The following is an excerpt from Practice Perspectives: Vault’s Guide to Legal Practice Areas.
Julie Mayo, Partner—Energy Transactions
Julie Mayo is an energy transactions lawyer who handles complex domestic and international energy, project finance and regulatory matters. Her practice is focused on oil, natural gas and electric power projects and has included matters as diverse as the development of LNG liquefaction and receiving terminals and oil and gas processing and pipeline facilities, negotiation of complex capacity and commodity agreements, Federal and State regulatory matters including permit applications, administrative hearings and rulemakings, mergers and acquisitions, and structured financing transactions.
Early in her career, Julie spent nearly a year working on-site in the legal department of the global gas group of a major international oil and gas company and was later seconded to the legal department of a US LNG import terminal company.
Julie earned her JD from The University of Texas School of Law in 2005 and her MPH and BA from Emory University. Julie serves as co-chair of the Houston office Hiring Committee.
Please provide an overview of what, substantively, your practice area entails.
My practice focuses on the development, financing, acquisition and disposition of domestic and international energy and infrastructure projects, particularly in the areas of oil and gas, liquefied natural gas (“LNG”) and electric power. Our team is experienced in the purchase and sale of all manner of assets and the full range of project development matters, including commodity purchase and sale agreements, engineering, procurement and construction contracts, transportation agreements, leases, joint operating agreements, and production sharing agreements. We also have market-leading experience in the administrative and regulatory aspects of energy project development.
What types of clients do you represent?
We represent all types of industry participants. Our clients include some of the largest oil and gas companies in the world, as well as a number of large international trading companies. Our group has knowledge of and experience with the full value chain of LNG project development—from the wellhead to ultimate consumption, including processing, transportation, and shipping—which is unique for a US-based practice group. We also represent clients in all positions, including project companies and sponsors, lenders, and customers and offtakers.
What types of cases do you work on?
Our experience in major energy projects and transactions has recently included the development of LNG liquefaction and receiving terminal and pipeline facilities in the US and abroad, LNG and natural gas sale and purchase agreements, and engineering, procurement and construction contracts for energy and infrastructure projects. We also assist clients in the development of electric power portfolios and the acquisition and disposition of a wide variety of energy assets, and we are active in the midstream development sector.
How did you decide to practice in your area?
I started my career shortly after the electric market in Texas was deregulated, so I spent my earliest days representing clients in stranded cost recovery cases and rulemakings implementing that massive shift in the market. I then transitioned into energy project development when the US was expected to be a major importer of natural gas and have been fortunate enough to watch the shale gas revolution transform the global natural gas market.
What is a typical day or week like in your practice area?
Many of our clients are principally located outside of the US, so I work around their schedules. This means that I’m frequently up early answering emails that came in overnight and on conference calls trying to catch clients before the end of their workday before heading into the office. I use my US working hours for drafting and planning and coordinating with the other members of the team, and then I am frequently on conference calls with clients on the other side of the world in the evening.
What is the best thing about your practice area?
I majored in anthropology as an undergraduate and have a graduate degree in public health with a focus on international health, so I have really enjoyed the international aspect of my practice. I started my career when the oil and gas and LNG industry was entering an interesting period of transition, and I have been fortunate to have a front row seat to watch the market evolve. It is always exciting to see a project we have been involved with on the front page of The Wall Street Journal.
What is the most challenging aspect of your practice area?
Long hours and long flights are certainly some of the most challenging aspects of my practice, but in exchange, I have had the opportunity to participate in projects and transactions around the world and have learned how to be flexible and adapt to new situations. These skills have benefits in all aspects of my life, not just my legal practice.
What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area?
My best piece of advice to anyone who wishes to enter this practice is to commit to learning the art of drafting. Many of our projects are extremely capital-intensive and will have an impact on our clients’ performance for the coming decades, so it is critical that the documents are flawless and can stand the test of time. We can all benefit from paying close attention when working with our mentors and peers and refining our personal drafting styles. There’s never a reason to stop improving your drafting skills.
What misconceptions exist about your practice area? What do you wish you had known before joining your practice area?
I think a particularly detrimental misconception is that the energy industry is unfriendly to women, but my experience has been that women are in some ways uniquely positioned for success.
What is unique about your practice area at your firm, and how has it evolved since you have been at the firm?
Norton Rose Fulbright has everything a client needs in order to develop, finance, acquire or dispose of an energy project. We have a deep bench and a breadth of experience that, when coupled with our truly global presence, allows us to comprehensively and seamlessly service our clients. In particular, we have robust capabilities in the commercial, regulatory, and dispute resolution aspects of energy projects, and we are unique among US firms in that we have a strong Canadian presence with colleagues with extensive experience serving energy clients.
What activities do you enjoy when you are not in the office, and how do you make time for them?
I enjoy spending time with my family, and we can typically be found on the weekends at the zoo, a museum, or our neighborhood parks. I try to move purposefully through my day in order to make time for what is important to me in my personal life.