Oil and Gas Law

My Accidental Career Move as an Oil and Gas Attorney

April 12, 2013, it was 4:04 and I was sitting on a bar stool at Dunkin Donuts, tucked in the corner of Pittsburgh’s Market Square. I had a medium carmel coffee that I bought merely as a ticket so I could borrow a seat for a little while. The world seemed to be moving around me at normal speed while each tick of the second hand seemed like an agonizing purgatory. I refreshed the webpage on my phone screen…4:06. Still nothing. My phone just then vibrated with a text message from my dad saying “no matter what I’m proud of you, did you find out yet?” I ignored his text and went back to refreshing my phone. 4:07…still quiet. I decided to cast up one more prayer just to make sure God heard me. 4:08. Names flashed upon the screen. Several hundred names I didn’t know or care really to know…except for one. Just mine. I frantically clicked the “B” for Brown scrolled alphabetically….Borowitz…Broune…Brown! Joshua D. Brown! The name listed on the Pennsylvania Bar Exam website indicated publicly who had passed. I had passed the Pennsylvania Bar Exam. I was now an attorney in the State of Pennsylvania. Now came the hard part, getting a job as an attorney in Pennsylvania.

If you didn’t know, the attorney market across the country has basically dried up like every other job during this recession. I had geared my law school education towards criminal law and immigration law thinking I would use my libertarian passion to help others. However as they say, crime doesn’t pay. And immigration doesn’t typically pay super well either. After turning down a couple of low paying attorney positions, one which would have required me to move to Philadelphia. I knew I needed to retool or drown in document review jobs. But what?

NPR podcasts filled my mind during otherwise mindless and menial document review jobs. I came across a certain “This American Life” podcast where they explored the natural gas boom in my own backyard of Western Pennsylvania. The podcast of course discussed the controversial nature of “fracking” and the incredible rewards that it could bring to Pennsylvania. It was also around this time I happened to be working with former Pittsburgh Republican Mayoral candidate Joe Weinroth. Joe regaled me daily about his failed campaign for mayor of Pittsburgh and his past as a real estate attorney. He championed his ideas for municipal policy changes that could help invigorate poor areas of Pittsburgh (which I still think are fantastic ideas). Most importantly, Joe pointed me in the direction of oil and gas law, which thanks to NPR, I had been thinking about anyway. Under Joe’s guidance I went to the Allegheny County Recorder of Deed’s Office on my lunch breaks and began researching my grandparent’s property, from 2014 back to William Penn (they live just outside of the Pittsburgh in Bethel Park). I learned to research oil and gas leases and began discovering oil and gas legal blogs.

Joe Weinroth, former Republican Mayoral Candidate for Pittsburgh and my inspiration

Joe Weinroth, former Republican Mayoral Candidate for Pittsburgh (Photo Credit: Martha Rial, Pittsburgh Post)

At the suggestion of Joe and another individual I heard about an abstracting company called Purple Land Management just south of the city. I was told they were looking for attorneys to learn to abstract oil and gas properties. All I knew about oil and gas was what NPR and Joe Weinroth told me about it but I figured I would give it a shot. A few weeks later, I was offered a position. As a result I was driving all over Eastern Ohio, West Virginia and Southwest Pennsylvania researching oil and gas properties for oil and gas companies and soaking in every little piece of information I could. To kick my learning into high gear I ordered an Oil and Gas Law textbook online, of which I began to bury my nose in each evening with a bottle of Sam Adams. This one opportunity led to my next. I was hired as In House Counsel with a relatively small oil and gas production company in Western PA. My oil and gas legal education was in hyperdrive.

As In House Counsel, I learned the ins and the outs of the industry. Frequently meeting with company engineers, landman, and other company executives. I learned about different Pennsylvania legal doctrines like “implied covenants to produce” and saw generally how the sausage was made. I studied Pennsylvania Supreme Court cases regarding oil and gas law and read up on Pennsylvania’s controversial Act 13. After about 6 months working as In House Counsel, I landed a job with a large Pittsburgh law firm doing oil and gas law.

It really has been a whirlwind of a year but I think I landed in one of the most fascinating and rapidly expanding legal disciplines in Pennsylvania. I went to law school so that I can serve my community. I have now realized that there are enough criminal law lawyers out there doing a fantastic job. Oil and Gas Law is the new wild west in the legal frontier. The decisions that are being made now by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and the laws that are being passed now by the Pennsylvania legislature will affect generations of Pennsylvanians to come. I hope to make sure it helps everyone, both farmers and company executives. To help both the business man and the family man who gets his water from a nearby spring. Over the next couple of months or so I’m going to comment on some of the big legal issues in the Oil and Gas legal field that are rapidly affecting each Pennsylvanian citizen.

It is 10:07 pm on Febuary 22, 2014 and I am a Pennsylvanian Oil and Gas Attorney. Stay tuned.

Home from work as an Oil and Gas attorney

Home from work as an Oil and Gas attorney

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