Returning to private practice after a full decade of government service is never easy. It can be a natural fit, however, particularly when it involves the reunion of a talented lawyer and renowned firm. Such is the case with Rebecca Fike, who recently left her role as senior counsel in the Securities & Exchange Commission’s Division of Enforcement in Fort Worth to rejoin Vinson & Elkins’ Dallas office. She conducted more than 60 investigations at the SEC – experience that is now an asset for V&E’s established white collar team.
“I expect to work in the areas of securities enforcement and government investigations, including corporate internal investigations and white collar defense,” Fike says.
The 2008 Chicago Law grad began her career as an associate at V&E before departing for the SEC in 2012. Fike’s return brings not only her deep experience in complex investigations but also her trademark energy and spirit. The mother of three and avid traveler is also a certified barre and yoga instructor.
Lawdragon: What are some aspects about securities and enforcement work that drew you to that type of practice?
Rebecca Fike: I think being a securities lawyer combines all the best parts of being a lawyer. Securities law is based on a set of black-and-white, highly technical rules that are subject to some level of interpretation based on the facts and circumstances of the case. So in securities litigation, you get to explore the shades of gray where the rules meet their application in the real world. You get to be a counselor in the truest sense – using your expertise in a very technical area of law to advise your clients, while also using your investigative skills to uncover the facts, your persuasive skills to craft a narrative, and your research skills to weave together judicial precedent to support the theory of your case. Securities law is where the realities of day-to-day business meet the statute book, and when clients are facing a time of uncertainty, I get to be both counselor and advocate and I find that deeply rewarding.
LD: Is there a matter from your time at the SEC that stands out?
RF: Definitely the Nikola/Trevor Milton investigation I conducted while at the SEC. I was co-lead of a fantastic SEC team and worked parallel with the Southern District of New York and United States Postal Inspection Service to uncover violations of the anti-fraud provisions of the federal securities laws by Nikola Corporation and its founder and former Executive Chairman Trevor Milton. It was a complex and fast-paced investigation that uncovered scores of false and misleading statements disseminated by Milton and the company about Nikola’s products and technological accomplishments to inflate and maintain Nikola’s stock price. The case combined many current hot-button topics in the legal world: SPACs, ESG investing, social media, disclosure controls, and more. The litigation against Milton is ongoing, but the SEC announced a $125M settlement with the company in December. It was an exciting investigation and great experience.
LD: Tell us about your decision to leave the SEC for Vinson & Elkins.
RF: Back in 2012 I left my position as a litigation associate at Vinson & Elkins in Austin to work for the SEC’s Division of Enforcement in Fort Worth. Ten years later, on the exact same day I gave notice to Vinson & Elkins that I was leaving for the SEC, I gave notice to the SEC that I would be leaving to return to the firm, this time as a partner in the Dallas office. There is much I will miss about the Commission, but after 10 years I felt it was time to move on to the next phase of my career and I am so excited to rejoin private practice, particularly back at Vinson & Elkins where my legal career began.
Coming from the government, I have a book of experience, but not yet a book of business, so when I started looking at firms I knew I wanted to go somewhere with a premiere practice base. Vinson & Elkins offered an exciting combination of a deeply rooted and highly successful corporate practice and excellent fellow white collar and government investigative attorneys, with the unique opportunity to become the firm’s SEC enforcement attorney. I am looking forward to building a practice, and with Vinson & Elkins I can springboard off the firm’s corporate client infrastructure and government investigation practice to grow it further in the space of SEC investigations and defense. And beyond the business plan, coming back to the firm felt like coming home. I enjoyed my early years at Vinson & Elkins and some of my favorite colleagues are not only still at the firm but are now in positions of leadership. I’ve felt so supported and welcomed since deciding to join and I can’t wait to get started.
LD: What initially pushed you towards a career in the law?
RF: I grew up wanting to be a doctor and started undergrad on a pre-med track. I had been accepted to the Plan II Honors Program at the University of Texas at Austin, which is an interdisciplinary, liberal-arts based program, so while I was taking all my science and math pre-requisites for medical school, I also had mandatory world literature and philosophy seminars that I loved. As I got closer to taking the MCAT, I realized that as much as I enjoyed biology, I loved reading and writing more - and even more compelling, I was better at them. I was working on my Plan II thesis about the legalization of euthanasia in the Netherlands, a topic I originally picked for the medical angle, but ultimately found more fascinating from a legal perspective. My thesis advisor had a JD and gave me the nudge to trade in my MCAT ticket for the LSAT. The logic games section of the LSAT spoke the language of my heart and off to law school I went.
