Dan Cogdell is a very busy man, but he’s not the kind of lawyer who doesn’t return phone calls. It’s a trait that’s immediately noticeable about him; when you don’t reach him, you’re guaranteed either a phone call or a follow-up email within a business day. Waiting days for a busy attorney like Cogdell to return correspondence is, unfortunately, what most clients usually expect from highly sought-after counsel. While Cogdell is undoubtedly a busy man, spending his days defending some of the highest-profile criminal cases in Texas and throughout the country (proven by his dominating presence in Google News searches), he has spent a dazzling legal career defying industry expectation. What’s one more to add to the list?
“While some lawyers my age are nearing retirement, I’m busier than ever,” says Cogdell, whose namesake law firm opened its doors to strictly handle criminal defense more than three decades ago. And he isn’t kidding. Cogdell is currently defending the attorney general for the State of Texas against allegations of securities fraud; he’s doing the same as the lead lawyer for Reverend Kirbyjon Caldwell, the pastor at a Houston-area megachurch who was handed a 13-count federal indictment last year on accusations that he defrauded a group of elderly investors out of more than a million dollars. In press coverage of the Caldwell case, Cogdell offers confident assurances that Caldwell will eventually be acquitted of the charges. Cogdell’s track record of success in the courtroom is as good an indicator as any that Caldwell is in the
right legal hands.
The Cogdell Law Firm was founded in 1988 after Dan Cogdell spent time learning the art of trial law at Houston area defense firms and under such Texas legends as Richard “Racehorse” Haynes, who died a few years ago at the age of 90. Upon Haynes’s passing, Cogdell told local media that it was from Haynes that he learned how to read and, more importantly, connect to a jury. “I recognize that I had the blessing of working under a legendary mentor whose teachings and lessons are the foundation of my success,” he says. Thirty-one years after leaving Haynes and starting his own firm, Cogdell is a legal titan in his own right and is showing no signs of slowing his frenetic pace. In fact, Cogdell is working with a production team to do yet a second documentary on Cogdell’s storied career; the first, released last year on the Oxygen Network, was based on his successful representation of Clive Doyle, a member of the Branch Davidian sect who escaped the deadly fires when the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms bungled its raid on the compound. “Whatever my life is, it certainly isn’t boring,” says Cogdell.
There really is no substitute for experience.
Cogdell is opening up an office in Dallas to better serve his clients in the Metroplex as well as adding lawyers to his already talented team in Houston. “I’ve got some really great folks working alongside of me of me and I am really grateful for their effort, talent, and commitment. They are a terrific team. We are fortunate to be getting more and more business which requires us adding more good lawyers.” He also recently recruited a veteran FBI agent in order to bolster the firm’s already rock-solid legal strategic team. “She comes to us with more than 25 years experience investigating some of the most high-profile cases on behalf of the government,” Cogdell says. “Her insight and experience are critical in helping us not only prepare our side of the case but to help us analyze the weaknesses of the opposition—particularly in federal matters.” As Cogdell notes, one issue other firms frequently encounter in defending criminal matters is that the lack of a proper investigative team, which hinders their ability to properly anticipate what the other side’s strategy will be. While that has never been an issue for Cogdell, this key addition of the former FBI agent means the firm can go to trial with the knowledge that it has not been out-prepared.
Being out-fought is never on the table, either. That’s probably one of the reasons Cogdell has been asked to parachute into matters initially taken on by larger national and international firms; when it comes time to go to trial many find themselves falling short of Cogdell’s unrivaled trial skillset. “Those firms frequently have an incredible depth and breadth of talented lawyers but may need a lawyer who has my experience in the courtroom. That doesn’t always exist in firms, no matter how large and otherwise talented they are.” Indeed, as Cogdell—and his clients—can attest, size is most certainly not a deciding factor when it comes to courtroom experience. “If you needed a critical surgery, would you want a doctor operating on you who had never performed the procedure before? As with any life-threatening surgery, there really is no substitute for experience if you want a successful outcome. Learning on the job isn’t an option.”