UnitedHealth Group, Inc., announced Tuesday that Marianne Short—Minneapolis-based law firm Dorsey & Whitney, LLP’s managing partner of five years—will join the health care services giant as executive vice president and chief legal officer.

Short will join Minnetonka-based UnitedHealth—the state’s largest public company—on January 1. She replaces Richard Baer, who is leaving UnitedHealth to become general counsel at Colorado-based Liberty Media Corporation.

Short joined Dorsey & Whitney in 1977 after serving as a special assistant attorney general for the State of Minnesota. She left the firm in 1988 to serve as a state appellate judge, and she returned to private practice at Dorsey & Whitney in 2000. She became managing partner in 2007.

Dorsey spokesman Bob Kleiber told Twin Cities Business on Tuesday that the firm has not yet selected Short’s successor, and it doesn’t have a specific time frame in which it expects to name a new leader. Short will remain with the firm through the end of this year.

Dorsey’s policy committee, which comprises the firm’s leaders and effectively serves as its board of directors, will meet to discuss candidates, Kleiber said. Law firms like Dorsey typically elect an existing partner to serve as managing partner, rather than seeking talent from outside the firm, he said, adding that Dorsey has more than 270 partners worldwide. (Dorsey is Minnesota’s second-largest law firm based on licensed attorneys in the state, of whom there were 244 as of April 30.)

Short, who co-chairs Dorsey’s appellate and health litigation practice groups, has experience in the health care industry, having represented Medica, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Dakota, and UnitedHealth. She is the first woman to serve as Dorsey’s managing partner, and under her leadership, the firm has received accolades as a leading law firm for women. In addition, Short was recognized in 2011 as one of Twin Cities Business“200 Minnesotans You Should Know.”

“Marianne is a highly experienced and wise counselor with deep legal skills, exceptional business judgment, and significant experience in health care,” UnitedHealth President and CEO Stephen Hemsley said in a statement, adding that Short is “very familiar with our company and its operations.”

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