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Overview

Energy attorneys advise companies through transactions involving the development, acquisition, and disposal of oil, gas, and other energy assets. In addition to normal corporate issues, energy attorneys deal with varied bodies of law, including mineral and property rights, imminent domain, environmental regulation, and sometimes even maritime law (offshore drilling or wind farms). Oil and gas production and pipelines are highly regulated industries, so energy attorneys must keep up on regulations and keep their eyes on complicated rules for every transaction. Increasingly, energy assets have become commoditized, so some lawyers in this area focus on the complicated financial transactions surrounding energy assets, including derivatives, hedges, and swaps. This practice area is heavily focused in Texas, while the more regulatory and financial-oriented areas are in Washington, DC, and New York. Energy companies have large in-house practices, and attorneys in this field can have many in-house opportunities.

Featured Q&A's
Get an insider's view on working in Energy, Oil, & Gas from real lawyers in the practice area.
Emily Mallen, Partner
Sidley Austin LLP

Describe your practice area and what it entails.

My practice area is energy regulatory, with a specific focus on oil and natural gas pipelines regulated by FERC. The practice has a healthy mix of litigation and transactional components, which could include drafting an appellate brief on a complex regulatory scheme, taking discovery and drafting motions in an administrative law proceeding, or advising financial institutions on how regulatory changes impact risks to their investments in pipeline projects. Because energy, and how we produce, generate, and consume it, shapes our environment, much of my practice also centers on the intersection between energy and environmental laws.

What types of clients do you represent?

Many of my clients are pipeline operators directly regulated by FERC. However, a significant part of my practice includes clients who invest in regulated companies or who ship or trade hydrocarbons on regulated pipelines. While I may work with pipeline shippers in a transactional capacity, my practice revolves around representing pipeline companies before FERC.

What types of cases/deals do you work on?

My workload generally consisted of pure FERC regulatory work, such as representing pipelines in FERC rate cases and assisting with tariff filings to revise terms and conditions of service, then defending those filings in administrative proceedings. However, lately, my workload has diversified considerably and contains a larger transactional component. One recent project included providing counsel to a FERC-regulated pipeline that was looking for regulatory solutions to a pending shipper bankruptcy. I helped to develop the pipeline’s legal arguments that the NGA and FERC regulatory scheme prevented the shipper from rejecting its transportation service agreement with the pipeline in bankruptcy. That case is now on appeal. I also worked to ascertain the FERC regulatory risks on another transaction that would have resulted in my client owning a 50 percent stake in one of the largest midstream companies in America.

How did you choose this practice area?

I graduated law school fully intending to practice health care law. I ended up taking a job with a firm known for its boutique energy regulatory practice after really clicking with the lawyers there. I was drawn to the work because energy, like health care, is a complicated and highly regulated industry that touches the lives of every American. I found that I enjoyed the technical aspects of the practice and the STEM focus even though I did not have a hard science or engineering background. Often, I found myself working directly with engineers, and I was tasked with distilling technical concepts into effective advocacy. I ultimately specialized in the pipeline component of energy law because of the excellent mentors I had in that field and the client-facing opportunities they gave me early on. I also found the Energy Bar to be a collegial and professional group of people both as colleagues and adversaries.

What is a typical day like and/or what are some common tasks you perform?

Every day is a little different in my practice area, but the common thread is that I am always solving problems. Some of the most interesting tasks include determining how FERC regulations would apply to a regulated asset post acquisition and making sure that a client can achieve its business objectives and be compliant once the asset is acquired. Often, I am tasked with explaining the regulatory construct to a client’s business unit that is less familiar with how they apply. When I am working on a rate case, I may be helping a witness craft their pre-filed testimony or be negotiating with opposing counsel or FERC trial staff over the production of discovery responses. Or, I may be helping a client implement a FERC compliance plan.

What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area?

