When watching lawyers working on oil and gas titles or regulatory
issues at the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, Henry Hood observes
only one under the age of 50 - a Chesapeake Energy employee.
That marks a critical, unappreciated need among the many labor
shortages facing the energy sector - an aging attorney population.
Although he has no supporting data, the senior vice president and
general counsel for Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake estimates 70
percent of these professionals are 50 years old or older - and those
rising through the ranks between ages 30 and 45 are fewer and
"Literally the 20-somethings are going to inherit this industry
when the 50-somethings retire - and it's a great opportunity for
them," he said. "The only thing that holds back someone in their 20s
is their own abilities, so they're going to have to accelerate
Add this type of key labor shortage to a bustling industry
struggling to keep pace with ever-increasing market demands and you
have the makings of a true donnybrook come salary negotiation time -
especially since Hood believes most energy firms are not prepared
for the contest.
"Most of the companies in this business just haven't focused on
recruiting and hiring and they're going to be in trouble," he said.
Chesapeake, however, has taken a proactive stance not just to
seek out the best and the brightest, but to improve the marketplace.
This fall the nation's largest natural gas independent has started
scholarship programs with the universities of Tulsa, Oklahoma and
West Virginia, seeking not just to identify and target top recruits,
but to encourage more legal courses in areas vital to the oil and
gas sector, such as titles, regulatory issues, contracts, and
"I think we're on the cutting edge," said Hood. "Selfishly, we're
trying to identify quality candidates that may want to work for us.
If they don't we're still benefiting from a good relationship with
Its five-year, $500,000 program with the University of Tulsa
provides not just creation of the Chesapeake Scholars and
strengthened curriculum, but brings a series of market experts to
lecture and mix with students, and allows students to participate in
Robert Butkin, the former state treasurer and TU law dean,
expects that to not just enhance the university's existing
reputation for quality oil and gas instruction, but its related
business and environmental programs like the National Energy-
Environment Law and Policy Institute - all of which can make
attending TU more attractive to students interested in such fields. …