Since Shakespeare’s Henry V, the term “band of brothers” has been a popular expression to describe an assembly of unique individuals united in their pursuit of a common and worthy goal. That term accurately describes the relationship among founding partners of Crawford Wishnew & Lang PLLC – Trey Crawford, Dave Wishnew and Michael Lang.
In February, 2018, after practicing together at a major Dallas law firm for years, Crawford, Wishnew and Lang struck out on their own with the intention of building a law firm comprised of like-minded men and women committed to using their individual strengths for the good of the team and, always, for the best interest of their clients. That law firm was Crawford Wishnew & Lang PLLC—commonly referred to as CWL.
The founding partners largely attribute the rapid growth of their boutique litigation firm, which represents plaintiffs and defendants in complex legal disputes in Texas and nationwide, to the intentional culture of camaraderie they implemented at CWL from the first day they opened its doors a little less than two years ago. “We call ourselves ‘Brothers In Law’ because that’s what we are. We’re a tightknit group. We view our firm as a family, and we rise and fall together,” Wishnew says.
CWL’s principals know they are somewhat of an anomaly in the legal profession, where individual recognition is often prioritized. Lang says, “Our tight relationship surprises some people, when they see that there’s not really competition between Dave, Trey and me.” Instead, the three often compare themselves to the tripartite branches of government—separate but equal and each integral to the success of the whole.
When they disagree, they do so like brothers, with the shared understanding that each has the intention of making the family better. “Fortunately, I can’t tell you of a case or an issue that we’ve disagreed on after vetting it. I think that comes from the friendship and respect we have for each other, as well as the experience we have working together over the last decade,” Crawford says.
READY! AIM! AIM AGAIN! AND THEN FIRE!
All three attorneys knew early in their careers that they would someday have their own firm—they just did not know what other names might be on the door. However, when Crawford, Wishnew and Lang met at their prior firm almost a decade ago, they all quickly recognized they were a good fit as lawyers, as businessmen, and as friends.
The move to forming CWL was a natural evolution.
As Crawford says, “It just happened to be the right time in our careers to pull the trigger and go out on our own. The timing speaks to you – you know it when you see it.”
Wishnew, who had always known he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and start his own firm someday, says, “There are only two people in the world I would want to do this with and that’s Trey and Michael. My dad had his own law firm, and I knew, when I was ready and I had paid my dues and become an expert in my craft just as my partners became experts in their craft , that the right time would be evident.”
While each attorney has his own unique brand of practicing law, part of what made this decision so clear for all three partners was their shared beliefs about how the legal profession should function at a foundational level.
After witnessing too many cases over the course of their careers unnecessarily go to trial as a result of another attorney’s misevaluation of the merits, Crawford, Wishnew and Lang all understand the importance of vetting each case the firm takes on and honestly advising each client on the strengths and weaknesses of that case. This way, the attorneys at CWL can resolve every case as efficiently and effectively as possible, whether that is ultimately through a judgment at trial or whether that is through a settlement pre-suit or at mediation.
Wishnew describes the early and thorough evaluation that is required. “Our approach is to determine the elements of the claim; what we need to prove to get there; what the strengths and weaknesses are; what it is going to cost our client; how long the litigation is going to last; and what is the likely outcome if the case goes up on appeal.”
“Too many legal firms take the ‘Ready! Fire! Aim!’ approach to forming a law firm and, unfortunately, in handling cases. Our approach is to get ready, take aim, make sure the aim is on target, and only then fire. It’s an approach that is a winner for our firm and for our clients,” Lang says.
ASSERTIVE ADVOCATES. TRUSTED ADVISORS.
The firm’s motto ‘Assertive Advocates. Trusted Advisors.’ fits squarely within this approach, and all of CWL’s attorneys are committed to finding the right balance between the two roles in every case.
“When all you have is a hammer, every problem is a nail,” Crawford says, noting that it is CWL’s practice to, whenever possible, work to achieve an early and efficient resolution that effectively monetizes or resolves their clients’ claims or defenses.
As part of this effort, all of CWL’s attorneys work diligently to cut out unnecessary litigation costs for their clients. “Certain costs are always going to be outside of your control – judges, juries, opposing lawyers – but effective advocacy is assessing the value of a claim early, properly advising your client, assessing strengths and weaknesses, and, if early resolution is not obtainable, that’s when you go fight down at the courthouse,” Lang says.
Wishnew says that, whether on the plaintiff side or the defense side, the case usually comes down to a single issue and the goal is to get there as efficiently as possible. “You can spend a lot of money going down rabbit holes and trying to dig up a lot of stuff that ultimately is going to be irrelevant. Or you can focus on the one issue,” Lang adds, noting that this approach helps CWL limit the emotional impact on its clients and drive the case to its most efficient conclusion.
CWL’s lawyers also take their role as advisors and counselors seriously, acknowledging that the emotional, psychological, and business effects of litigation on clients should be competently addressed by attorneys for the benefit of both the litigation and the client personally. Lang says, “Addressing those concerns is an important part of our commitment to do everything possible to help our clients achieve their goals.”
This unique counseling role often results in friendships with clients. “We’re careful with who we accept as clients, and we become very close to them. Some of my closest friends are clients we’ve represented in litigation,” Crawford says.
