A CENTURY IN THE MAKING

The Story of Our Founders

In 1917, Woodrow Wilson was president, the United States was entering World War I, and Texas was in the midst of a historic oil boom. Against that backdrop, William Ashton Vinson and James Anderson Elkins, Sr. forged a partnership that would become a world leading energy law firm over the course of the next century.

William A. Vinson

William Ashton Vinson was born in 1874 just outside of White Oak, South Carolina. He moved to Sherman, Texas, as a youth and later attended and graduated from Austin College. After passing the bar examination in 1898, Vinson went into private practice, primarily representing clients in the timber and insurance industries. He eventually moved to Houston in 1909 to join Lane, Wolters & Storey, where he remained until 1915, when he left to partner with Judge Ernest W. Townes. The Townes & Vinson partnership lasted until the former’s death in July 1917.

James A. Elkins, Sr.

James Anderson Elkins was born in 1879 in Huntsville, Texas. He enrolled in Sam Houston Normal Institute, and after three years, enrolled at the University of Texas Law School. In 1903, he was appointed Walker County Judge. Although Elkins only held the post for two years, he was known throughout the remainder of his life as “Judge Elkins.” From 1905 through 1917, Judge Elkins built a successful career as a lawyer, founded two banks and developed important social and political connections along the way.

1910-1920

1917

V&E is Born

Following the death of Judge Townes, Vinson and Elkins, who were acquainted with one another professionally, meet at the former office of Townes & Vinson in the Union National Bank Building (today known as the Hotel ICON) and form the V&E partnership. The firm’s early business prospects were timber, insurance and oil, though, at its inception, V&E had a small number of energy clients. Vinson, who had developed a reputation as an insurance expert and influential state government lobbyist, brought a number of clients to the partnership. In addition to his own clients, Judge Elkins’ valuable network of relationships would help V&E generate business and recruit top attorneys to the firm.

1918

Andrew Cox Wood Joins the Firm

Andrew Cox Wood joins the firm, which becomes known as Vinson, Elkins & Wood. A premiere litigator with Baker, Botts, Parker & Garwood, Wood was the firm’s first lateral partner hire. Wood’s hiring started a long-running precedent of recruiting experienced partners. (Internal promotion was relatively uncommon among most law firms at the time.) Wood remained with V&E until 1924.

1920

A. E. Humphreys

Wildcatter A.E. Humphreys strikes oil near Mexia, Texas. The Humphreys Mexia Company would soon become the firm’s first major oil industry client.

1920 cont.

Mexia, Texas

Acting upon the recommendation of the Attorney General of Texas, a law school friend of Judge Elkins, Humphreys consults the Judge in 1921 about a payment dispute with the Texas Company (later Texaco). Judge Elkins’ quick resolution of the dispute led the oil man to retain V&E to handle his company’s legal affairs, which included a heavy mix of lease and title work and related litigation. Humpreys eventually sold a stake in his company to The Pure Oil Company, which itself later became a major firm client.

1920-1930

1922

Claude Pollard Joins the Firm

Texas Bar Association president and noted litigator Claude Pollard joins the firm as a named partner. Pollard stayed with Vinson, Elkins, Wood & Pollard for just one year and went on to become elected Texas Attorney General in 1926.

1924

Pollard Withdraws, Clyde Sweeton is Hired

Following Pollard’s withdrawal, the firm hired Clyde Sweeton, a renowned trial lawyer and one of a handful of recognized specialists in the nascent field of oil and gas law. The firm became known as Vinson, Elkins, Wood & Sweeton. Sweeton immediately began to handle the firm’s burgeoning Mexia litigation docket.

1924 cont.

Vinson, Elkins, Sweeton & Weems

Following Andrew Wood’s departure, he was replaced in the firm’s nameplate by Wharton Ewell Weems, the first native Houstonian to join V&E. The firm is known as Vinson, Elkins, Sweeton & Weems for the next decade.
Judge Elkins also forms the Guaranty Trust Company in 1924, which would later come to be known as City National Bank and eventually, First City National Bank, the largest bank in Houston. For the next several decades, the bank gave the firm increasing access to the city’s business community and likewise, many firm clients became customers of the bank.

1925

V&E Aboard the Galvez

By 1925, V&E has become one of the most successful law firms in Texas and is growing exponentially. Judge Elkins charters a steamboat for a trip down the Houston Ship Channel to the Gulf of Mexico for all of the firm’s attorneys and their guests.



