OU Law Conversations: William Lee

August 20, 2020

University of Oklahoma College of Law, 1969
Harvard University, 1966

What led you to OU Law?

I came to OU Law school because I grew up in Bartlesville and I thought I wanted to practice law in Oklahoma. Obviously that didn’t work out. My father graduated from OU Law in 1924 and he was general counsel and a senior vice president of Cities Service Oil Company in Bartlesville, inspiring me to seek to be a lawyer. He passed away while I was in college. I came to OU Law school to follow in his footsteps and while I was in OU Law school, I went on a trip and met my wife. She was a native of Houston and by virtue of what she exposed me to in Houston, it seemed like it was a good opportunity. I knew lawyers worked really hard and she would be happier in a city where she grew up.

What are your favorite memories from OU Law?

My favorite professor was Fred Miller. I think I took 16 hours from him. I enjoyed everything he taught. I understand that many saw him as challenging, but I had a great relationship with him. I also enjoyed Dr. Vleet, who was the moot court advisor. I participated in moot court competitions and got to argue for the Oklahoma team in St. Louis at a regional competition.

Tell us about your career.

When I graduated, I went to the army in the JAG Corp. I did court martial work and then came out and got a job at Vinson Elkins. I did mergers and acquisitions and various corporate transactions for a career.

I was fortunate to become a partner and to work in corporate finance and securities. I just followed the opportunities that were available to me. I have practiced law since 1973. I have been blessed with opportunities and good fortune and good clients.

What’s so unique about Vinson Elkin’s that has allowed you to have such a long career there?

They always had this comment about Vinson Elkins that “we are 800 lawyers-wide, but only one deep at any time.” If you had a project or a deal, you were alone in doing the project and the other lawyers were only for consulting help. You can get consulting help, but you need to be a good enough lawyer to handle what it is that you’re responsible for. They do much better training and preparation for the younger lawyers now than there was in my day.

What is your advice for current students and recent graduates?

Use the thinking skills that you developed in college and law school to analyze the situations and take the best course. You have to analyze your case or your transaction that you’re working on and figure out what’s the best way to skin the cat. You have to analyze the people you’re working with and make the best of your situation. Find your best opportunity and seize it. Unfortunately, the practice of law requires a lot of hard work. One of my bosses used to say we need to figure out how to work smarter rather than working harder, and that’s definitely what you need to do.

Eugene Kuntz once said that the beauty of the law is not its certainty, but its flexibility. It requires sophistication and experience to appreciate it, but there is still a lot of flexibility as to how things occur and a lot of amazing circumstances. New situations are always emerging. That comment can be applied to almost anything.


Bill engages in a corporate practice that covers a broad range of business law matters, including securities offerings, mergers and acquisitions, and matters pertaining to investment advisors and other providers of financial services. In recent years, he has been involved in the formation of a number of private investment funds, including limited partnerships and various trusts organized to invest in venture capital opportunities, private equity opportunities, real estate and marketable securities. Currently, he regularly represents eight investment advisors, including one that has more than $40 billion in assets under management; he also practices general corporate work and regulatory work for several Texas trust companies.

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