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Alumni Spotlight

Ed Sullivan ‘97 argues before the U.S. Supreme Court in a labor and employment law case

Fermeen Fazal ‘00 visits the UH Law Center and the newly named Fermeen Fazal Student Organization Flex Room.

Ed Sullivan ‘97 (second from) with Richard Burch ’97 (far left) gather outside the U.S. Supreme Court Building.

Jan. 03, 2023 — Ed Sullivan’s career came full circle when the UH Law Center alumnus argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in Helix Energy Solutions Group, Inc. v. Hewitt, a case centered around whether an employee who earned six figures and was paid a daily rate is entitled to overtime pay.

As he entered the Supreme Court Building, Sullivan said he actively tried not to take it all in, instead maintaining “tunnel vision, focus on why I’m there.” Since August 2017, Sullivan has represented Michael J. Hewitt, a former Helix Energy Solutions employee who “worked a significant amount of overtime” and was never compensated for it. At the core of the lawsuit is whether Hewitt, who was paid $963 each day he worked, was paid a salary.

The oral arguments took place on Wednesday, Oct. 12, with a decision from the court expected between January and March 2023, according to Sullivan.

For Sullivan, arguing a case before the Supreme Court was as “remote a possibility” as going to Mars. Though Sullivan’s career looks straightforward on paper — working at the Texas Attorney General’s office after law school, a clerkship with U.S. Magistrate Judge Marcia A. Crone ‘78, a stint at a national law firm, and co-founding his own firm — the reality is that it was more of a winding path for the Alice, Texas native.

The metrics that typically portend post-law school success were not there for Sullivan, at least at the beginning. He lost his Law Center scholarship after the first semester. He “barely” graduated in the top half of his class and didn’t have a “solid job” in law school. In fact, Sullivan’s first post with the Attorney General’s office didn’t come until 10 months after graduation. Looking back at his law school performance, “you wouldn’t have guessed at the time” that Sullivan would be where he is today.

“Not having a job was hard, but you have to believe in yourself,” Sullivan said. “I had a lot of that self-belief that I could do a good job if I had a chance. I was literally taping all my rejection letters to my bedroom wall in my hole-in-the-wall apartment.”

Sullivan’s strategies for making it through some of law school’s lows were “developing relationships with people” and putting himself out there. Participating in the John Black Moot Court Tournament brought out his gifts and passions, and soon Sullivan found his “real niche” in mock trial.

“I left UH with a lot of confidence I could be a trial lawyer or do appeals,” he said.

In fact, one of Sullivan’s law school friends Richard “Rex” Burch ‘97 of Bruckner Burch PLLC, was one of the colleagues who helped Sullivan conduct four moot courts leading up to his argument before the U.S. Supreme Court. “It does sort of come full circle,” he said.

“Just believe in yourself,” Sullivan said. “If you don’t bet on yourself, you won’t succeed.”

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