1926

Gus Wortham

Gus Wortham, a lifelong friend and client of Judge Elkins, forms American General Life Insurance Company with the help of the firm. Judge Elkins and Houston business magnate Jesse H. Jones are credited as early investors and co-founders. American General remained an important client of the firm’s and was eventually acquired by AIG in 2001.

1927

V&E's First Patent Lawyer

Recognizing an increase in disputes over rapidly evolving oil field technology, Judge Elkins hires J. Vincent Martin, the firm’s first patent lawyer. Martin made partner in 1942 and remained with the firm until 1971.

1927 cont.

Niels Esperson Building

The same year, the firm moved into Houston’s first air conditioned office building, the Niels Esperson Building, which would later be purchased by V&E client Moody-Seagraves.

1929

Moody-Seagraves

By the end of the year, the firm has five major oil companies as clients – The Pure Oil Company, Vacuum Oil Company, Humphreys Corporation, Prairie Oil & Gas Company and Phillips Petroleum Company; a host of insurance companies; and the largest gas company in the South, Moody-Seagraves.

Galveston businessmen O.R. Seagraves and William L. Moody, III hired V&E in 1924 to incorporate Moody-Seagraves Company, which rapidly expanded to become a major U.S. gas company with several affiliates and thousands of miles of pipeline. The firm handled Moody-Seagraves’ significant financing and corporate transactional matters, including its sale in 1929 to the Electric Bond & Share Company, which gave rise to the United Gas System. V&E would continue to represent United’s pipeline and exploration operations for years to come.





1929 cont.

Black Thursday

The firm and Judge Elkins’ bank would fare well throughout the Great Depression. However, V&E’s growing base of energy clients would soon find themselves in the throes of a crisis when the oil market crashed, due in part to massive overproduction. Texas would impose “proration” regulations to try to stem the tide. But the rules gave rise to the illicit sale of “hot oil” produced in violation of state imposed limits. Judge Elkins would travel to Washington, D.C. to advocate for federal regulations aimed at discouraging overproduction.



1930-1940

1934

Charles I. Francis

Prominent oil and gas litigator Charles I. Francis joins the firm, which in 1936 becomes known as Vinson, Elkins, Weems & Francis following the death of Clyde Sweeton the prior year.

1935

Panama Refining Co. v. Ryan

U.S. Supreme Court decides Panama Refining Co. v. Ryan, which invalidates a provision of the National Industrial Recovery Act that allowed President Franklin D. Roosevelt to block the interstate and foreign sale of so-called “hot oil.” The decision served as a catalyst for criminal antitrust prosecutions of several oil companies. Following the government’s lead, petroleum industry jobbers who had been paying artificially inflated prices brought civil antitrust suits seeking treble damages.

1936

David T. Searls

Future partner David T. Searls successfully defends Pure Oil and other industry defendants in those civil antitrust suits, known collectively as the “Madison Cases.” As a result, the firm gains a national reputation in antitrust litigation, an area of significant concern to the oil and gas industry.



1940-1950

1940

Smith v. State of Texas

William Vinson and Sam W. Davis team with Fulbright, Crooker & Freeman partner Harry W. Freeman to secure a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Smith v. State of Texas, requiring more racially diverse representation on grand juries in Texas.

1941

V&E Attorneys Join the War Effort

Japanese attack Pearl Harbor. U.S. enters World War II. Several V&E attorneys did their part for the war effort, including George Peddy, Simon Frank, Gene Woodfin, Tom Weatherly, Marvin Key Collie, A. Frank Smith, Jr. and many others. Peddy joined V&E in 1925, following a stint in the Texas Legislature and a hard-fought battle against Earle Bradford Mayfield in 1922 for one of Texas’ U.S. Senate seats. Peddy strongly opposed the candidacy of Mayfield, who had the backing of the Ku Klux Klan. Peddy detested the Klan and mounted a vigorous write-in campaign against Mayfield, garnering an impressive one-third of the vote. He then challenged Mayfield’s election before the U.S. Senate, which delayed his seating until the end of 1923.

1941 cont.

George Peddy Awarded Bronze Medal

Already a veteran of World War I, Peddy volunteered for World War II service in 1942 at age 50. He would go on to achieve the rank of lieutenant colonel and serve as deputy military governor of Frankfurt in 1945, where he led humanitarian efforts to provide for tens of thousands of displaced Europeans who were ravaged by poverty and famine. Peddy was awarded the Bronze Star medal and the Croix de Guerre for his service. Returning home, the politically ambitious Peddy set his sights on the U.S. Senate seat of retiring Texas Senator W. Lee O'Daniel. Peddy entered the 1948 Democratic primary and polled nearly 20 percent of the vote in a three-way race, denying an outright win to former Texas Governor Coke Stevenson, who had won nearly 40 percent of the vote. Stevenson was forced into a runoff that ended in a highly controversial loss to then U.S. Representative Lyndon B. Johnson.

