Deborah Hankinson excels in many roles: appellate attorney, oral advocate, strategist, mediator, arbitrator, and problem-solver. In each, she draws on her background as a trial lawyer and jurist to bring a unique combination of skills and outstanding value to her clients. She is Board Certified in Civil Appellate Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, a Fellow of the American Academy of Appellate Lawyers, a Fellow of the College of Commercial Arbitrators, a member of the American Law Institute, and a member of the Board of Directors of the American Arbitration Association (AAA).
Deborah graduated at the top of her class at Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law. From there, she joined Thompson & Knight, L.L.P., where she tried cases and practiced appellate law. In 1995, she was appointed, and later elected, to serve as a Justice on the Fifth District Court of Appeals in Dallas. From 1997 to 2002, Deborah served as a Justice on the Supreme Court of Texas. In recognition of her many accomplishments on the bench, the Texas Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates honored Deborah as the Texas Judge of the Year in 1999. In 2002, she received the Distinguished Alumni Award for Judicial Service from Southern Methodist University. In 2017, she received the Distinguished Alumni award from the University of Texas at Dallas.
Since returning to private practice in 2002, Deborah has been a trailblazer in her approach to the practice of appellate law, which features strategic involvement long before the appeals process begins. Clients retain Deborah not only for her excellence in oral advocacy and post-verdict briefing, but also to work closely with trial teams to develop and execute pretrial and trial strategy, build evidence, and optimize the positioning of a case for trial and appeal. As an essential member of the trial team, she frequently handles pivotal motions and argues jury charges.
In addition, Deborah consults with other lawyers on trial and appellate briefs and presides over mock arguments to offer insights as to how a court or jury may react. She has served as a special master and dispute resolution officer and maintains a vibrant ADR practice. Deborah often serves as a neutral in arbitration proceedings and is a sought-after mediator for conflicts that include sophisticated business disputes, complex tort cases, and sensitive employment issues. Get further information on the firm’s mediation and arbitration practice.
Deborah is nationally recognized for her deep commitment to the issue of equal access to justice. While on the Supreme Court of Texas, she was a driving force behind the creation of the Texas Access to Justice Commission, which works to ensure that low-income Texans have access to justice in civil legal matters. Since then, Deborah has made an ongoing imprint on the development of equal access to justice in jurisdictions across the United States. In 2003, the Access to Justice Commission recognized Deborah’s myriad contributions by establishing the Deborah G. Hankinson Access to Justice Awards, which reward local bar associations and Texas Young Lawyers Association affiliates in the cities with the highest percentage of attorneys donating to legal aid.