As energy industry booms, so do related law practices | TribLIVE

This year, Pitt offered an energy law concentration.

“Anything touching on oil and gas has a tremendous impact on legal services delivery,” said Lori McMaster, a former trial lawyer who now serves as director of the Office of Professional and Career Development at Pitt Law School.

The work includes title work, land acquisitions, mergers, governmental oversight, litigation and wealth management.

“This is a pipeline in so many ways, both literally and figuratively,” McMaster said. “There is no point where attorneys don’t have a role.”

Anderson joined Tucker Arensberg two years ago to build its energy law group, which has grown to more than a dozen attorneys. She expects the group to have 20 full-time lawyers within five years.

“The workforce is definitely young,” Anderson said. “It’s really hard to find someone with meaningful experience.”

Before she worked as an energy attorney with Atlas America, and later Chevron Appalachia following a merger, Anderson took her first job with longtime energy lawyer Sean Cassidy of Greensburg. She attributes her start to luck.

“Marcellus had not even happened yet,” Anderson said.

Cassidy has seen changes in his 40 years as an energy lawyer, work that his father did.

His niche is title work — making sure companies have rights to drill on land they acquire.

“I used to have 29 oil and gas clients,” said Cassidy, 65. “Now I have three: Range Resources, Chevron and EQT.”

Yet Cassidy is busier than ever, handling around 1,200 title cases a year. Lots of people are doing such work, he said.

“Before Marcellus, there were maybe five lawyers in Pennsylvania whose entire practice was devoted to oil and gas title work,” Cassidy said. “Now, there are 150 to 200 lawyers. It seems every law firm in Pittsburgh has lawyers doing oil and gas title work. I call it the Marcellus frenzy.”

The region’s largest law firms with energy practices — Babst Calland, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, K&L Gates, Burleson, and Reed Smith — employ more than 250 lawyers focused on the energy sector.

Downtown-based Babst Calland had about 50 lawyers in 2008, when both the economic recession hit and the Marcellus boom started. Today, it has at least 120, said shareholder Kevin Douglass, who is president of the Kentucky-based Energy & Mineral Law Foundation.

“The vast majority of that growth has been because of the energy industry, certainly, and we’re not alone,” Douglass said.

Some law firms relocated or opened offices in the Pittsburgh region. Burleson, a Houston firm, opened offices here in 2009 because of the energy play. Other out-of-state firms did the same, including West Virginia firms Steptoe & Johnson and Bowles Rice.

Bowles Rice has 13 lawyers in its Washington County office and will add to that number when it moves this month into a larger Southpointe office.

“We will grow that, absolutely, and it’s all energy-related,” McCune said. “The energy boom is new. It’s not even 10 years old.”

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