The Talent

December 17, 2008 2:29 PM

One Am Law 100 Partner Tapped for Obama Cabinet, Another on Short List

Posted by Brian Baxter


Dorsey & Whitney partner Tom Vilsack--a former governor of Iowa--has just been named secretary of agriculture by President-elect Barack Obama. The appointment was announced a day after McClatchy newspapers reported that Vilsack (right), a former Democratic presidential candidate and two-term governor of Iowa, was at the top of Obama's list.

Vilsack--the fourth presidential primary rival to join Obama's administration--worked in Dorsey's trial group advising clients in energy conservation, renewable energy, and agribusiness development.

Obama also named his incoming secretary of the interior--Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar, a former state attorney general and chief legal counsel to former Colorado Gov. Roy Romer. Salazar has worked at Denver firms Sherman & Howard and Parcel, Mauro, Hultin & Spaanstra. Together, Vilsack and Salazar will be the heart of Obama's environmental team.

News reports also are pointing to Vinson & Elkins public finance and policy partner Ronald Kirk--a former two-term mayor of Dallas--as a leading contender for secretary of transportation. Kirk served as Texas's secretary of state in 1994, left the mayor's office in 2001, and joined Dallas's Gardere Wynne Sewell after an ill-fated run for retiring Republican Phil Gramm's senate seat. Kirk, who left Gardere Wynne for V&E in February 2005, also is reported to be under consideration for the position of U.S. trade representative. (The lawyer got some good news on Tuesday when one of his primary competitors for the trade rep post bowed out.)

One potential factor working against Kirk: he happens to be one of the Lone Star State's highest-paid lobbyists.

Both Vilsack and Kirk were well-compensated by their respective firms. Minneapolis-based Dorsey had gross revenues of $367 million and profits per equity partner of $670,000 in 2007, while Houston-based V&E had $596 million and PPP of $1.2 million.

Get ready for a pay cut, gentlemen!

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TOm Vilsack is not a partner, but of counsel, at Dorsey and Whitney. See

Writer's Note: Tom Vilsack was named a partner several weeks ago. A Dorsey spokesman said that the firm has not yet updated its Web site.

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