I was an English and Political Science major at a university known for its engineering and medical schools. For that reason alone, I have often regretted not focusing more on physics, chemistry, and engineering to take better advantage of my tuition dollars. An analytical and curious mind is the most important skill for my practice area, but a hard science background would certainly help, especially because the regulations are often steeped in how the systems physically work. However, FERC is primarily an economic regulator, so having some coursework in economics and antitrust are also useful. And anyone wishing to practice regulatory law should take Administrative Law and understand the rulemaking and adjudicative process. Most law schools do not offer energy law classes, but students may want to have a basic understanding of environmental law, which is more universally taught.

What do you like best about your practice area?

I love the technical aspects of my practice area, and I love being a subject-matter expert in energy law. As a society, we are at a point in time in which we must think critically about where our energy comes from and how we want to generate it going forward. There are so many problems to solve in managing our energy future, and I believe that there is a positive role for the oil and gas industry to play—provided it is regulated properly. I find it very exciting to be a part of the energy debate that is helping to shape our country’s energy future. I also love that my practice area touches a number of other practice areas, including Environmental, M&A, Appellate, Corporate Governance, and Project Finance. It is a pleasure to collaborate with my colleagues in all of these areas.

What misconceptions exist about your practice area?

In the past 10 years, the siting of oil and gas pipelines has become extremely political because they are seen as proxies in the debate over greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) that contribute to climate change. Certainly, our national awareness of GHGs and the role they play has increased considerably since I began practice in 2007, which was shortly after the Supreme Court’s landmark Massachusetts v. EPA decision. Non-lawyer friends often ask me if I represent the “good guys” or the “bad guys.” My response is: “Do you turn on the lights in the morning? Charge your phone at night? Enjoy taking hot showers? So, are you a good guy or a bad guy?” We are all consumers of energy, but we are not always informed consumers, and we should not demonize one form of energy over another. Most oil and gas regulatory lawyers I know have an environmental background and care deeply about sustainability, conservation of resources, and preservation.

What are some typical tasks that a junior lawyer would perform in this practice area?

We rely heavily on our junior lawyers for their research and writing skills, and I do my best to give associates as much context as possible for every research and writing assignment. It is rare for a client to want a formal memo anymore, so most written product takes the form of well-organized emails. Almost all first-draft memos come from associates. For litigation matters, junior lawyers manage the exhibits, help draft witness outlines and pre-filed testimony, and assist with briefs and motions. For transactional matters, junior lawyers assist with due diligence. Whenever possible, I include junior lawyers on client calls and give them speaking roles to help develop verbal advocacy and client-management skills.

How do you see this practice area evolving in the future?

The energy industry is changing rapidly. We are already seeing gas bans in some municipalities and regional policies that promote electrification over fossil fuels. This does not spell doom for oil and gas regulatory attorneys. The economic regulatory component is here to stay. Investors will need to extract maximum value from pipeline infrastructure, so there will be more heated pipeline rate cases, particularly at a time when pipeline customers are under pressure to reduce their carbon footprints. A number of emerging issues are also evolving, and the interplay of energy and environmental laws continues. We may see new regulations that promote the transportation of hydrogen through existing pipeline infrastructure and new regulations on cybersecurity protocols for pipeline operators. With all of the changes coming, it is important to remember that your value as a regulatory lawyer lies in your personal and professional relationships with the regulator.

Emily Mallen, Partner

Emily Mallen counsels clients in the natural gas, oil, and products pipeline industries in federal regulatory and transactional matters. She helps her clients understand and comply with their obligations under energy and environmental laws, with particular focus on the Natural Gas Act (NGA), the Natural Gas Policy Act (NGPA), the Interstate Commerce Act (ICA), and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

Emily has provided strategic advice to pipelines in over a dozen NGA Section 4 and 5 rate case proceedings. She works with in-house counsel to shepherd pipeline projects through the NGA Section 7 certificate process and provides advice on day-to-day regulatory compliance matters before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). She also has experience with proceedings before the Texas Railroad Commission and the federal courts and advising energy industry and trade association clients working through emerging issues in energy and natural resources law.

Annemarie Dunleavy, Associate
Bracewell LLP

Describe your practice area and what it entails.

