Practice Area Insights: The Types of Deals That Energy, Oil & Gas Attorneys Handle

Published: Apr 12, 2023

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Energy, Oil & Gas attorneys advise companies on corporate issues (the development, acquisition, and disposal of assets), issues you might recognize from property class (like imminent domain and mineral rights), regulatory compliance, and even financial aspects of commoditized energy assets. The demand for energy attorneys—both general and Clean Tech—is high, as noted in Vault’s article on in demand and emerging practice areas. Attorneys can work for firms or in-house with large energy companies, and while the regulatory and financial-oriented practices can be found in DC and New York, the largest hub for this legal field is in Texas.

In our guide, Practice Perspectives: Vault’s Guide to Legal Practice Areas, attorneys from law firms with top-ranked Energy, Oil & Gas practices share insights about their practice, including what types of deals they work on and what kind of training they recommend to excel at their field of law. Keep reading for their insights!

What types of cases/deals do you work on?

Andrew C.J. Buseo, Associate—Bracewell: I work on secured and unsecured loan transactions, which are either term loans or revolving credit facilities (or a combination of the two). The secured loans I work on are secured by a variety of collateral packages, which can consist of oil and gas leases, pipeline assets, and personal property. A revolving credit facility is similar to a very large credit card that is funded by multiple lenders, so the risk is shared. These types of loans allow companies to borrow, re-pay, and re-borrow, so long as the total amount outstanding never exceeds the total amount that all of the lenders participating in the loan have agreed to commit. The loans I work on could provide the borrower with funds to pay the purchase price for an acquisition. They could also be working capital facilities that give the borrower funds to operate its business on a day-to-day basis. During this period of COVID-19, I’ve also worked on credit facilities that provide companies with emergency reserves to help them weather the unknown.

Ian R. Goldberg, Partner—Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP: My practice focuses on upstream and midstream oil and gas mergers, acquisitions and divestitures, financial transactions, and out-of-court and bankruptcy court restructurings. Recently I represented a bank in a credit bid for the upstream and midstream assets of its borrower, operation of those assets and subsequent sale, which represented a successful exit for the bank. This was a unique transaction that involved essentially all areas of my practice.

Charlie Ofner, Partner—White & Case: My deals are quite diverse. That being said, they all have a couple of things in common: They are always unique, and they are never simple. Recent examples include representing (1) Continental Resources in its acquisition of upstream oil & gas assets in the Delaware Basin from Pioneer Natural Resources for US$3.25 billion; (2) a private company named Last Mile Energy in its acquisition of a company from CenterPoint Energy that provides portable LNG and compressed natural gas to utilities, municipalities, pipeline operators, commercial companies, and industrial companies; and (3) a private equity firm named Old Ironsides Energy in multiple acquisitions, divestitures, and joint ventures in the energy space. 

All of these transactions required extensive collaboration across our M&A, Finance, Tax, Environmental, Employee Compensation & Benefits, and Regulatory practices. Being at White & Case affords me the ability to work with a deep bench of practitioners in all of these essential practices, which allows me to work with companies through the full cycle of investment, development and divestitures of their various assets and strategic interests.

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

Charlie Ofner: While there are many more business-focused law classes available to law students than when I was in law school (which I encourage any student with interest in this area to take), we learn the vast majority of what we do on the job. To the extent that time is available, I would encourage young associates to take advantage of every transactional training program available to him or her, and to also subscribe to Practising Law Institute (PLI). With PLI you are able to self-study in a number of different critical transactional areas, and it is still a very powerful tool that I use in my practice.

Andrew C.J. Buseo: I recommend taking secured finance/secured transactions (or the equivalent class offered at your law school that deals with Article 9 of the Uniform Commercial Code) and business organizations (or the equivalent class offered at your law school that deals with the law of agency and the organization and operation of LLCs, corporations, and partnerships). Many people talk about how law school classes are not at all helpful in the actual practice of law, but I use what I learned in those two classes every day. Being extremely well organized and paying attention to the most minor details are two important skills to have in our practice area. Not every minor detail is worth negotiating with opposing counsel, but you need to be able to identify the ones that are important to your client.

Ian R. Goldberg: For law students, I would recommend taking as many oil and gas, real property and energy law classes as possible. These courses include concepts and substantive law that are essential to my practice. Drafting courses and transactional practice clinics would also provide valuable experience that would help a new associate add value. With respect to current practitioners looking to make a switch, there are numerous long and short courses that provide the nuts and bolts of oil and gas law.