Rusty McMains was born in Dallas, Texas and raised in Lancaster. He received a full academic scholarship to the University of Houston, earning a B.S. in the Honors Program in 1968, and in 1971 a J.D. with honors. During college and law school, he found his love for debate, advocacy and jurisprudence, winning the National Championship with the Moot Court team.
After graduating from law school, Rusty joined Fulbright & Jaworski in Houston, and found his calling in appellate work. Soon after, he opened his own firm. Over his 38-year career, he would become one of the most magnificent legal minds and appellate lawyers in Texas. His long-time friend and colleague, Bill Chriss, described Rusty’s legacy:
History will record that Rusty was the greatest Texas appellate lawyer of the twentieth century. He was chair of the appellate law section of the State Bar of Texas, he helped found the insurance law section, and he served with distinction on the Pattern Jury Charge Committee and the Supreme Court Advisory Committee for decades. After several years I figured out that one reason Rusty could so easily turn the tables on our opponents was not just his penchant for intellectual jiu jitsu, but the simple fact that he had actually written most of the rules of the game himself. Especially in the 1980s, his was the winning brief in a long series of watershed decisions by the Texas Supreme Court, decisions that removed archaic burdens and limitations on the rights of ordinary working people to recover damages from large multinational corporations, the rich and powerful: Sanchez v. Schindler, Hofer v. Lavender, Duncan v. Cessna, Bedgood v. Madalin, and a host of others. But he was also sought out by defendants, and perhaps the most fun he ever had as a lawyer was masterminding the salvation of Texaco after it had been hit with the biggest jury verdict in the history of the universe. One reason for this was that he was able to work on the case (and dine and tour New York by limousine) with several of his good friends, including Mike Hatchell and Bill Dorsaneo. My good friend, retired Chief Justice Jack Pope, a man of incredible dignity and intellect, often said that the best oral arguments he ever heard in his 35 years on the appellate bench were Rusty’s.
Rusty was an adjunct professor and debate coach for the University of Houston Law School from 1973-1979 and a Director on the University of Houston Law School Foundation for a number of years.