My practice focuses on complex financial transactions. I regularly advise banks, private equity funds, and other corporate borrowers in the energy sector on a variety of commercial lending and project finance matters. We often represent large commercial banks in connection with syndicated credit facilities, with a particular emphasis on secured oil and gas reserve-base lending and working capital lines of credit.

Transactions can last anywhere from a couple of weeks to many months. They are an immersive experience that allows you to explore how clients operate. Deals begin with the negotiation of a term sheet, which serves as a roadmap for significant points of a transaction. Drafting and negotiating the primary transaction documents, such as the credit agreement and security agreements, is an exercise in which the entire team is involved. Junior and mid-level associates assume leadership roles in drafting and reviewing ancillary deliverables, coordinating with opposing counsel, and managing closing and post-closing logistics.

What types of clients do you represent? 

I represent some of the largest financial institutions in the world, a diverse group of corporate borrowers, and smaller players in the energy industry. Most recently, I participated in the representation of Crédit Agricole Corporate and Investment Bank as agent to the lenders in the $2.44 billion letter of credit facility and approximately $544 million in funded debt for McDermott International in the successfully completed emergence from bankruptcy. The transaction was a great opportunity to collaborate with a diverse group of lawyers from practices and offices throughout the firm to provide effective counsel. 

Earlier this year, I represented Co-op Power Inc. on a pro bono basis in the sale of a New York City Housing Authority community solar project to a clean energy investment firm. Co-op Power is an innovative consumer-owned sustainable energy cooperative that enables communities to create community-owned clean energy products and services. I enjoyed working on this transaction as it required me to draw on my creativity during a contentious negotiation, which resulted in an ideal result for all parties. The experience was incredibly valuable in my development as a lawyer and raising my profile within the firm. 

What types of cases/deals do you work on? 

I generally work on a wide variety of secured and unsecured credit transactions, including asset-based lending, senior and subordinated debt financings, cross-border financings, debt restructurings, project and acquisition financings, letter of credit facilities, term loans, revolving facilities, working capital loans, and oil and gas secured financings, as well as loan restructures and workouts and various other interbank relationships involved in syndicated loan transactions. While my practice focuses on the finance space, no two transactions are identical. I enjoy drawing analogies to prior deals and analyzing differences and similarities between matters. Given the depth and breadth of Bracewell’s finance practice, I have found that working with an array of partners and teams across offices provides exposure to many types of transactions and the opportunity to gain experience in different areas of our Finance practice. 

How did you choose this practice area?

I decided to focus on finance because it sits at the intersection of two inextricably linked disciplines: finance and law. I explored different practice areas and found that I enjoyed the immersive, rigorous, and collaborative aspects of finance law. The length and pace of finance transactions is such that every deal is an opportunity to gain insight into how a company functions, its corporate needs, its risk tolerances, and where its sensitivities lie. Each deal is sufficiently different that it presents novel challenges that deepen my substantive knowledge and skillset. I am also a “people” person, so it is important to me to work with a team that I respect, can learn from, and genuinely like. Working with colleagues who support one another and actively collaborate produces the most effective representation for clients and, in my experience, results in the greatest level of professional satisfaction.

What is a typical day like and/or what are some common tasks you perform?

Each day in the Finance group brings different challenges. In a typical day, I draft and negotiate credit agreements and related ancillary documentation, analyze client questions, collaborate with my team, and coordinate with clients and opposing counsel. Outside my practice, I focus on training junior and mid-level associates. I enjoy sharing my experiences and explaining the rationale behind why transactions are conducted in a certain way. Conversely, I find the trainings that Bracewell hosts, in addition to the other training resources available to lawyers at the firm, to be valuable tools to build my knowledge base. Supporting Bracewell’s pro bono clients is important to me. Many days involve some aspect of pro bono representation, such as legal research or drafting briefs. Finally, I work to integrate business development into my daily routine. This may involve reaching out to an old colleague or law school friend with an interesting article or reviewing trade publications to keep abreast of industry developments.

What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area?

