Former energy regulator joins Vinson & Elkins

Barry Smitherman, who previously chaired the Railroad Commission and the Public Utility Commission in Texas, joined Vinson & Elkins’ energy regulatory practice as a partner.

Vinson & Elkins (V&E), an international law firm headquartered in Houston and with deep expertise in the energy sector, added Barry Smitherman to its energy regulatory practice in Austin.

As a partner of V&E’s energy regulatory practice, Smitherman will advise energy industry clients on matters pending before state and federal regulatory agencies. He will also support V&E’s energy transaction and litigation practices, the firm said in a statement.

Smitherman has extensive experience not only in the private sector but in the public sector as well. Over the course of more than a decade, Smitherman has been a member but has also chaired the Railroad Commission (RRC) of Texas and the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT).

As a result, he has particular experience related to electric transmission development, energy storage, renewable generation, natural gas fracking and related oil and gas development issues, V&E said.

“Our energy practice has been a core strength of the firm for decades, and Barry’s outstanding national reputation and experience in the energy industry will only enhance the firm’s deep bench,” said V&E chairman Mark Kelly.

Under his leadership, RRC successfully carried out a number of initiatives, such as formulating rules requiring disclosure of chemical ingredients and water volumes used for hydraulic fracturing in the state. In addition, it was during his tenure that RRC overhauled its well construction requirements – the first time it had done so in 30 years.

From 2004 through 2011, Smitherman was a member of the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) and served as its chairman the last three and a half years of his tenure.
Before working for the public sector, Smitherman spent 16 years of his career as an investment banker, holding a number of leadership positions at Lazard, The First Boston Corporation, JPMorgan Securities and Banc One Capital Markets.

“Barry possesses a unique combination of public and private sector knowledge that will benefit our clients and numerous practices within our firm,” Kelly said. “We could not be more pleased to have him join V&E,” he added.