THE CWL TEAM
From the foundational values of the firm, to its client relationships, down to the smallest of details within the walls of the firm’s downtown office, the sense of family is everywhere at CWL. For example, the firm’s three conference rooms are named after the three principal’s dogs: Mac, for Wishnew’s English Bulldog; Lincoln, for Crawford’s Vizsla; and Bruce, for Lang’s Boxer. And just down the hall, a lounge area, complete with comfortable seating, a shuffleboard table and bar, serves as a place for CWL’s employees to relax and spend time together.
Crawford says, “We love practicing together. We work hard but we enjoy it. We laugh a lot. We like to all gather in our office late Friday afternoons for happy hours and to catch up with what’s happened during the week and what’s going on in each other’s lives.”
Illustrating the support the members of the firm have for each other both at work and in their personal lives, Wishnew says, “If something happens to them, it happens to me. We support each other, not just here at the firm, but outside the firm with things that are important to us as humans. We formed a true team environment. Everybody rows in the same direction.”
The partners agree that adding the best people to the firm’s team, which now includes a total of nine attorneys, is part of what makes CWL great. “We hit a grand slam with the people we’ve selected, who are now part of the CWL family. These people haven’t just made the firm successful, they’ve helped make it fun,” Lang says.
Trey Crawford grew up in Dallas and attended Richardson High School. Crawford graduated from TCU majoring in finance (cum laude) and was a four-year letterman on the baseball team. With ambitions of a career in the FBI, Crawford headed to law school at SMU. Once there, however, his career focus changed. “I found the competitive nature of litigation similar to athletics and I really thrived in that atmosphere winning several national mock trial competitions.”
Today, Crawford’s legal practice focuses on complex, often high-stakes business disputes. His verdicts have been featured in National Law Journal’s “Big Money Wins,” Texas Lawyer’s “10 Million Dollar Club,” the Dallas Morning News, and the Dallas Business Journal.
Outside of the office, Crawford is an avid golfer; co-owns a wine company out of Napa, California (Horned Toad Cabernet); and spends a lot of time with his wife and family at their cattle ranches in south Texas and New Mexico. A big believer in both family and community, Crawford recently helped his father-in-law, then Sheriff of Victoria County and recently appointed U.S. Marshal for the Southern District of Texas, deliver urgently needed patrol cars to Rockport following Hurricane Harvey.
Originally from the Dallas area and a graduate of Richardson J.J. Pearce High School, Michael Lang graduated from the University of Texas and law school at SMU. In his legal practice, Lang focuses on complex commercial, bankruptcy and probate disputes on behalf of trustees and the beneficiaries of wills and estates or trust representatives. His clients include individuals and businesses of all types and sizes and across several industries, including real estate, private equity, manufacturing, banking and technology. He has litigated high-exposure, multi-million dollar cases in state and federal courts throughout Texas and across the country, including a 2014 well-publicized case before the Supreme Court of the United States, Wellness International Network, Ltd. v. Sharif, 135 S.Ct. 1932 (2015).
The youngest of Michael’s two daughters has Rett syndrome, which is a rare neurological disorder that combines symptoms of autism, cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s and epilepsy and primarily manifests in girls between the ages of one and three years old. Lang and his wife, Amanda, are actively involved in raising money for Rett Syndrome Research Trust, which is a non-profit organization that is leading the charge in Rett syndrome research worldwide.
The couple recently hosted the first ever Reverse Rett Dallas at one of the firm’s clients, Community Beer Company in Dallas, which was also sponsored by CWL. Additionally, the firm supports other causes and charities, often focusing its fundraising efforts on charities designed to help children, including the Sandlot Children’s Charities, Special Olympics, Big Brothers Big Sisters and St. Jude’s.
Dave Wishnew describes his father, who was also an attorney, as one of the biggest influences in his life. “My dad passed away when I was a senior at Allen high school. I feel fortunate to have had almost 18 years with him, and it is hard to believe it has been 23 without him. My experiences with him shaped who I am today. It affects my relationships with my family and friends, my business partners and associates, and my clients,” says Wishnew.
A two-time Scholar Athlete All American in soccer at Rhodes College, Wishnew later attended law school at the University of Texas before moving home to Dallas. Wishnew’s law practice focuses on complex commercial, employment, and intellectual property litigation in state courts, federal courts, and administrative forums throughout Texas and across the country. His clients include individuals and businesses of all types and sizes. In 2017, a Dallas jury awarded Wishnew’s client, wedding photographer Andrea Polito, a substantial verdict in a defamation case that garnered international attention in hundreds of publications and media outlets. Wishnew tried the case with associate, T.J. Jones.
Wishnew stays busy outside of the office. He is a co-owner and investor in several bars and restaurants and other fun ventures in Dallas: Mac’s Southside, which was named after his English bulldog, Zalat Pizza, Malibu Poke, 77 Degrees Rooftop Lounge, and Jack & Gingers Irish Pub.
Wishnew is also a popular choice for wedding officiant among his engaged friends and has presided over no less than five weddings in recent years. “Officiating a wedding is one of the coolest and most rewarding things I’ve done in my life,” he says.
The “Brothers In Law” are looking forward to CWL’s continued growth, which they know stems from their commitment to maintaining CWL as a place where a professional approach to the law is combined with a familial approach to business.
Crawford says the firm’s future looks bright. “I get to wake up every day doing what I love to do, solving some of the most difficult problems. Sometimes we’re able to solve them sooner, and sometimes we invest years. But we get to do it together, in a firm we built together, with men and women that we trust and respect. We get to win together,” he says.
Undoubtedly, when Henry V said, “we few, we happy few” on the eve of the Battle of Agincourt, he was not talking about a group of lawyers—but it seems he could have been.