Kevin Muenster of Estes, Okon, Thorne & Carr
Kevin Muenster came to Sam Houston State University wanting to be an FBI agent and left hoping to be a prosecutor. Instead, after law school, he pursued a career in civil litigation and was recently named one of Texas’ top rising stars in his field.
Muenster (BS ’03), a senior associate attorney at Estes, Okon, Thorne & Carr PLLC in Dallas, specializes in general commercial litigation, representing clients in significant business disputes, energy litigation matters, construction claims and appellate issues. In April 2012, he earned a spot on the Texas Rising Stars list of the state’s top young lawyers, a designation earned by less than 2.5 percent all eligible attorneys in the state. The list is published by Texas Monthly and Texas Rising Stars magazines.
“I was pleasantly surprised,” said Muenster. “It was a very nice designation to have been recognized for what I have done up to this point in my career particularly because it came from my peers.”
Muenster’s unique journey to the top of his field began at SHSU, which he credits with preparing him for law school and providing direction for his future endeavors.
“I think SHSU was great as a stepping stone to get into law school,” said Muenster. “It also gave me the direction to decide what I wanted to do.”
After spending a year at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Muenster came to the College of Criminal Justice because of its stellar reputation in the field and its location being close to his hometown of Schulenburg. He said the program offered students outstanding opportunities to regularly interact with law enforcement professionals from a wide variety of state and federal agencies in order to get information and insight into their careers and lives.
Although he had dreams of becoming an FBI agent, Muenster soon learned a career in the FBI would require frequent relocation, and he wanted more stability in where he would live and raise his family. Since he did not envision himself working in law enforcement at the state or local level, he soon set his sights on law school to become a prosecutor. To prepare for that career, Muenster spent his last semester completing an internship with the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office in the Child Abuse Unit.
“I have a lot of respect for prosecutors and what they do on a day to day basis. During my time at the DA’s Office, I assisted the prosecutors in a number of cases involving some unthinkable crimes against children, and I learned very quickly what an extremely difficult—yet absolutely vital—role they play in our system of justice,” Muenster said.
While going to school and working part-time, Muenster enrolled in a nine month class to prepare for the LSAT, which required him to drive to College Station on nights and weekends to study. However, the investment paid off when he was accepted to Baylor University School of Law.
Muenster served as a law clerk for Judge Anne Gardner of the Second Court of Appeals in Texas.Muenster graduated from Baylor in 2006 and served as a law clerk for the Hon. Anne Gardner of the Second Court of Appeals of Texas in Fort Worth. Muenster said the experience was a great chance to see how the justice process worked behind the scenes and to make valuable contacts for his career.
“You learned what’s important to judges; what they like and don’t like,” said Muenster. “I got to see how cases are decided and opinions are written.”
After working at two law firms, he landed at Estes, Okon, Thorne & Carr, one of the few women-owned law firms in the Dallas area. He works closely with partner Melanie Okon and has gained invaluable experience by directly participating in every phase of litigation. He has tried six cases to verdict during his career—five of which while at the firm—and has been involved in everything from delivering opening statements to conducting cross examinations and depositions.
He works extensively in the oil and gas field and regularly assists clients in resolving issues concerning various types of contracts and other negotiation disputes. He has also been involved in several nuisance cases involving complaints against the owner of natural gas compressor stations by neighboring residents over noise, lights, and vibrations. He has also represented a mining company in multi-million dollar construction dispute involving the relocation of three 5.5 mile long gas pipelines.
As a first generation college and law school graduate, Muenster was grateful for the advice he was given along the way, and he hopes to guide other students who want to pursue a legal career.
“Law school is definitely a commitment,” said Muenster. “It is a lot of work and you have to take each step carefully. Develop as many relationships as you can with folks. You never know where the people you meet along the way may end up or how your paths may cross again down the road. Through it all, it’s important to just keep your eyes on the goal.”