Warren Leight is returning to the Law & Order franchise as executive producer and showrunner of NBC’s Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Leight is finalizing a deal to succeed Neal Baer, who, after 11 year at the helm of SVU, is leaving the crime drama at the end of the season to segue into a rich three-year overall deal with CBS TV Studios. With an experienced showrunner like Leight in place, NBC and Dick Wolf have solved one of the two issues SVU faces in its quest for a 13th season. The other is re-signing stars Mariska Hargitay and Chris Meloni, whose deals are up at the end of the season. The two have just started talks with the network, with the pace of the negotiations expected to pick up during the next couple of weeks.

Playwright Leight got his first full-time TV writing job on Law & Order: Criminal Intent, which he joined in the second season. He rose through the ranks to serve as executive producer/showrunner before leaving in 2006 to take over same duties on HBO’s In Treatment for its second season. A year later, Leight moved to FX, where he reworked the pilot for boxing drama Lights Out and served as executive producer/showrunner on the series, which garnered critical acclaim but didn’t get traction with viewers and was recently canceled. WME-repped Leight was approached for the SVU gig before FX’s decision last month not to renew Lights Out.