law, in addition to the areas of insurance, transportation, government contracts and construction.  Michael K. Bell, Keith B. Letourneau, and Douglas J. Shoemaker join as partners; Robert J. Ryniker, and James C. Arnold join as of counsels; and Mitchell R. Machann, Tracy Freeman, and David G. Meyer join as associates. 

“We are delighted to welcome Michael, Keith, Douglas and all of our new colleagues to our Houston office and to the Blank Rome team,” said Alan J. Hoffman, Co-Chairman and Managing Partner.  “We look forward to working with this talented and respected group of attorneys as we continue to expand in the Houston market and strengthen our well-established maritime and energy practices.”

Blank Rome’s Maritime practice is the largest in the United States and represents publicly traded and privately owned companies throughout the world.  With the addition of the Bell, Ryniker and Letourneau group, Blank Rome’s maritime practice is comprised of 40 highly regarded professionals based in New York, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Houston – a key market for the maritime and energy industries. 

“Through our global practice, we aim to provide clients with excellence in all aspects of maritime and offshore capabilities,” said John D. Kimball, Partner and International and Maritime Litigation and ADR Practice Group Leader.  “The Bell, Ryniker & Letourneau team has long been recognized as one of the leading maritime law firms in Houston, and brings significant depth and capability to our maritime and energy practices.”

Jonathan K. Waldron, Partner and Maritime, International Trade and Public Contracts Practice Group Leader added, “We have been eager to expand the size and scope of our maritime practice to meet growing client demand for some time, and are thrilled that we have found an outstanding group of attorneys to enhance our ability to serve our clients, both regionally in the Gulf of Mexico and nationally.”

“We are excited to join Blank Rome and its notable maritime and energy practices as it expands in the Houston market,” said Michael K. Bell, Partner.  “Our established client base of domestic and international clients will undoubtedly benefit from the Firm’s geographic reach and breadth of practice areas.” 

In 2011, Blank Rome combined with Abrams Scott & Bickley and officially opened its Houston office.  With the addition of the Bell, Ryniker & Letourneau team, 20 attorneys now serve clients from that office in a wide variety of civil, criminal, and administrative matters in state and federal courts, at both the trial and appellate levels.

“We welcome the Bell, Ryniker & Letourneau team to our Houston office,” said Barry Abrams, Partner and Administrative Partner of Blank Rome’s Houston office.  “In addition to having  decades of legal experience, our new colleagues  also recognize and value the importance of dedicating time to professional and civic endeavors, which makes them an excellent complement to both the Houston office and the entire Firm.”  

Attorney Bios

Michael K. Bell, Partner—Michael concentrates his practice in complex litigation and corporate transactions. He has more than 30 years of experience counseling shipping companies, oil service companies, major petro-chemical producers, offshore construction companies, and terminal operators in various matters, including vessel financing and documentation. He also acts from time to time as a mediator or arbitrator for maritime and energy matters.  Michael graduated from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and served as both a seagoing officer and an attorney in the U.S. Coast Guard and as an attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice.  He is an active speaker in various maritime law continuing education programs. Currently, Michael serves on planning committees for several maritime law organizations, and is a member of the Board of the Houston Marine Insurance Seminar, as well as its Planning Committee.   He is also on the board of the Houston Maritime Association and the Maritime Law Association of the United States.  Michael is included in the latest International Who’s Who of Shipping and Maritime Lawyers 2010.

Keith B. Letourneau, Partner—Keith focuses his practice on maritime and litigation matters, including contract negotiations and disputes, vessel arrests, attachments, collisions and allisions, oil and hazardous materials pollution, and complex litigation.  His government contract experience includes shipyard bid protests, labor standards disputes, appeals of contracting officers’ final decisions before boards of contract, as well as solicitation and bid reviews and evaluations.  He has defended document-intensive shipyard and oil rig repair contract disputes.  Keith graduated from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and served as a trial attorney for both the U.S. Coast Guard's Procurement Law Division and the Admiralty Section of the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Division. He is a retired commander of the U.S. Coast Guard.  His military service also includes experience as a deck watch officer aboard a medium-endurance cutter in Florida and as commanding officer of a Coast Guard patrol boat stationed along the southeast Texas coast.

