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September 6, 2011 12:25 PM

V&E Elects New Managing Partner and First-Ever Chairman

Posted by Irene Plagianos

Vinson & Elkins partners have elected a new managing partner and the first chairman in its history, the firm announced Tuesday.

Scott Wulfe, a corporate partner in V&E's Houston office, will begin a two-year term as managing partner in January, while T. Mark Kelly, a capital markets partner also based in Houston, will start his own two-year term as the firm's first chairman at the same time.

Wulfe and Kelly inherit the leadership reins from longtime V&E managing partner Joseph Dilg. The 60-year-old Dilg, who joined the Houston-based firm in 1976 and became partner in 1983, has served as managing partner for the past ten years. Once the lead outside lawyer for Enron, Dilg has been credited with keeping V&E afloat after the company—at the time one of the firm's largest clients—dissolved in scandal.

Kelly, who has been with V&E for 30 years, and Wulfe, who joined 29 years ago, say the decision to move to a dual-leadership structure was driven by the two men's shared desire to maintain their busy practices.

"We both want to lead the firm, and keep working with our clients, keep an active practice," says Kelly. "So, for us, this made sense."

During Dilg's tenure, V&E made a major international push, establishing an Asia presence by opening offices in Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Tokyo, as well as a Middle East foothold with branches in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and, most recently, in Riyadh. The firm launched an office in Palo Alto, California, last year. Kelly and Wulfe intend to continue Dilg's efforts on that front.

"We think Joe has done a terrific job," says Kelly. "And we want to build on that, to keep expanding." Kelly says the firm is eyeing office openings in Brazil, Canada, and Denver in the near future.

Over the past year, V&E has seen several high-profile lawyers leave the firm, including four partners who jumped to Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher's Dallas office in January. Other partners departed to join the new Houston branches of Latham & Watkins and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett.

Those defections notwithstanding, V&E had a successful year financially in 2010, with gross revenue increasing 7.2 percent to $602.5 million and profits per partner rising nearly 6 percent to almost $1.4 million, according to Am Law 100 financial data.

As for what role Dilg will play at V&E as he shifts out of the managing partner position, Kelly says that remains to be seen. "But," he adds, "we've told him we won't let him just leave and go to the ranch."

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