1947

Texas Eastern Transmission Corporation

Texas Eastern Transmission Corporation is named the winning bidder for the Big Inch and Little Big Inch pipelines, for which the company paid $143 million. TETCO founders included Judge Elkins, Francis, and construction magnates George and Herman Brown. Built by the federal government during World War II, the pipelines stretched from Texas to New Jersey and served as an alternative means for shipping crude oil across the country after tankers began falling prey to Axis submarine attacks. After the war, the government announced that it intended to dispose of the pipelines in the largest government surplus sale in history. TETCO ultimately converted the lines from crude to natural gas. At the time, Texas had a glut of natural gas, while markets in the northeast U.S. were suffering from shortages and local monopolization. The conversion of the lines ultimately transformed the energy market on the east coast. TETCO would remain a firm client for many years.



1947 cont.

City National Bank, Houston

City National Bank Building opens in the heart of downtown Houston. Judge Elkins spearheaded the project, which served as the new headquarters of his growing banking business. At 24 stories tall, the “skyscraper” was heralded by the local press as a “monument to Houston’s greatness.” The landmark Art Deco style building still stands today at 1001 McKinney Street and is home to a number of law firms and businesses.

1947 cont.

Warren Dale

Warren Dale becomes the firm’s first “office manager,” serving from 1947 to 1952. This predecessor position to managing partner was largely administrative in nature and designed to ease Judge Elkins’ workload, though he still retained complete decision-making authority over firm matters. Dale joined the firm in 1924 and is credited with originating V&E’s Corporate section. Among the many corporate clients he handled, Dale represented Moody-Seagraves’ various interests.

1949

Vinson, Elkins & Weems

Francis withdraws from the firm, which becomes known as Vinson, Elkins & Weems, to serve as general counsel of TETCO.



1950-1960

1951

William Vinson dies on October 26, 1951.

1952

Robert A. Shepherd, Jr.

Robert A. Shepherd, Jr., is named Managing Partner, a position he holds until 1959. During Shepherd’s term, the growing firm moved toward modernization with the creation of a standing executive committee and Shepherd’s push toward modern technology. Shepherd also imposed administrative standards designed to streamline V&E top to bottom, revamping everything from billings and collections to the firm library. As an energy attorney, Shepherd is credited for pioneering the first natural gas recycling agreement and contributing to the first legal unitization agreement.

1953

Vinson, Elkins, Weems & Searls

Partner David T. Searls joins the firm’s masthead. The firm is known as Vinson, Elkins, Weems & Searls until 1969. An extraordinarily talented litigator, Searls developed a national reputation as a top antitrust attorney and scholar, significantly raising the firm’s profile. Equally important as his successes as a lawyer was the influence he wielded at V&E. Working with future managing partner Lewis White, Searls helped modernize the firm’s outmoded recruiting strategy and took an active role mentoring young lawyers, including protégé Harry M. Reasoner. While White was managing partner, Searls was widely viewed as the firm’s guiding force until his death in 1972.



1959

H. Raybourne Thompson, Sr. Named Managing Partner

H. Raybourne Thompson, Sr., is named Managing Partner, a position he holds until 1962. A preeminent energy regulatory attorney, Thompson regularly handled matters before the Railroad Commission of Texas and the Federal Power Commission for major oil and gas clients. As Managing Partner, Thompson, like his predecessors, did not enjoy complete autonomy from Judge Elkins. However, the firm initiated a staff pension plan and Thompson began the push to increase badly needed recruiting. Although his term as Managing Partner lasted just three years, Thompson remained with V&E until his retirement in 1977.

1959 cont.

U.S. v. Atlantic Refining Company

The U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of Pure, represented by David T. Searls, in U.S. v. Atlantic Refining Company. The case, which involved a government challenge to a common method of pipeline financing, was widely watched by the industry and further enhanced Searls’ reputation as a litigator.



1960-1970

1961

First City National Bank

V&E moves to First City National Bank building on Main Street. Following the merger of Judge Elkins’ City National Bank and the First National Bank of Houston in the 1950s, the combined entity, known as First City National Bank of Houston, was in need of new quarters. Meanwhile, V&E had long outgrown its space at the Niels Esperson building. To accommodate the bank and the firm, Judge Elkins undertook development of the FCNB Building, which was completed in 1960. One of the earliest examples of modernist architecture in downtown Houston, the building complex originally included an elegant low rise glass banking pavilion, which was demolished in 1998. The remaining office building structure is today known as One City Centre, located at 1021 Main Street.

