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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.
Giji John, Partner
Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP

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 practice area, renewable energy was literally non-existent (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.

Charlotte Keenan, Associate
Bracewell LLP

Describe your practice area and what it entails.

I practice capital markets, M&A, and general corporate law. I advise issuers and underwriters on a variety of public and private securities offerings and other clients on various commercial business transactions.

What types of clients do you represent?

I represent a broad range of clients, from publicly traded companies to private equity funds and pension investment vehicles. This includes financial institutions and businesses that focus largely on the energy and infrastructure space, such as DTE Energy Company, PPL Corporation, and Phillips 66. I also advise financial advisors in M&A transactions and underwriters in capital markets transactions.

What types of cases/deals do you work on?

Because of the firm’s focus in the energy and infrastructure space, I have the opportunity to work with a diverse range of clients. For example, I was part of the team that advised the underwriters in three separate public offerings by DTE Energy Company of $2.4 billion of equity and debt securities, as well as the financial advisor to the conflicts committee of the board of directors of Enviva Partners GP, LLC—the general partner of Enviva Partners, LP—in connection with the partnership’s agreement to purchase its sponsor’s interest in its first development joint venture.

Last fall, I had the opportunity to have a leading role in a private placement of debt securities that involved work across multiple offices and international travel. My experience on this transaction was incredibly valuable to me for my development as a lawyer and recognition within the firm.

How did you choose this practice area?

I chose the Corporate and Securities practice at Bracewell because the work and clients are of the highest caliber. The partners in the group are also natural mentors. Since joining Bracewell in 2014, I have spent more than three years in our Houston office and one year in each of our London and New York offices. I highly value having had the opportunity to live and work in multiple cities with Bracewell. It has enabled me to fully explore my practice area by working with partners in new offices and with different clients and practices.

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

A typical day may include drafting, reviewing, and negotiating purchase agreements or other transaction documents; engaging with clients; meeting with counterparties to discuss transaction terms or execution; and managing diligence and other documentation.

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

I recommend taking law school classes that are focused on corporate law, such as business associations, secured credit, securities regulation, and tax. Legal clinics are also a great idea. I had the opportunity to take part in the Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic at UT Law and found the corporate legal clinical environment to be invaluable in my legal education. I also recommend working as a summer associate at a law firm in your area of focus so you can experience the daily life of an associate, workflow coordination, and social aspects of the firm. I was a summer associate at Bracewell during my 2L summer and found my experience as a summer to be a good example of the role of a junior associate when I joined the firm.

What do you like best about your practice area?

My practice area is busy and dynamic, which means every day looks different. There is a lot of opportunity to challenge yourself and to learn and develop as an attorney. I also really enjoy client contact and working with and across from new people. It’s also satisfying to continuously build a greater understanding of the substantive areas of my practice, such as market practices for M&A and securities transactions and the applicable legal framework.

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

Junior lawyers are given the opportunity and encouraged to take on responsibility early in a number of areas. They become an integral part of a deal team. Although they may not be active on all aspects of a transaction, they are generally given exposure to the full transaction, which allows for a big-picture view. Junior lawyers are responsible for legal due diligence, which in large part entails the review and summary of client or counterparty files and/or public materials that are relevant to the transaction and participation in due diligence calls. Junior lawyers also draft documentation, as well as certain regulatory or other public filings. They review drafts prepared by counterparties. They are also responsible for transaction management, which entails keeping track of transaction status and informing parties of relevant developments.

What kinds of experience can summer associates gain in this practice area at your firm?

Summer associates are involved in all aspects of corporate transactions. Working on all aspects in part helps show what the typical lifespan of a deal looks like and what the role of a junior lawyer entails. Summer associates complete research and prepare summaries that are useful to the deal team. They also shadow meetings and negotiations and assist with the preparation of transaction documents.

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

Corporate work in the energy, oil, and gas sector is fairly broad and involves M&A, joint ventures, capital markets, restructuring, and other work. Specializing in the sector means lawyers are familiar with a subject matter in a way that enables them to become involved in multiple types of transactions, which creates great learning opportunities to work with different lawyers, clients, and projects. There is also the opportunity to work on interesting new transactions involving new technologies in the energy space.

