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Vinson & Elkins Adds Leading Tax Controversy Lawyers

Partners Kathleen Pakenham and Adriana Wirtz Strengthen Firm’s Tax Controversy and Litigation Practice

Vinson & Elkins announced today it has expanded its nationally recognized Tax Controversy and Litigation practice with the addition of New York partners Kathleen Pakenham and Adriana Wirtz. They were previously with Cooley, where Pakenham served in numerous leadership roles, including as chair of the firm’s Business department, partner in charge of the New York office, and co-chair of the Tax practice. She will join George Gerachis, current head of Vinson & Elkins’ Tax Controversy and Litigation practice, as co-head.

“Representing clients in tax disputes – both in the administrative process and in court – has always been a significant part of Vinson & Elkins’ Tax practice,” said Gerachis. “With client demand growing from changes in tax laws and an increased IRS focus on partnership audits, the time is ripe to grow our team. We could not be more excited to have two lawyers as talented and respected as Kathy and Adriana join us. They share our approach to creative and pragmatic resolution of tax controversies but, like us, are trial lawyers who are comfortable heading to court when necessary.”

“We are excited that Kathy and Adriana are joining our firm. The increase in IRS enforcement activity will impact a number of our clients and we are committed to helping them defend their interests,” said Keith Fullenweider, Chair, Vinson & Elkins.

Pakenham is a seasoned litigator in civil and criminal matters involving complex questions of federal and state tax law and procedure. She has represented clients in sizable tax controversies involving a wide variety of issues ranging from options trading transactions to real estate to international tax. She regularly advises clients at the pre-litigation assessment phase. In addition to her trial and appellate practice, she represents clients undergoing internal and governmental investigations. Pakenham’s clients have included Fortune 500 companies in financial services, energy, real estate and  telecommunications. She has long been recognized as one of the nation’s leading Tax Controversy lawyers by Chambers USA (2006-present) and Legal 500 (2021) and has been named in Best Lawyers in America (2020).

Wirtz represents clients at all phases of a tax controversy from audit through litigation, including before the IRS Office of Appeals, US Tax Court, US district courts and US courts of appeal, as well as before state taxing authorities and state courts. Wirtz has represented clients in the energy, real estate, life sciences, mining and software industries. She has particular experience in matters involving tax insurance.  Her recent matters cover a broad spectrum of tax issues such as transfer pricing, debt-equity classification, charitable contribution deductions, economic substance issues, foreign tax credits and employment tax issues. She has been recognized by Legal 500 as a “next generation partner” (2018-2022).

“Vinson & Elkins is an ideal platform for tax controversy because of the firm’s deep client base in tax-preference industries, including traditional and renewable energy, as well as its extensive roster of partnership clients. Vinson & Elkins has one of the leading Tax practices in the nation and a terrific client-oriented culture that is appealing to Adriana and me,” said Pakenham. “And the firm shares our vision of growing this practice to handle an expected surge in high-profile contested tax matters.”

“To best service our clients in the tax controversy space, it is important to have strong capabilities in adjacent areas like general litigation, transactional tax, and restructuring,” added Wirtz. “Vinson & Elkins’ excellent reputation in those areas and its collaborative culture make it a great fit for Kathy and me.”

About Vinson & Elkins
For more than a century, Vinson & Elkins has provided outstanding client service across important industries that drive the global economy. Built on a strong culture of collaboration across 11 offices worldwide, V&E lawyers are committed to excellence, offering clients decades of legal experience in handling transactions, investments, projects and disputes across the globe. Learn more by visiting or connect with us on LinkedIn.

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