1962

Lewis N. White

Lewis N. White is named Managing Partner, a position he holds until 1971. With the help of Searls, White bolstered the firm’s recruiting efforts and helped induce additional modernization with creation of policies that made the executive committee answerable to the firm’s partners. The firm’s general partners began setting policies that affected a range of matters, from staff salaries to the selection of the firm’s Managing Partner and Executive Committee. White also initiated the practice of crediting attorneys’ pro bono work against their billable hours requirements.

1963

Rice University

In 1963, V&E represented Rice University in defending against a challenge to the amendment of the university charter that allowed African-Americans to attend the school. The charter was successfully amended to allow nonwhite students to attend Rice University.

1966

Houston Oilers & Ralph Neely

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit rules in favor of the Houston Oilers, represented by V&E partner William Eckhardt, in a contract dispute involving highly prized collegiate prospect, Ralph Neely. Oilers owner Bud Adams had signed Neely to an AFL contract, which Neely subsequently attempted to back out of in order to join the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys. Although Neely won at trial, the Tenth Circuit held that his contract with the Oilers was enforceable and ordered the trial court to issue an injunction prohibiting Neely from playing with the Cowboys. Ultimately, the dispute was resolved as a condition of the AFL-NFL merger, with the Oilers receiving future draft picks from the Cowboys. Neely, who played the position of offensive tackle, would become a four-time All-Pro and win two Super Bowls during his 13-year career with the Cowboys.



1966 cont.

Heisman Trophy Winner’s Contract Invalidated

Interestingly, Eckhardt achieved the opposite result for the Oilers a few years earlier, when he convinced a judge in 1960 to invalidate a contract Heisman Trophy winner and future AFL great Billy Cannon had signed under pressure from Los Angeles Rams general manager (and future NFL Commissioner) Pete Rozelle. Cannon went on to win two championships with the Oilers and a third with the Oakland Raiders.

1969

Governor John B. Connally

Former Texas Governor John B. Connally, Jr. joins the firm as a named partner. The firm will be known as Vinson, Elkins, Searls & Connally until 1971. Connally served as the 39th Governor of Texas (1963-1969), as Secretary of the Navy under President John F. Kennedy (1961), and as Secretary of the Treasury under President Richard Nixon (1971-1972). During Connally’s service in the Nixon Administration, the firm is known as Vinson, Elkins, Searls & Smith. He later rejoined the firm, where he remained until he retired in 1982.



1970-1980

1971

A. Frank Smith

A. Frank Smith, Jr., is named Managing Partner, a position he holds until 1981. With the successive deaths of Judge Elkins and Searls in 1972, Smith quickly stepped up to become the firm’s new leader. Recruiting dramatically improved and the firm established systematic partnership promotions for top performers. With the support of the Executive Committee, Smith went about further modernizing V&E in 1979, with the creation of a full-scale self-study group, charged with making recommendations on how to transform the firm to greater democratic rule.

1971

V&E Opens in London

Many of V&E’s clients, including TETCO, had started exploring for oil and gas in the North Sea, creating the need for an international presence. The firm’s London office is among the oldest of any U.S. law firm and today handles international arbitration and High Court litigation, energy transactions and projects, finance, mergers and acquisitions, private equity, and tax.

1972

Judge Elkins dies on May 7, 1972.

Starship V&E

"The Judge"

"We should strive to follow the precepts as announced by the Golden Rule of Law [from Justinian I's code]: 'To live honorably, to injure no one, to render to everyone his due.' According to this code, the life of a true lawyer must be molded. After all, it means that it is manhood that counts: that without its integrity and courage and resolution there can be no professional career, no judicial career - no career of any kind worthy of respect."

--James A. Elkins, The Firm, Dec. 9, 1937



1972

Vinson, Elkins, Searls, Connally & Smith

Connally rejoins the firm, now known as Vinson, Elkins, Searls, Connally & Smith.

1973

V&E Opens in Washington

The firm had been active in Washington, D.C. for many years and the robust practices of Connally, Thompson, Searls and others proved that success could be found in the nation’s capital. Today, V&E’s D.C. office represents domestic and international clients in numerous industries, particularly those with litigation and regulatory matters involving the federal government.