Douglas J. Shoemaker, Partner—Douglas focuses his practice on maritime, international, commercial and energy related transactions, and defense litigation.  His trial and arbitration experience includes maritime transactions, property damage, contract, charter party negotiation and dispute, insurance coverage, and cargo matters.  Douglas has worked as a master mariner licensed by the U.S. Coast Guard.  He serves as a proctor in admiralty for the Maritime Law Association of the United States, and has also been active with the Southeastern Admiralty Law Institute as a speaker, member of the board of directors, chairman of the Long-Range Planning Committee, editor, and editor-in-chief.

Robert J. Ryniker, Of Counsel—Robert concentrates his practice in litigation, arbitration, mediation, and appellate representation of clients in general liability, products liability, insurance coverage, and various toxic tort matters. His experience includes handling maritime matters involving defense of ship channel pilots, cargo claims, hull claims, offshore platforms, Jones Act, collisions, general average claims, maritime liens, salvage, charter parties, maritime contracts, and arrest and attachment issues. He is qualified as an attorney-mediator in accordance with applicable requirements of the State of Texas.  Robert graduated from the New York Maritime College and served aboard commercial vessels for more than five years as a merchant mariner. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard License, Oceans, Unlimited Tonnage, and was as an officer in the U.S. Naval Reserve. In addition, he is licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration as a commercial pilot and flight instructor, multi-engine and instrument-rated.  Robert serves as chairman of the Houston Maritime Arbitrators Association and Houston Mariners Club, and is a proctor in admiralty for the Maritime Law Association. 

James C. Arnold, Of Counsel—James concentrates his practice in admiralty and maritime matters, including marine insurance, contracts, collision, salvage, chartering, and Jones Act litigation. He has more than 30 years of experience advising clients in inland, ocean, and offshore shipping operations; offshore energy matters; international/domestic tanker and barge operations; ship and drilling rig newbuilding;  vessel/rig financing and documentation; international regulatory compliance; infrastructure project transactions; and oil spill and emergency disaster coordination and response.  Prior to rejoining private practice, James served as senior counsel for the Saudi Arabian Oil Company (Saudi Aramco) from 1995–2010.  During this time, he also acted as associate general counsel/secretary and principal attorney for Saudi Aramco’s wholly-owned tanker subsidiary, Vela International Marine Limited based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.  He is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and served seven years as an officer in the U.S. Navy. 

Mitchell R. Machann, Associate—Mitchell concentrates his practice on maritime transactions and complex commercial litigation, including oil and hazardous materials spill incidents.  He is also experienced in the arbitration and litigation of charter party and bill of lading disputes, as well as bunker supply and other maritime contract disputes. Mitchell serves on the board of directors for the Southeastern Admiralty Law Institute.

Wm. Tracy Freeman, Associate—Tracy concentrates his practice on maritime, transportation, commercial, energy, premises, and insurance litigation.  He has represented major companies in civil lawsuits involving allegations of wrongful death and catastrophic injuries, as well as cases brought under the Jones Act, Longshore Harbor Worker’s Compensation Act, Carriage of Goods by Sea Act, Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, and the Federal Clean Air Act.

David G. Meyer, Associate—David concentrates his practice in litigation related to the maritime shipping and energy industry, including injury and wrongful death claims; oil and hazardous materials spill incidents; vessel arrests and attachments; vessel collisions and allisions; Limitation of Liability actions under 46 U.S.C. § 181, et seq.; cargo casualties on behalf of vessel owners, charterers, stevedores and cargo interests; charter party and contractual disputes; and other complex commercial litigation. 

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