In explanation as to why this pair chose to champion the cause of landowners in eminent domain cases. Both Spivey and Valenciano fiercely believe in the inherent rights of the individual to protect his or her property and to receive just compensation if the property is taken for public use. Part of this comes from Spivey’s love of the outdoors and the connection he makes with every rancher he meets, and part of this comes from Valenciano’s concern that property is a huge financial and personal investment for people, so they deserve to be treated with that in mind.
Not too surprisingly, some friends and colleagues seemed to think choosing a woman for this particular practice area might not be the best option for Spivey. Thankfully, Spivey disagreed.
“I appreciate so much that Jim didn’t give in to stereotypes,” says Valenciano. “If there were skeptics, I liked to remind them that women own property too! In fact, I like to tell people that I’m a lawyer that wears high heels and boots.”
And they were both ready to get their boots dirty if necessary, to get the job done right.
To build a name for their practice and see the CREZ-affected communities, Spivey, Montgomery and Valenciano traveled to CREZ strongholds to host town-hall meetings. Spivey explains. “We weren’t even necessarily trying to market work but that’s what happened. Ranchers connected with us and wanted us to represent their interests.”
In order to host these town-hall meetings, Spivey admits he dove headfirst into an intense “crash course” on condemnation.
“I spent 2009 and 2010 reading every condemnation case, every CLE article I could find, and even some transcripts of condemnation trials,” he says. “After a full day’s work, Mike, Soledad and I would hop in my truck and drive out to rural communities like Coleman, Lampasas and Knickerbocker and we’d do these town-hall meetings. Before long, we started getting calls from folks who were facing transmission lines on their property.”
This was the start of not only what would become one of the most successful landowner condemnation practices in the state, but also a powerful and progressive team.
But, in 2012 Spivey and Valenciano hit a bump in the road. Big firm life had its advantages, but as many lawyers know, every new case starts with a conflicts check.
“There were other sections of our firm that represented various municipalities, there were those who represented pipeline or gas companies, which are the same entities that are bringing condemnation cases against landowners,” says Spivey, “so we could see that ours was going to be a very difficult practice to develop long term in a big law firm.”
This original setback signaled the start of Spivey Valenciano PLLC in 2012. Gratefully, it was with the complete support and encouragement of the people the two had worked with for so long. “We were very fortunate to have the support of our colleagues, including that of Jamie Smith, Cox Smith’s then-managing partner,” adds Valenciano.