Developing an understanding of business and how financial institutions function and interning with a law firm are ideal experiences for someone who would like to practice with a finance group. Appreciating the rationale behind business decisions and how financial institutions operate provides a solid foundation upon which substantive legal and transactional knowledge can be based. Finally, interning or working as a summer associate with a law firm is an effective way to experience associate life to confirm an interest in that path. Secured Transactions, Corporate Taxation, and Business Associations are three law school classes that prepared me well for my practice. I completed a J.D./M.B.A. program and through my business studies developed the corporate framework within which I apply my legal knowledge. I recommend a J.D./M.B.A. to anyone interested in finance law.

What do you like best about your practice area?

I enjoy the challenge and variety of my practice area. I find the process of conceptualizing, drafting, and negotiating trans-
actions rewarding, especially when working across from collaborative co-counsel in the context of a collegial Bracewell team. In our practice group, veteran lawyers make it a priority to train more-junior lawyers. This is valuable, both with respect to gaining substantive knowledge and strengthening relationships within the team. We also benefit from having a steady follow of high-quality deals, which gives us the opportunity to work with partners throughout the firm. 

How do you see this practice area evolving in the future? 

The energy industry is undergoing a dramatic transformation. As low oil prices apply pressure to many of our clients and technological advancements redesign the energy industry landscape, I see our practice responding with creativity and resilience—creativity in the structure of transactions, the analysis of complex challenges, and the composition of teams. Finance lawyers have adapted to disruptions and novel challenges by re-tooling and broadening our skillsets. Finance law will continue to navigate changes in administration, market disruptions, and other challenges with the same level of creativity and resilience. 

In what ways has the coronavirus pandemic affected your practice? How have you adjusted to lawyering in the wake of COVID-19?

The confluence of the coronavirus pandemic and the precipitous decline in the price of oil this year have had a substantive impact on the types of transactions upon which I work. Whereas I previously advised on bankruptcy matters only rarely, I am currently actively involved in finance transactions involving a bankruptcy debtor during, and emerging from, a bankruptcy case. I have built upon my finance knowledge to help clients in the context of bankruptcy and within the confines of bankruptcy courts. This has given me an opportunity to broaden my practice, diversify my skillset, and forge relationships with many of my Bracewell colleagues as we collaborate to effectively support our energy clients. 

Bracewell navigated the transition to working from home smoothly and has provided the tools necessary to seamlessly function remotely. As a collaborative team, our practice has shifted to incorporate electronically connecting and supporting one another. For example, rather than hold in-person meetings, we emphasize connecting via video in order to facilitate the team dynamic that enables us to most effectively represent our clients. 

For those considering corporate work, why would you advise them to specialize in energy, oil, and gas?

I would advise one interested in corporate work to specialize in the energy, oil, and gas industry because it is a fascinating, cutting-edge sector with exceptional growth potential rooted in a well-established foundation. Engaging in the energy industry during this rapid cycle of development provides the opportunity to witness firsthand technological developments that will impact generations. The transaction structures designed to accommodate these advancements require creative problem-solving and a responsive, nimble approach. Corporate work in the energy space is broad and involves finance, mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures, capital markets, and other work. As such, there are many potential paths for someone interested in pursuing this course.

 

Annemarie Dunleavy, Associate—Finance

Annemarie Dunleavy’s practice focuses on commercial lending and project finance transactions. She represents lenders and borrowers in a range of secured and unsecured financial arrangements, including structuring and negotiating senior and subordinated debt financings, acquisition and project financings, structured financings, and securitizations, with a focus on the energy sector. She also assists clients in all phases of energy and infrastructure projects.
Prior to joining Bracewell, Annemarie served as in-house counsel for a publicly traded midstream oil and gas master limited partnership and for a renewable power generation company. She earned a B.A. in Economics from Drew University, an M.B.A. from American University Kogod School of Business, and a J.D. from American University Washington College of Law.

Harve Truskett, Partner
Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP

Describe your practice area and what it entails.