Charlotte Keenan, Associate — Corporate and Securities

Charlotte Keenan represents both public and private companies in capital markets transactions, mergers and acquisitions, and SEC compliance and disclosure matters. Her capital markets experience includes initial public offerings, shelf offerings, investment-grade debt offerings, and other financing transactions. Charlotte assists clients with respect to business combinations, entity formation and dissolution, asset and stock purchases, and sales and commercial business transactions. She has advised conflicts committees and boards of directors on fiduciary duties, corporate governance, and other matters. 

Charlotte received her J.D., with honors, from The University of Texas School of Law in 2014 and her B.A., magna cum laude, from Colgate University in 2009.

Parker A. Lee, Partner
Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP

Describe your practice area and what it entails.

My practice area is corporate and commercial transactions in the energy industry. This includes M&A, joint ventures, commercial contracts, and related strategic transactions for clients in the oil and gas, petrochemical, water, power, and heavy infrastructure space.

What types of clients do you represent?

Our practice group typically represents oil and gas companies of all shapes and sizes (supermajors to newly formed private companies), including upstream exploration and production companies, midstream transportation, processing and storage companies, and downstream refining companies. Power and petrochemical project developers also make up a large portion of our client base. We also routinely represent commodities trading houses, private equity funds, hedge funds, infrastructure funds, family offices, and asset management divisions of corporate banks in their roles as strategic investors in the energy industry.

What types of cases/deals do you work on?

We help clients buy or sell assets and/or companies in M&A transactions. We help them prepare all of the agreements for joint ventures and partnerships. We help them negotiate and execute large-scale commercial contracts. In addition to advising clients on the legal documents themselves, we participate in strategy and structuring discussions with them along the way to provide insight into prior examples we have worked on and to highlight legal issues to consider. During this process, we spend a lot of time trying to understand our clients’ businesses and how the particular transaction fits the clients’ business strategies so that we can appropriately tailor our advice, negotiation, and document drafting to fit their very specific needs.

How did you choose this practice area?

I wanted to work in a global, asset-heavy industry because I like all of the economic and geopolitical pieces that come with that, and my brain works better with tactile items, so I was naturally drawn to the energy industry. I had previously done some investment banking work, and I liked the advisory side of things, so I knew I wanted to do transactional work instead of litigation. Having an industry focus (as opposed to a “product” focus) is appealing to me because I get to work on different types of deals within the same industry and, as a result, develop a deep understanding of all facets of the energy world. The people you work with in the energy industry are also amazing and run the gamut from true wildcatter/oilmen types to very buttoned-up white collar investors. That makes our role a bit more challenging but also much more fun.

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

Most days begin with catching up on overnight and early-morning emails and making sure that any urgent needs resulting from those are being handled, either by myself or someone on our team. There is also usually a morning call or two with a client to discuss the status of a particular transaction or a document that we are negotiating. The rest of the day tends to be very different depending on the day. Sometimes, we will have a longer meeting or call with a client or with opposing counsel to negotiate an agreement. Sometimes, I will set aside a few hours to focus on drafting a particular agreement or reviewing a draft of an agreement from opposing counsel. And as a partner, I also spend a lot of time discussing strategy regarding a particular workload with other partners and associates within the firm. I am often reviewing revised drafts that have been prepared internally and subsequently distributing those to our client for review. We also try to devote at least some portion of the day to business development and thinking about new clients who we want to work with and additional work we want to do with current clients. This often includes lunches or maybe evening events with those clients, trying to get to know them and their businesses better in addition to letting them know about us.

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

Basic transactional law skills are the building blocks for any “deal lawyer,” regardless of industry. So I think that is where people should start; take as many transactional law classes in law school as you can (but not at the expense of the core law classes). After that, I think reading about the energy industry is crucial and talking to people in the industry as well. In particular, talking to engineers and scientists, in addition to finance professionals, is critical. Just ask basic questions, and then be quiet and listen. For someone who wants to specialize in upstream oil and gas work, being a landman is incredible training. That provides an understanding of real property/title that is crucial to upstream oil and gas work. For those that attend a law school that offers oil and gas courses, I highly recommend taking those. In addition to putting one ahead of the learning curve on related applicable law, an oil and gas course also provides help with getting familiar with energy terminology, practices, and procedures.