1974

Sherman Stimley

Sherman Stimley joins V&E’s Houston office as the first Black associate. A graduate of Harvard Law School, he later opened the city's first African-American law firm consulting exclusively in tax-exempt bond law. Sherman was an advocate for public libraries and after his death in 1997, the Houston Public Library named a branch in his memory.

Other notable diverse V&E lawyers include litigator Yolanda Knull, who would become the firm’s first Hispanic female partner in 1991; Clara Meek and Harold “Al” Odom, each of whom became top litigation partners in 1994 and 1998 respectively; Handel C.H. Lee, who joined V&E as the firm’s first Asian partner in 1997 and led its China practice; and Mary Morimoto, who became V&E’s first Asian attorney in 1982.





1977

Vinson & Elkins

In a move aimed at further institutionalizing V&E, Connally and Smith agree to drop their names from the firm nameplate, which reverts permanently to Vinson & Elkins.

1979

V&E Opens in Austin

The firm’s attorneys had been lobbying the state legislature and representing clients before various state agencies for years without a permanent Austin presence. Notable partners J. Evans Attwell and Marion Sanford, Jr. hoped to expand V&E’s state administrative practice and lobbying activities. Today, attorneys in the Austin office represent clients in a wide range of areas, including intellectual property and life sciences, mergers and acquisitions, private equity, venture capital, litigation, environmental, appellate, and regulatory.







1980-1990

1980

Carol Dinkins

Carol Dinkins is elected as V&E’s first female partner. Dinkins left the firm twice for appointments by President Ronald Reagan. In 1981, Dinkins became the first woman Assistant Attorney General to head the U.S. Department of Justice Environment and Natural Resources Division — a position she held until 1983. Under her leadership, the Division implemented the then newly enacted Superfund Law and created the Environmental Crimes Section. President Reagan tapped Dinkins in 1984 to serve as Deputy Attorney General of the United States, making her the second-ranking official and at the time, the highest ranking woman ever at Justice. Following her return to V&E, Dinkins led the firm’s Environment and Natural Resources practice until her retirement in 2015.

1981

J. Evans Attwell

J. Evans Attwell becomes the firm’s first elected Managing Partner, a position he held until the end of 1991. As Managing Partner, Attwell supervised implementation of several revolutionary changes to the firm’s governance structure, including the creation of its modern Management Committee, standing subcommittees and elected leadership. Going forward, the firm would be managed more democratically. A strong proponent of developing the firm’s national and international presence, Attwell expanded the firm’s reach to Dallas and Moscow. Attwell is also credited with helping to stabilize and expand the firm’s Washington, D.C. office.

1981 cont.

First City Tower, Houston

During the first year of his tenure, Attwell oversaw V&E’s move to its current Houston home, First City Tower. Firm headcount grew to more than 500 lawyers under Attwell’s leadership.



1983

First IPO of Master Limited Partnership

V&E represents Transco Exploration Partners, Ltd. in the first underwritten initial public offering of a Master Limited Partnership. Since the qualifying income requirement was enacted in 1987, V&E has advised on 80 percent of all natural resource or real estate MLP IPOs completed.

1985

Howard H. Baker, Jr.

Outgoing U.S. Senate Majority Leader Howard H. Baker, Jr., joins V&E’s Washington, D.C. office. Baker would remain with V&E for two years, before accepting an appointment as President Ronald Reagan’s Chief of Staff.

1985

Southwest Airlines

V&E represents Southwest Airlines in its acquisition of Muse Air, overcoming antitrust objections at the DOT to the elimination of Southwest’s only competitor on its Love Field-to-Hobby routes.

1986

V&E Opens in Dallas

V&E opens in Dallas. The Dallas office is initially led by corporate finance and securities partner Campbell A. Griffin, Jr. The office aimed to serve the firm’s existing client base in Dallas and tap regional opportunities. With more than 120 lawyers, the Dallas office is now home to many of the firm’s key practice groups and offers a full range of client services in transactional, litigation, and regulatory matters.





1987

Pennzoil Victory at Texas First Court of Appeals

Harry M. Reasoner helps secure a significant appellate victory for Pennzoil at the Texas First Court of Appeals. Pennzoil’s lead trial attorney Joe Jamail asked Reasoner and the firm to take the lead in the appeal of a record setting $12.53 billion verdict Pennzoil had won against Texaco for tortiously interfering with Pennzoil’s purchase of Getty Oil. The First Court of Appeals affirmed the underlying $10.53 billion judgment, while eliminating $2 billion in punitive damages. The Supreme Court of Texas refused to review the decision and the case subsequently settled.