My practice focuses on a broad range of energy transactions up and down the supply chain, starting at the well head, through the gathering and transportation pipelines, and ending at a refined products terminal. While the practice has a strong M&A emphasis, we also represent our energy clients in the drafting and negotiation of their material commercial contracts. Good examples would be oil and gas gathering and transportation agreements and site services agreements and operating agreements for clients further down the supply chain. Because the commercial contract practice requires extensive back and forth between our clients’ operational and legal teams, we get an expansive opportunity to understand their businesses. Each transaction is unique, so it keeps our practice fresh and challenging.

What types of clients do you represent?

Much like the segment diversity in the energy industry I mentioned above, I get the opportunity to represent a wide variety of clients as well. In any given acquisition or divestiture, we might represent a private equity company making an investment in an energy asset or company, a commercial bank lending money to fund an acquisition, or the strategic company (or the private equity portfolio company) that is actually buying or selling the asset or company. In addition, we can represent any of those types of clients in the negotiation of a material commercial contract. I also assist our corporate securities practice groups in representing both issuers and underwriters in capital markets transactions. Each client type has a subset of unique interests in a given transaction, so the experience in representing one type of client in a given energy transaction enhances your ability to represent another type of client, both in terms of substantive advice and in execution efficiency.

What types of cases/deals do you work on?

Several recent examples over the last couple of years come to mind as being representative of the variety of industry segments, clients types, and transaction forms that we see on a regular basis. Highlighting the current restructuring cycle in the upstream sector, we represent KeyBank National Association in the acquisition, operation, and current marketing of Pennsylvania upstream assets from its borrower, EdgeMarc Energy, out of bankruptcy. With respect to midstream business, we represented Stonepeak Infrastructure Partners in its $3.6 billion acquisition of Oryx Midstream, the then-largest privately owned midstream crude oil operator in the Permian Basin. Moving down the midstream supply chain, we represented Royal Vopak and BlackRock’s Global Energy & Power Infrastructure Fund in its acquisition of U.S. gulf coast marine and terminalling assets from The Dow Chemical Company (“Dow”). This $620 million carve-out transaction of assets from several of Dow’s industrial sites involved the negotiation of the material long-term service agreements with Dow, which will be a customer of our client going forward with respect to the storage and infrastructure services supported by the subject assets.

How did you choose this practice area?

I didn’t consciously set out to be an energy lawyer, but anyone paying attention would not have been surprised at where I ended up. The industry chose me. My father and grandfathers spent their entire careers in the oil and gas industry. Suffice to say I heard a lot of industry talk around the dinner table. In law school, I had the opportunity to take Jacqueline Weaver’s Oil and Gas course at the University of Houston Law Center, which really sparked my interest in the industry and its historical and legal underpinnings. As a young associate at our firm, the shale oil and gas boom was taking hold. I sought out our firm’s veteran energy partners at the time on those early transactions and learned by doing, but I felt like I was drinking through a firehose on most days. I must have done something right, however, because they kept asking me back.

What is a typical day like and/or what are some common tasks you perform?

It is spent reading, writing, and managing. A typical day in-
volves several conference calls on current transactions. Typically those calls involve updating the client on the key legal workstreams needed to complete a transaction, reviewing a draft of a transaction agreement with a client, or negotiating that document with the counterparty’s counsel. In between those calls I am drafting, reviewing, or revising agreements—or meeting with team members assisting me on the transaction. I also regularly meet with existing and prospective clients to develop new business, and as a practice group leader, most of my days have at least some time spent attending to administrative matters.

What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area?

If you are lucky enough to attend a law school that offers it, I would take an introductory course on oil and gas or energy law. I still use the treatises authored by my Oil and Gas professor in law school. If not, I would take as many real property, secured transaction, and bankruptcy-related courses as you can. That subject matter forms the primary legal building blocks of a typical energy transaction. I would also ask to participate in as many energy-related transactions as possible in your summer legal jobs during law school. Finally, keep up with the industry. The business page of the Houston Chronicle is available online and provides comprehensive daily coverage of the industry. The Wall Street Journal does a similarly good job. Reading these publications regularly provides a good feel for the trends and terminology.

What is unique about your practice area at your firm?