I also highly recommend reading about all facets of the energy industry, not just one particular vertical. Understanding how oil and gas, renewables, power, and even mining all work together is very important to be a good long-term strategic advisor.

What do you like best about your practice area?

My favorite aspect of practicing energy transactional law is getting to know our clients and learning about their respective businesses. We get to work with very interesting people from all different parts of the industry, from engineers to financial investors to in-house company counsel. And we really do have clients from all sides of the industry. The substantial majority of them are very friendly, bright, and respectful people who are a pleasure to work with. I feel like I am always learning something new and meeting new people, which is an incredible added bonus to the day-to-day aspect of being a transactional lawyer.  

What misconceptions exist about your practice area?

This is really an observation about the oil and gas industry as a whole, but one big misconception is that oil and gas companies and professionals don’t know or don’t care about climate change. My experience has been completely the opposite. In fact, a number of our oil and gas clients are on the forefront of developing climate-friendly businesses on a parallel track with more traditional fossil fuel businesses. As people who are invested in the energy industry for the long term, our clients want to win today and win 20 years from now, and most of them have a very deep and thorough understanding of the real, scientifically backed aspects of climate change and the real, scientifically backed risks of fossil fuel production, transportation, and consumption. They are building new businesses to address those risks. And we, as their commercial lawyers, have to be well versed in those factors too. So we spend a lot of time with our environmental and regulatory attorneys and advisors to understand the environmental impacts that our clients are having and how that landscape is changing. We, and the large majority of our clients, realize that it is in everyone’s interests to properly understand climate change and to help shape the energy industry accordingly.

What is unique about your practice area at your firm?

One thing that is unique about our Energy/Oil and Gas group is that we are both project managers and technical advisors at the same time. Meaning that on most deals, we are the direct link with the client and are managing the transaction from the initial letter of intent to preparation of the purchase and sale agreement to the final distribution of closing sets, and we are interacting with various different lawyers with different focuses within the firm along the way (e.g., finance, environmental, bankruptcy, and insurance lawyers). But then in some deals that are more corporate or capital-markets focused, we are the technical oil and gas lawyers brought in to advise on a piece of the deal. While I personally prefer to be on the project management side, it is also interesting to be on the technical advisor side, as it requires you to be very sharp and up to speed on the current market environment. In addition, this helps you to stay busy when your traditional clients may not have live transactions going on.

I think being an energy lawyer in the future will mean being comfortable doing traditional oil and gas deals one day and then renewables or new-age energy technology deals the next. As the energy business changes over the next few decades, successful energy lawyers will need to be nimble and adapt with their clients as they continue to manage traditional fossil fuel businesses but also embrace newer forms of energy production and transportation. From a deal lawyer’s perspective, I think this will mean learning more about new technologies, but also learning how to deal with new market entrants from the financial and strategic sides and newer types of investment structures and partnerships. I would also note that the last two decades have seen the United States go from a minor player in the energy world to the dominant figure, so much of the focus has been domestic. I could see growth in the international piece of our business as other countries seek to import some of that market expertise into their own parts of the world, but that will—of course—be heavily dependent upon energy and environmental policy in each country.

Parker A. Lee, Partner—Corporate

Parker advises clients on domestic and international oil and gas, power, water, petrochemical and infrastructure M&A, project development, and joint venture transactions. In addition to advising on the full suite of transaction documents, Parker routinely works with clients on complex commercial contracts, such as joint operating; joint development; gathering; processing; transportation; terminaling; oil and gas purchase; offtake; master services; operation and maintenance (O&M); and engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) agreements. He received his J.D. from SMU Dedman School of Law, cum laude, where he served as a staff editor and external affairs director for the SMU Science & Technology Law Review in 2010. Parker earned his B.B.A. from The University of Texas in 2006 and his B.A. from The University of Texas in 2006. He is licensed in New York and Texas.

Parker’s publications include,

• Author, “Tools For Energy And Infrastructure Minority Partners: Part 2,” Law360, September 24, 2019

• Author, “Tools For Energy And Infrastructure Minority Partners: Part 1,” Law360, September 23, 2019

• Author, “What to Expect in Gulf of Mexico Drilling in 2014,” Houston Business Journal, December 2013

• Author, “Worldwide Workforce: Labor Challenges in Emerging Market Energy Projects,” Risk Management Magazine, September 2013

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