1988

MorningStar Foods

V&E represents First Boston as underwriter of $150 million of subordinated debentures of MorningStar Foods, a Dallas-based dairy products company, in one of the first high-yield debt offerings by a Texas-based corporation.

1989

ETSI Pipeline Win

Reasoner wins a record-setting $1 billion antitrust award for ETSI Pipeline against Santa Fe Southern Pacific Corp. ETSI had accused Santa Fe and several other railroads of conspiring to block construction of a $3 billion coal slurry pipeline. Prior to the verdict, ETSI had secured $285 million in settlements from the other accused conspirators.

1989 cont.

TETCO Sale to Panhandle Eastern

V&E represents TETCO in a $3.2 billion friendly acquisition by Panhandle Eastern, a defensive transaction that created the second largest gas pipeline system in the U.S. and foiled a second takeover attempt by Oscar Wyatt's Coastal Corp. After absorbing TETCO, Panhandle Eastern changed its name to PanEnergy Corp.







1990-2000

1990

V&E Scholars

To promote diversity in the legal profession, the firm creates the V&E Scholars Program which awards $10,000 college scholarships each year to minority high school students in Texas who have an interest in the legal profession and have strong academic credentials and financial need. To date, V&E has provided scholarships to 147 students, totaling nearly $1.5 million. Amanda Edwards, is just one example of a former V&E Scholar who went on to practice law – including at V&E. In 2015, Amanda was elected to the Houston City Council.

1991

V&E Opens in Moscow

With its Moscow office, the firm takes aim at opportunities presented by Russia’s decision to open its economy to foreign investment. V&E was one of the first international law firms to open in Moscow, which serves as a base for V&E’s wide CIS practice. The firm has represented numerous Russian, U.S., European, and Asian companies on a multitude of energy, natural resources, infrastructure, and other projects throughout the region.

1991 cont.

Alberto R. Gonzalez

Alberto R. Gonzales, who joined the firm as an associate in 1982, becomes V&E’s first Hispanic male partner. Gonzales remained with the firm until 1995, when he left to serve as general counsel for then-Governor George W. Bush. Gonzales later served as Texas Secretary of State, Texas Supreme Court justice, Counsel to President Bush and ultimately became the 80th U.S. Attorney General.

1992

Harry M. Reasoner, Managing Partner

Harry M. Reasoner begins his term as Managing Partner, a position he holds until 2002. Under the tutelage of Searls, Reasoner became a nationally renowned trial lawyer in his own right, winning billion dollar verdicts in the highest of high-stakes cases. As V&E’s Managing Partner, Reasoner spearheaded the firm’s effort to ensure benefits were made available to employees’ same sex partners. V&E was among the first major companies in Houston to provide same sex benefits as a result of Reasoner’s push for equality. A champion of pro bono legal services, Reasoner was instrumental in creating and implementing many of the firm’s modern legal assistance programs. In the 1970s and 1980s, Reasoner himself led a team of lawyers that produced sweeping reforms in the Texas prison system, when he brought to a halt the state prison system’s longstanding practice of censoring inmate letters to their lawyers, courts and the media.



1992 cont.

Vinson & Elkins L.L.P.

In 1992, the firm reorganizes as a limited liability partnership, and is now known as Vinson & Elkins LLP.

1994

Hopwood v. Texas

Reasoner leads the legal team defending The University of Texas Law School’s use of affirmative action in the landmark case of Hopwood v. Texas. At the conclusion of an eight-day trial, a federal judge determined that the university could continue to use the racial preferences in admissions decisions which had been at issue in the litigation. The Fifth Circuit would later reverse, in the first major setback for affirmative action in higher education in decades. However, the U.S. Supreme Court abrogated the Fifth Circuit’s Hopwood ruling seven years later, when it decided Grutter v. Bollinger.

1996

Duke Energy Corp.

V&E represents PanEnergy Corp. in a $7.7 billion acquisition by Duke Power Co. The combined entity would become Duke Energy Corp. In 2007, Duke Energy spun off its gas business to form Spectra Energy, which still owns the Texas Eastern pipeline system today.

1997

CBS 60 Minutes Libel Trial

Bill Sims, Reasoner and Tom Leatherbury defend CBS’ 60 Minutes and Ed Bradley in a libel trial in El Paso over a news report tying a well-connected Hispanic family to ownership of a slum colony on the U.S.-Mexico border. The case demonstrates the modern diversity of V&E’s litigation practice, which includes a number of media clients facing similar challenges.





1997 cont.

V&E Hits the Internet

The first Home Page of velaw.com.

