Region's Law Firms Target Energy Cases

By Leonard, Kim | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, October 7, 2010 | Go to article overview

Region's Law Firms Target Energy Cases


Leonard, Kim, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Competition is growing among the biggest law firms in the Pittsburgh region for business from the booming natural gas exploration and production industry, experts say.

Firms across the city are either adding attorneys or focusing more of their time on the booming field, seeing an opportunity for fees after several years of flat revenues here and nationwide due to the recession.

In the Pittsburgh region, "Coal is still a very important part of energy law, but the big thing is Marcellus shale. Some law firms such as ours are aiming to cover every need and facet related to oil and gas, such as property law -- who owns the title," said Shawn Gallagher of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney.

Buchanan Ingersoll created an oil and gas group with 10 to 15 attorneys about two months ago, said Gallagher, who also chairs the environmental and energy law section of the Allegheny County Bar Association.

"The legal profession tends to go where the money is, and the money goes where the drilling is," said Stephen Brewer of market analysis firm Brewer Business Development of Kansas City, Mo. "I would anticipate (increased gas production) would lead to a ramp-up of the availability of related services in the Pittsburgh market."

Energy law "is a growing field, and there are a lot of reasons for that," said Steven McKinney, chairman of the American Bar Association's section on environment, energy and resources. "They all fall under the general banner of energy is more important, and more expensive, than ever before. Any time you have a subject like that, you are going to see the law being more and more involved."

The competition is to represent gas companies and other entities involved in negotiations and disputes over locating gas wells, handling the water used to fracture shale to free the gas thousands of feet below the surface and sinking pipelines to transport gas to market.

National and local attorneys' groups don't track the time or revenue involved in energy law, said McKinney, with Balch & Bingham in Birmingham, Ala.

At Reed Smith, "Pretty much all the different areas of the firm touch on oil and gas," said attorney Kevin Abbott, who focuses on energy litigation and oil and gas law. …

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