LD: How did you end up at the University of Chicago?
RF: When I changed my lifelong plans for medical school to law school the summer before my senior year of college, I knew almost nothing about law schools. I applied to all of the Top 10 and ultimately picked the one where my boyfriend (and future husband) was able to get a transfer for his job at a large oil and gas company in Houston. I had never been to Chicago before, but accepted my offer to The University of Chicago Law School sight unseen and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. My husband and I got married in Texas two weeks before law school began and spent our honeymoon driving from Houston to Chicago with our wedding gifts in the back of my Ford Explorer. We didn’t know anyone in the city, but we loved walking along the river at night, watching Buckingham Fountain go off at 9 p.m., and then meandering back to our apartment in West Loop. And I loved the law school - it was incredibly challenging, but the professors were so engaging – after going to a giant undergrad, it was amazing to be at such a small graduate school, and I met some of my best friends in my law school class.
LD: Was there a course or experience that was particularly memorable or important in what practice you chose?
RF: I had my son in law school, in the summer between 2L and 3L year, so that was pretty memorable. I was a pregnant 2L and a very pregnant summer associate at two different BigLaw firms. It was an interesting experience, but ultimately a very positive one! My son’s first year was really hard – he was a preemie, colicky, and I think felt personally determined to keep me from graduating law school, but my husband, classmates, and professors were so supportive, and carrying my 10-month old down the aisle at our law school graduation ceremony is one of my proudest memories. I’m happy to say he grew into an incredibly easy-going toddler and delightful teenager, and after having my two daughters while I was working (one at V&E and the other while I was at the SEC), I still think law school is a great time to have a baby!
LD: What do you do for fun when you’re outside the office?
RF: My number one hobby is travel and my number two is probably planning travel. We have three kids (currently 14, 11, and 8) and traveling with them is truly my husband and my greatest joy. We’ve been taking them everywhere since they were young, but now that they’re older, they help us with the destination selection and itinerary research. They’re amazing travelers – they always sit together in their own row on a plane and confidently navigate foreign airports, busy international cities, remote tropical locations, and every travel hiccup life has thrown at us. They’ve been a little too confident at times – they once disembarked on a layover in Mexico City and headed into the airport alone, each pulling their little brightly colored carryon suitcases, while my husband and I were trapped several rows back on the plane. They were 10, seven, and four at the time, so we had to have a talk once we caught up with them near the duty-free shop, but we love the memories we’ve made all over the world and look forward to making many more! When I’m home I love to cook, watch musicals, and read books that have nothing to do with real life. We also have three rescue animals we adore: a deaf bulldog who is made of pure love and wrinkles and two Covid kittens who now run the house.
LD: That’s a lot – but we also heard that you teach yoga and barre.
RF: Yes, in addition to being a lawyer, I am also a certified barre instructor and yoga teacher. I was a competitive swimmer all my life and swam for the University of Texas in college. When I retired from the pool I didn’t work out much as I moved on to law school, motherhood and BigLaw associate life. After having my third baby, I decided to sign up for a barre class based on my deep love of dance movies. I loved the class, it was like dance for lawyers who need very precise directions, but I about died holding the little 1 lb. weights. Undeterred, I was back again the next day and then nearly every day after that for the next three years when I started teaching my own class every Sunday afternoon. Along the way I added yoga to my practice and my husband surprised me with a 200-hour yoga teacher training registration for Christmas a few years ago. It was hard (the 200 hours are no joke in 8 weeks while working full time), but enormously rewarding.
Since then I’ve taught barre and yoga classes once or twice a week. My favorite thing about yoga is how empowering it feels to hit a new pose I’d previously declared impossible. My body finds plenty of ways to surprise me as I get older, so it’s fun for some of those surprises to be positive! I’ve had to take a step back from teaching as my work schedule got busier, but I remain a dedicated student. And I still find opportunities to use my training – my mom hurt her back last year and now I send her new short yoga workouts each month to keep her back limber and her body strong, and I’m teaching a yoga class for some of the women at the firm for our next Women’s Initiative event! It's a lifelong practice and I’m grateful for the balance it provides in my stressful and often sedentary law life.
LD: If you weren’t a lawyer, what would you be doing now?
RF: I think I’d be a doctor, but I would constantly be looking for opportunities to write and probably wondering why I didn’t go to law school.