The breadth and depth of the energy industry expertise across Hunton Andrews Kurth gives our lawyers a unique opportunity to meet our clients’ ever-evolving needs. Our firm’s deep history of representing the industry reaches back to early in the 20th century, assisting clients such as Howard Hughes Sr. in forming Hughes Tool Company. This institutional knowledge has been passed down to and built upon by the firm’s lawyers for over 100 years. From our Tax practice that has created innovative corporate forms, such as the master limited partnership, and advises today on new energy solutions, such as tax credits for carbon capture and sequestration to world class environmental and privacy and cybersecurity practices, our lawyers serve as go-to counsel across the energy industry. What this means for our energy transactional lawyers is we have a formidable tool chest of experts and solutions to put to use for our energy clients.            

What are some typical tasks that a junior lawyer would perform in this practice area?

Our junior lawyers get meaningful early experience on our deal teams as we try to staff transactions as efficiently as possible. They are responsible for maintaining the “closing checklist,” which is a list of all the legal documents to be completed prior to a transaction being signed or closed. It is a great way for junior lawyers to holistically understand our transactions. By the end of the engagement, our clients often feel comfortable directly contacting our junior lawyers to get a transaction status. They are also generally responsible for drafting the “ancillary documents,” which are the underlying documents that are conditions to or in support of the major purchase or credit agreement.

In what ways has the coronavirus pandemic affected your practice? How have you adjusted to lawyering in the wake of COVID-19?

We were fortunate that Hunton Andrews Kurth had the vision to put the technology in place prior to the pandemic that we would need to continue serving our clients. Through applications such as Zoom, we were able to practice virtually from day one. Closing transactions required some early adjustments around tasks like obtaining original signatures, but the energy industry had largely been moving away from physical closings, so it adjusted well. Our physical offices are now open in large part with mask requirements and other safety protocols, so we can meet in the office if necessary. The biggest change is how business development is performed, which historically had involved traveling to meet potential and existing clients. That is now largely done virtually. You lose some of the relationship-building benefits of meeting in person, but we can preserve some of those benefits through video meetings. We also find it easier to get on our clients’ calendars for virtual meetings than we did for in-person meetings.

For those considering corporate work, why would you advise them to specialize in energy, oil, & gas?

First, the industry touches so many areas of the global economy. On the same day I work on an oil and gas lease for a major oil company, I might also handle a fuel supply contract for an agribusiness client or a refined product storage agreement for a transportation client. It is also ever evolving. While we still work with clients on traditional oil and gas matters, we also are helping our clients (and often the same clients) explore transformational technologies, such as carbon capture, wind, solar, and hydrogen technologies. Finally, there is such a wide variety of transactions touching the industry that lawyers are not narrowed into a niche practice. From real property transactions to transportation agreements to facility services agreements and beyond, a lawyer specializing in energy transactions develops a well-rounded skill set that is invaluable, regardless of the industry.

Harve Truskett, Partner, Head of the Oil and Gas Practice Group

Harve Truskett is the head of the Hunton Andrews Kurth’s Oil and Gas practice group. Harve’s practice focuses on a broad range of energy transactions. His experience includes representation of buyers and sellers in both upstream and midstream oil and gas acquisitions and divestitures; negotiation of commercial agreements, including joint operating, development, gathering, processing, transportation, terminalling, oil and gas purchase and sale, and master services agreements; representation of owners of mineral royalty interests; representation of energy issuers and underwriters in public equity offerings; and representation of borrowers and lenders in credit facilities related to the energy industry (ranging in size from middle market secured credit facilities to investment grade credit facilities), including reserve-based lending transactions. Harve has extensive experience in transactions involving oil and gas assets in the major United States unconventional plays, including the Permian Basin, the Eagle Ford Shale, Bakken Shale, Barnett Shale, Haynesville Shale, Marcellus Shale, and Utica Shale.

Giji John, Partner
Orrick

Describe your practice area and what it entails.

I focus on project development and financing of energy projects, particularly wind and solar energy projects, although I have worked on any number of different technologies, including natural-gas-fired power plants, liquefied natural gas (LNG), carbon capture and sequestration, natural gas processing facilities, and petrochemical facilities. My work involves negotiating various project-related contracts that support long-term operations and financing for my clients.

