Simpson Thacher to launch in Houston with Vinson hire

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett is to launch an office in the US oil and gas capital Houston later this year with a partner from Vinson & Elkins, The Lawyer can exclusively reveal.

Banking and capital markets partner Robert Rabalais, whose clients include BNP Paribas, Credit Suisse and UBS, is set to join Simpson over the summer.

He will be joined over the following months by additional lawyers in Texas, while the new office will be augmented initially by a core group of four New York-based Simpson partners.

Simpson corporate partner David Lieberman said the move “made sense” for the New York firm in the context of a booming transactional energy market coupled with his firm’s banking and private equity client base.

“JPMorgan is one of Robert’s biggest clients and over the past several years it’s also been one of our top three clients,” Lieberman, the chair of Simpson’s energy and infrastructure practice group, said. “Strategically we think it’s a good opportunity for us to capture more work in the oil and gas space.”

Pete Ruegger, chairman of Simpson’s executive committee, said opening in Houston was a “natural outgrowth” of the firm’s “already strong and long-standing” energy practice.

“The Houston office, with a resident partner as talented as Robert Rabalais, will provide a tremendous benefit to our clients active in the oil and gas space,” added Ruegger. “Our breadth and depth of experience across all of the major corporate practice areas are well matched for the sophisticated transactions that are centered in the Houston market.”

Last month The Lawyer reported that Linklaters was another firm considering opportunities in Houston (21 March 2011) while last year Latham & Watkins launched in the city.

Last week Latham strengthened its corporate capabilities in Houston with the hire of Baker Botts partner Ryan Maierson (5 April 2011).