1997 cont.

V&E Opens in Beijing

V&E was one of the first international law firms resident in PRC. The office is staffed with multi-lingual U.S., English, Australian, Singaporean and PRC lawyers, who provide tailored services for Chinese companies investing abroad, as well as international clients on their business in China. The Beijing team is heavily involved in advising clients on a wide range of transactional and contentious energy matters, particularly in relation to the acquisition and development of upstream, midstream and downstream oil and gas projects.

1998

V&E Opens in New York City

V&E opens in New York City – The New York office provides high-quality legal services to an array of blue-chip clients, including leading private equity firms, investment banks, and other financial institutions, as well as public and privately held companies in such areas as energy, infrastructure, media and entertainment, and pharmaceuticals. V&E’s lawyers in New York focus on capital markets and securities, private equity, mergers and acquisitions, commercial litigation, securities litigation, intellectual property, finance, tax, and restructurings.







2000-2010

2000

V&E Women's Initiative

V&E’s Women’s Initiative launches to increase the recruitment, retention, and advancement of women at the Firm. With Management Committee leadership, the Women’s Initiative remains active today advocating for women lawyers. In 2016, V&E is ranked one of the “50 Best Law Firms for Women” by Working Mother magazine and Flex Time Lawyers, the seventh time V&E is recognized for leading the industry in creating best practices to retain and promote women lawyers.

2002

Joseph C. Dilg, Managing Partner

Joseph C. Dilg begins his term as Managing Partner, a position he holds until 2012. Dilg steered the firm through the aftermath of its client Enron Corp.’s failure and subsequent bankruptcy in December 2001. (The firm would settle all claims arising out of its representation of Enron in 2006.) During Dilg’s tenure, the firm experienced robust international growth in Asia and the Middle East, expanding into Dubai, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Riyadh.

2002 cont.

Mitchell Energy & Development Corp.

V&E represents Mitchell Energy & Development Corp. in its $2.0 billion acquisition by Devon Energy, bringing to a close a client relationship with oilman George Mitchell’s interests dating to the early 1950s.



2004

V&E Opens in Dubai

Located in the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), the office serves as the coordinating center for the firm’s work in the region and is predominantly staffed by native, Arabic speaking lawyers, all of whom are internationally qualified, enabling V&E to provide proficient advice both to regional and international clients. Many of the firm’s clients are leaders in the energy, construction, infrastructure, telecommunications, and financial services sectors, operating across the region and globally.

2004

V&E Opens in Tokyo

V&E’s Tokyo practice focuses on corporate and commercial law, most frequently advising on energy and infrastructure transactions, mergers and acquisitions, as well as project development matters.

2005

Mayor Ron Kirk

Former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk joins V&E as partner. Kirk would remain at the firm until 2009, when he was appointed as the 16th United States Trade Representative by President Barack Obama.

2005 cont.

Texas Jury System

In 2005, V&E lawyers, in an effort to ensure that significantly underrepresented portions of the Texas population are included in jury service, lobbied the state legislature and petitioned for judicial review of the fairness of the Texas jury system. In June 2005, the legislature raised statutory jury compensation from $6 to $40 per day effective January 1, 2006.





2006

V&E Opens in Hong Kong

The firm’s Hong Kong office serves as a regional hub for V&E’s Asia Pacific practice. V&E’s Hong Kong attorneys work on cross-border transactions and disputes regionally, particularly in mainland China, Korea, India, and Southeast Asia, as well as globally.

2007

TXU Corp.

V&E represents private equity investors in the $45 billion purchase of TXU Corp., which at the time was the largest leveraged buyout in history.

2007 cont.

V&E Veterans Initiative

V&E launched the V&E Veterans Initiative to assist Veterans and Servicemen with a variety of legal needs. This initiative continues today, having handled over 30 matters since its inception. V&E has won several awards for this program, including the State Bar of Texas W. Frank Newton Award in 2009.

2008

Huntsman Corp.

The Delaware Court of Chancery rules for V&E client Huntsman Corp. after Hexion Specialty Chemicals Inc. attempted to scuttle the companies’ $10.6 billion merger agreement. The dispute would later settle for $1 billion.



2009

Firm Succeeds in International Energy and Technology Work

The U.S. energy industry sees a surge in international investment in oil and gas development. V&E represents a variety of these joint ventures, including Pioneer Natural Resources in its $1.3 billion joint venture with Reliance Industries.

That same year, V&E represents Dell in its $3.9 billion public tender offer and acquisition of Perot Systems Corporation, resulting in the combination of two iconic, Texas-based information technology brands.







