January 18, 2011 7:23 PM
Gibson Dunn Hires Four Partners from Vinson & Elkins
Posted by Brian Baxter
Jeffrey Chapman, an M&A partner and member of the management committee at V&E, is making the move to Gibson Dunn, along with William Dawson, the head of V&E's litigation and regulatory department, corporate partner Robert Little, and litigation partner Michael Raiff, who serves as V&E's media practice leader.
Robert Walters, a former Vinson partner serving as general counsel for Energy Future Holdings, will also join Gibson Dunn. Walters left the firm in 2008 to join the Texas utility, which was known as TXU before going private in a $44 billion deal in 2007.
"Rob Walters was a fine partner with V&E for many years," managing partner Joseph Dilg said in a statement to The Am Law Daily. "For the past three years, he has had a close association with the firm in its representation of Energy Future Holdings in various matters. Bill Dawson, Jeff Chapman, Mike Raiff, and Rob Little have been good colleagues and partners, and we wish all of them well in their future endeavors."
Reached by phone late Tuesday, Chapman (pictured right) says that several firms had approached him during the past few months. Gibson Dunn, though, was the only one he says he took seriously. He cites his friendship with Gibson Dunn antitrust and trade regulation practice cochair M. Sean Royall in Dallas as being one factor behind his move to the firm.
Chapman says that he is also friends with Walters--the two were coheads of V&E's Dallas office for eight years--and that the two had always discussed practicing law together again. The other three Vinson partners, whom Chapman describes as close friends, "kind of came together" at the end and decided to join Gibson Dunn en masse.
Chapman has been leading a V&E team representing Douglas Miller, chairman and CEO of Exco Resources, who has teamed up with T. Boone Pickens and two private equity firms in a $4.36 billion takeover bid for the Dallas-based oil and gas company, which recently enacted its poison pill provision. Chapman also took the lead advising Addison, Texas-based health care company Concentra on its $790 million sale to Humana in late November.
Walters, who handled class action litigation and regulatory work at V&E for 23 years before moving in-house two years ago, says that the breadth of Gibson Dunn's litigation and antitrust practices is what attracted him to the firm. Walters says the presence of leading litigation partners such as Theodore Olson, Theodore Boutrous, Jr., Orin Snyder, and Randy Mastro helping convince him that Gibson Dunn was the place for him. (The firm was named The American Lawyer's Litigation Department of the Year in 2010.)
"I think this move is a recognition of Texas and the third coast... There's a vibrant economy [down here], and I think that's why they're investing in us and taking this chance," Walters says, adding that he and Gibson Dunn managing partner Kenneth Doran saw "eye-to-eye" on a lot of things.
Walters says that Gibson Dunn contacted him and Chapman independently about joining the firm and the two decided to move together before the rest of the lateral team from V&E came together. Walters, Chapman, and corporate partner Little say they did not use a legal recruiter for the move. Little, who served as hiring partner for V&E's Dallas office, says he made the decision to leave for Gibson Dunn "fairly recently" and that the firm's national reputation was a factor in his decision. (Dawson and Raiff did not immediately respond to requests for comment on their motivations for leaving V&E.)
Chapman, who has served on V&E's management committee for the past six years, says that a looming leadership change at V&E when Dilg's term limit expires in late 2011 did not figure in his decision to leave the firm where he has spent the past 16 years.
"Certainly I evaluated the future of both firms--V&E has an extraordinary bench of fine leaders--but the real key for me was working with this group of lawyers on as good a platform as I could," Chapman says. "This was really more about Gibson Dunn than it was about V&E, but I will miss [my colleagues] there. They've been great partners of mine for a long time, and I will miss them."
For his part, Walters says that while he enjoyed his time at V&E, he never aspired to rejoin the firm and throw his hat into the ring to take part in succession planning. "V&E has a bunch of wonderful candidates to succeed Joe, and I think they're going to be in fine shape," he says.
Walters and Chapman both say they plan to formally make the move to Gibson Dunn after a transition period at their current employers. While Chapman declined to comment on what matters he might bring over to his new firm, Walters says that he hopes to remain involved with Energy Future Holdings, which was a client of his before it was taken private in 2007.
According to the latest Am Law 100 financial data, Gibson Dunn had gross revenue of $995 million in 2009, with profits per partner of $1.9 million. V&E's gross revenue in 2009 was $562 million, while profits per partner averaged nearly $1.3 million.
V&E's Dilg said in a statement that the firm "had its best year ever in 2010" and that even with the Gibson Dunn departures, its Dallas office has more than 140 lawyers and "continues to achieve notable successes for our clients."
Gibson Dunn, which first opened in Dallas during the early 1980s, has been busy adding to its office lately. In December, James Ho rejoined the Dallas office after serving as Texas's solicitor general.
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