ALEXANDER’S RELAXED AUSTIN OFFICE
reflects his love of international travel. A
vibrant area rug from Oaxaca brightens up
the corner office, though the light outside
is dreary on an overcast April morning. Two
walls of floor-to-ceiling windows offer airy
views from the firm’s downtown location on
the 23rd floor of a building on the edge of
Austin’s entertainment district. Alexander’s
sleek black-and-glass office furniture is
balanced by honey-colored wood accent
pieces and a large, vivid photograph he
brought back from San Miguel de Allende.
He himself is at ease. Wearing a black
polo shirt and dark jeans, he recalls how his
experiences with AMIGOS led to a short-lived
major in pre-med that shifted to government
and international relations at Pomona and,
eventually, law school. “I rationalized that
becoming an international lawyer would
give me a lot of flexibility,” says Alexander,
who attended the University of Houston Law
Center after moving to the city and working
at AMIGOS’ Houston headquarters.
It was there, during his initial semester in
1977, that he first learned about appellate
law. Overhearing some classmates
discussing the Philip C. Jessup International
Law Moot Court Competition, Alexander’s
ears perked up. “When I heard ‘international,’
I thought, ‘That sounds good,’ but when I
heard ‘moot court,’ I had no idea what that
was,” he says. Still, he signed up for the
well-known competition, mainly because
the regionals were being held in Denver
in March, which meant good skiing. “But
the appellate thing got in my blood,” says
Alexander, who credits as mentors the late
appellate pioneers Rusty McMains and Lee
Ware, both University of Houston alums and
Alexander’s moot court coaches.
However, it wasn’t a straight path to
appellate law. After law school, Alexander
practiced first in San Diego. He began
to do litigation—mostly admiralty and
maritime—but discovered it was not for
him. “It was very interesting, but it was
always this pressure-cooker environment.”
Alexander returned to Texas in the
early 1980s and took his last deposition in
1987—the first year, coincidentally, that the
appellate practice specialization exam was
offered in Texas. By 1990, he was certified
in civil appellate law.
“It never gets boring,” he says. “I
tell people I largely market ignorance.
Appellate judges have to deal with
personal injury cases, wrongful death,
zoning, taxation, constitutional law.
They may have backgrounds where they
specialize in a particular area, but overall
they’re generalists. And what I discovered
is, in those kinds of cases, I end up being a
translator.” He also loves the fact that, as
an attorney working on appeals, he gets to
help develop the law itself.
Appellate law requires a tremendous
amount of writing, and Alexander feels
his college experience with AMIGOS has
helped him write winning briefs. “A lot
of what I like about appellate work is
the persuasion,” he says. “Sometimes I
tell people that I was given the tools of
advocacy in law school—research, writing—
but the art of persuasion I really got
working in Latin America.” Today, he sits on
the AMIGOS Foundation Board of Trustees.
He helped start the Austin AMIGOS chapter
and served as its first president.
The year he spent clerking for the Hon.
John R. Brown, a former chief judge on
the U. S. Court of Appeals for the 5th
Circuit, also influenced his writing. It was
1980, before the circuit split into the 5th
and 11th circuits. Twenty-five judges made
up the court, located in New Orleans.
“Imagine arguing in front of 25 people.
You’d stand up and say, ‘May it please the
court…’ and it was just like sniper fire,”
“Judge Brown had an incredible legal
mind, and his retention was just humbling.
He was also totally colorful: He would go
to the opera, wear a red cape, and sit in
the front row conducting.” Brown was also
a demanding mentor, but he let his clerks
draft the opinions for his high-profile cases.
He supervised, says Alexander, “but he gave
his clerks a huge amount of responsibility.”
Alexander, age 8, checks out the surf at
Hope Ranch Beach in Santa Barbara, California.
A California native who grew up surfing and skiing, Alexander had to find a
different hobby when he moved to landlocked Austin from San Diego in the early
1980s. In his 50s, he transitioned to skimboarding, and paddleboarding on Lady
Bird Lake. Then, he says, “I decided to commute to work one day a week on my
skateboard.” He typically uses a 54-inch longboard for that, while his shorter
board comes out for House Park Skatepark, the concrete paradise a few blocks
from home near downtown. He and other early risers spend their mornings
weaving among the ramps, rails, half-pipe and bowl at the 30,000-square-
foot skate park. It’s not surfing, but skateboarding satisfies Alexander. “It’s the
feeling of flying, the sense of cutting back and forth,” he says.
“Doug’s always in motion,” says colleague Amy Warr.