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04 May 2021

Vinson & Elkins names next chair as firm creates new executive committee

Partner Keith Fullenweider will replace outgoing chairman Mark Kelly at the start of next year

By Ben Edwards

(From L-R) Vinson & Elkins' new chair Keith Fullenweider and new vice chairs Jim Fox, Michael Holmes and Hilary Preston Images courtesy of Vinson & Elkins

Vinson & Elkins is shaking up its leadership structure by installing a new executive committee to replace its outgoing chairman and managing partner from the start of next year.

Corporate partner Keith Fullenweider has been elected chair, with private equity partner Jim Fox, litigation partner Michael Holmes and IP partner Hilary Preston named vice chairs. The four partners will make up the new executive committee, replacing current chairman Mark Kelly and managing partner Scott Wulfe after a decade in those roles.

Kelly said: “Keith, Jim, Michael, and Hilary are the right choice to lead our firm. As individual lawyers, each is extremely respected, possesses tremendous leadership skills and has a keen strategic vision for our firm. At the same time, they each come from different offices, have different practices, and bring unique personal strengths. This approach reflects the way our partners practice and grow the firm – together as true partners.”

Fullenweider has been with the firm for more than 30 years and currently serves as co-head of the firm’s corporate department in Houston. Fox is currently co-managing partner of the New York office and has played a large part in building the firm’s private equity practice. Holmes is co-head of the commercial litigation practice in Dallas, while Preston is chair of the IP and technology practice, splitting her time between New York and Austin.

Fullenweider said: “We thank Mark and Scott for their remarkable leadership over the past 10 years. During this time, in addition to our established expertise in energy and infrastructure, our investments in litigation, real estate, private equity, technology, leveraged finance, arbitration and investigations have propelled the firm forward.”

While revenue at the firm slipped 1.3% in 2020 to $782.4m due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, profits rose 2.7% to $358.8m. As a result profits per equity partner increased 5.1% to $2.94m, though that was partly supported by a 2.3% decrease in the number of equity partners.

Wulfe added: “The key to the success of Vinson & Elkins remains our reputation for consistently delivering excellent client service and results, while fostering a culture that values collaboration and mutual support of all of our lawyers. This is the foundation for advancing the goals of our clients. We are confident the incoming executive committee will maintain our entrepreneurial spirit and culture of trust that drives success.” 

In January, the firm hired M&A lawyer Gabriel Silva from Linklaters in a bid to expand its cross-border transactions capabilities, particularly in Latin America. Last month it also saw tech startup-focused partner Wesley Watts and senior associate Luke Thomas move over to Silicon Valley firm Gunderson Dettmer Stough Villeneuve Franklin & Hachigian for that firm’s opening in Austin.

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