What types of clients do you represent?

Most of my clients are project developers. They have included ENGIE, EDP Renewables, Renewable Energy Systems, Pattern Energy, Recurrent Energy, and Cheniere Energy. I also represent large corporates, such as Microsoft on its large-scale purchase of renewable energy to meet its sustainability goals.

What types of cases/deals do you work on?

I am fortunate to work on cutting-edge transactions in my field.

Recently I worked with Microsoft to develop new renewable energy contracting structures, known as proxy generation power purchase agreements and volume firming agreements, intended to reduce risk for buyers in corporate power purchase agreements. This structure is intended to expand the corporate and industrial market for renewable energy through innovative provisions that leverage renewable energy, commodity, and financial markets techniques.

I also worked on the multi-phase, multi-billion-dollar project financing of the first LNG export facility in the lower 48 states—Cheniere Energy’s Sabine Pass LNG Liquefaction Facility.

How did you choose this practice area?

I didn’t actually know my practice area existed until I was a summer associate. At that time, I had a vague notion of wanting to do some sort of “transactional work,” not quite knowing what that would entail. I got lucky in that one of my first summer associate projects involved looking at a tax issue for a Pakistani power plant. Narrow issue, but it introduced me to the idea that international project finance was a practice area option. As I did more deals, I got hooked.

What is a typical day like and/or what are some common tasks you perform?

When a deal is at full momentum, we are often reviewing some document or position that the other side’s lawyers have prepared, evaluating it, and helping our clients walk through the risks and/or the benefits. So my typical day involves lots of meetings/calls/emails/etc. in the context of negotiating those deal points. My associates do most of the drafting of major documents, and I’ll work with them to get everything the way clients want.

What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area?

The most obvious recommendations are secured transactions, tax, and bankruptcy classes. But I would also suggest taking courses from your business school on accounting and finance.

What do you like best about your practice area?

It’s constantly changing. When I started practicing in this prac-tice area, renewable energy was literally nonexistent (other than some ’80s-era wind farms in California). Now, renewable energy represents the lion’s share of new electricity projects in the U.S. New technologies constantly change the landscape in energy and enable new deals.

What misconceptions exist about your practice area?

I think the common misconception about transactional lawyers is that we tend to sit, holed up in our offices poring over documents. All lawyers do this at some point—and probably daily. But, at its best, I think project development/finance is one of the more creative practice areas. Especially on deals that have not been done before, or with respect to new products/technologies that we are pushing to market, we are working with clients, financing institutions, and sometimes governmental institutions in order to build out the legal framework of how to do something new. That takes a lot of emotional intelligence, the ability to think on your feet, and good argument skills. I liken it to arguing in front of a very active moot court panel.

How do you see this practice area evolving in the future?

There is a convergence happening between the energy industry and technology. Examples include how electric cars help stabilize the electric grid and the use of blockchain to enable residential solar. So, what lawyers do and our practice areas will probably also converge. I already see this a lot at Orrick. We focus on the technology and innovation, energy and infrastructure, and finance sectors, and we often work across teams to help our clients with matters related to this convergence.

For those considering corporate work, why would you advise them to specialize in energy, oil, and gas?

There is no shortage of energy work—whether that is in oil and gas extractive industries, conventional electricity, or renewable energy. And most of the largest law firms have, or want to have, significant exposure to that work. They are falling over themselves trying to grab associates. And since the deals are inherently very complicated, associates have meaningful and challenging work on day one.

Giji John, Partner—Energy & Infrastructure

Giji John’s practice focuses on the development and finance of domestic and international energy projects. He has extensive experience representing project sponsors through development, acquisitions and dispositions, joint ventures, and financings. His representation has included transactions involving LNG facilities, methanol facilities, petrochemical refineries, carbon capture and sequestration facilities, natural gas processing and storage facilities, natural gas and CO2 pipelines, wind energy, solar energy, natural gas-fired peaking and combined-cycle power plants, thermal and battery energy storage, transportation, aviation, and ports.

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