Favorite Male Attorney
It’s always easy to identify people who are comfortable in their own humanity. They tend to be spontaneous, creative, intuitive, and are destined to make the world a better place.
Take Jeff Watters, for example. This year’s Favorite Male Attorney graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2005 with a dual major in business administration and political science. “The business degree was a concession to my parents,” Watters admits. “Law was in my heart, even as a child. I was always the kid on the playground who knew the rules of the game, and could negotiate the solution to a challenge.”
Watters was a natural choice to be a “youth attorney” in his elementary school’s “court” for kids who had committed minor offenses. He argued fervently on behalf of his friends who were being disciplined. “It was enormously rewarding to help them arrive at reasonable outcomes. Ninety percent of the kids never re-offended!” he recalls.
Watters received his law degree at Baylor University School of Law, where he graduated magna cum laude and also acted as executive editor of the Baylor Law Review. After a stint at the prestigious Baker Botts law firm, he is now an estate and probate litigator at Gray Reed & McGraw LLP. “Clients appreciate my ability to empathize during a highly emotional time in their lives. It’s never just about money for them. I focus on getting to the bottom of complex [family inheritance] issues and finding creative solutions that will achieve the end results my clients deserve. That is a very rewarding experience for me,” he concludes.
Watters’ has also had a serious impact on Houston’s LGBTQ community through his volunteer work. “Jeff is always willing to roll up his sleeves,” says Brad Pritchett, field director for Equality Texas, an LGBTQ political advocacy organization. “Through his involvement with the Houston LGBTQ+ Political Caucus, he has stepped up to help screen candidates who are asking for the support of our community.”
Last year, Watters was appointed co-chair of the leadership council at Lambda Legal Houston, a local chapter of the oldest and largest national organization in the country with the mission to advance the civil rights of LGBTQ people through high-impact litigation, education, and public-policy work. (It was Lambda Legal that won the landmark U.S. Supreme Court Lawrence v. Texas ruling that struck down the nation’s sodomy laws in 2003.)
“We are very grateful for Jeff’s leadership,” says Avery Belyeu, regional director for the South Central Office of Lambda Legal. “He brings a can-do attitude to everything he does. His commitment to civil rights and equality is hard to match, and we are very lucky to work alongside him in this fight.”
LEGAL & FINANCIAL
Finalists: BB&T, Regions Bank, Wells Fargo
Best Credit Union
Houston Federal Credit Union
Finalist: People’s Trust Federal Credit Union
Best Male Accountant/Bookkeeper
Joseph Werle (Crunch Consulting)
Finalists: Gary Gritz, Brian Kapchinskie, Donald Simon
Best Female Attorney
Deborah Lawson (tie), Jessica Rodriguez-Wahlquist (tie)
Finalists: Joanne Ericksen, Lena Laurenzo, Dawn Renken
Best Male Attorney
Raed Gonzalez (tie), John Nechman (tie), Jeff Watters (tie)
Finalists: Mitchell Katine, Adam Miller
Best Female Financial Planner/Advisor
Finalists: Berkely Arrents, Britt Kormann, Christyna Lewis, Lona McManus
Best Male Financial Planner/Advisor
Finalists: Elias Contreras, Shane Theriot
Best LGBTQ Fund Manager
Doug Smith (Hawthorne Capital)
Best Male Real-Estate Agent
Finalists: Bryan Cotton, Jeremy Fain, Thomas Phillips, Danny Pleaseon, Chris Schmidt, Colby Wulf
Best Female Real-Estate Agent
Karen Derr (tie), Debbie Levine (tie)
Finalists: Melissa Murray, LaToya Phillips, Shan Randle
Best Mortgage Company
AmCap Home Loans (Cari Middaugh)
Finalists: Amegy Mortgage, John Frels, Cody Grizzoffi
Best Title Company
Alamo Title Co. (Lyn Sullivan)
Finalists: Chicago Title Inner Loop, Texas American Title
Best Home Builder
Sabo Custom Builders
Finalists: Jose Ocque, Sandcastle Homes, ROC Homes, Loyd Russel Homes
Best Home Remodeling Company
Heels 2 Hammer
Finalists: Juancho Jimenez, Luria Construction, Odd Job Fence Co.
Favorite Rental Community
Finalists: Elan Heights, Elan Memorial Park, Law Harrington Senior Living Center
For a full list of winners, go here.
This article appears in the October 2021 edition of OutSmart magazine.