2010-2017

2010

Major Airline Industry Mergers

V&E represents Southwest Airlines Co. in its merger with Orlando, Fla.-based AirTran Holdings Inc. in a $1.4 billion deal. (The firm represented Southwest in its 1971 initial public offering and continues to represent the airline today.) Just a few months later, the firm would assist Continental Airlines Inc. in its $3.2 billion merger with Chicago-based United Airlines Inc., creating the world's largest airline.

2010 cont.

Texas Children’s Hospital

V&E partnered with Texas Children's Hospital to help provide legal representation for families seeking guardianship over their incapacitated adult family members. To date, V&E has handled over 10 matters as part of this program, with many more to come in the future.

2011

V&E Opens in Riyadh

V&E associates with the Law Office of Looaye M. Al-Akkas which is staffed by native, Arabic speaking lawyers, all of whom are internationally qualified. Clients are predominantly local, regional, and international corporations, financial institutions, and family entities operating in the energy, construction, infrastructure, aviation, healthcare, and real estate sectors.

2011 cont.

Reliance Industries

V&E represents Reliance Industries on its $7.2 billion sale to BP Plc of a 30 percent stake in 21 oil and gas production sharing contracts in India. At the time, the deal was one of the largest foreign direct investments ever made into India.



2012

T. Mark Kelly, Chairman

Scott N. Wulfe, Managing Partner

T. Mark Kelly & Scott N. Wulfe are elected as V&E’s Chairman and Managing Partner. The unique arrangement allows Kelly and Wulfe to maintain their active corporate practices while sharing firm management duties. During their tenure, the firm has seen steady expansion, with office openings in San Francisco, Richmond, and Taipei. V&E continues to dominate the global energy sector under the leadership of Kelly and Wulfe. Since 2012, the firm has advised on more U.S. and global energy M&A transactions than any other law firm. (Source: mergermarket league tables 2012-2016.)

2012 cont.

Uz-Kor Gas Chemical LLC

V&E advises Uz-Kor Gas Chemical LLC on the development, financing, and construction of its $4 billion integrated upstream gas and petrochemical complex in the Ustyurt region of Uzbekistan.

2012 cont.

V&E Opens in San Francisco

The firm’s San Francisco office focuses on bet-the-company litigation disputes and investigations in the areas of government investigations, antitrust, securities, complex commercial litigation, environmental, complex product liability, class actions, and intellectual property litigation. The San Francisco office is critical to V&E’s ability to represent global clients doing business in the United States, as well as U.S. clients doing business abroad. The San Francisco team has extensive experience in Asia, with a particular emphasis on Japan, China, Taiwan, and Korea, as well as the Middle East and Europe.

2012 cont.

Acquisition of El Paso Assets

V&E represents Apollo Global Management and Riverstone Holdings in the $7.15 billion acquisition, among a consortium of investors, of El Paso’s upstream assets.





2014

El Paso Pipeline Partners

V&E represents the Conflicts Committee of the Board of Directors of El Paso Pipeline Partners in the $76 billion acquisition by Kinder Morgan Inc. of El Paso Pipeline Partners, Kinder Morgan Pipeline Partners and Kinder Morgan Management.

2015

Elwood Wins at the U.S. Supreme Court

Appellate partner John P. Elwood wins twice in one week at the U.S. Supreme Court. Elwood secures back-to-back victories over the course of a week on behalf of KBR Inc. in a False Claims Act appeal and Anthony Elonis, who had been convicted of violating federal law for making allegedly threatening posts on Facebook. Just weeks earlier, Elwood helped secure a high court win for Tony Henderson, who was challenging a federal ban affecting the transfer of firearms.

2016

V&E Opens in Richmond

Located in one of America’s most historic cities, the firm’s Richmond office is home to a team of lawyers who focus on strategic transactions involving real estate investment trusts and other specialty finance companies.

2016 cont.

NorthStar Realty Finance

V&E represents NorthStar Realty Finance in its approximately $16 billion combination with NorthStar Asset Management Group and Colony Capital in an all-stock merger of equals transaction to create a world-class, internally managed, diversified real estate and investment management platform.



2016 cont.

V&E Opens in Taipei

Vinson & Elkins LLP, Foreign Legal Affairs Law Firm opens in Taipei. The firm’s Taipei office provides a wide range of intellectual property and litigation services to established and high-growth companies that are based in Taiwan and throughout Asia.

2016 cont.

V&E's Newest Class

The future of V&E is sworn in.