Nathaniel Barr

/ Dallas/Fort Worth's Best Lawyers 2017

Dan Cogdell of Houston’s Cogdell Law Firm has won some of the biggest criminal defense cases of our time. From successfully defending members of the Branch Davidians in the 1990s, to securing the only successful acquittal in the Enron trial, to winning last year’s much-publicized Planned Parenthood case, Cogdell has proven himself, again and again, to be an excellent trial lawyer. And his focus is always on the next case, the next trial, and the next acquittal.

“The biggest case I’ve ever tried is the one I’m getting ready to try,” says Cogdell. “I think any good trial lawyer has a clear windshield and no rearview mirror—there’s no time or reason to look back, so look forward.”

Cogdell found the law through an unusual route: attending motorcycle races at the local motocross track. When Cogdell was growing up in Houston, he would see the criminal defense lawyer Richard “Racehorse” Haynes—who turned 90 in April—out at the track, racing his bike in the over-30 class. At that time, Mr. Haynes began to garner national and regional attention for his own trial success. Something clicked.

“Mr. Haynes was an absolute icon and rock star of criminal defense in Texas,” says Cogdell. “I thought, if this old guy from the motocross track can do this, how hard can it be? I went to law school with the idea of going to work for Mr. Haynes and I was lucky enough to do that.”

Cogdell quickly realized that defenses are won through painstaking effort, and, he says, often by extracting the truth from hostile witnesses. Cogdell seems to relish the battle, and his dedication to his craft is indisputable. He frequently wakes up in the night thinking about his cases and says he hasn’t had a full eight hours sleep since he began his career as a criminal defense lawyer.

To clear his head, Cogdell goes motorcycle racing. This year, he is racing his Austrian KTM bike in the Baja 1000, a thousand-mile race that starts in Ensenada, Mexico, and trails down the coast to just outside of Cabo San Lucas. It’s a long, grueling, and exciting challenge, and—as with his next case—Cogdell is always ready.

“When you’re racing through the desert at 110 miles an hour at 3:00 a.m., you’re not worried about if the judge may be mean to you the next day,” says Cogdell, jovially. “I like to refer to it as a fear neutralizer. If I can get through a motorcycle race, showing up and picking a jury is a pleasure and an opportunity.”

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