Legal professionals in the energy sector can work across a wide variety of industries; whether it’s for global oil and gas companies, nuclear producers or producers of renewable energy.
You may work with anyone from governments to banks and from utilities to investors, and could be involved in providing advice on planning and development as well as regulation.
So what jobs are available and what experience and skills do you need? We look at the state of the current market.
The energy legal sector has consistently been one of the busiest for us for the past two years. Recruiting employers typically look for upstream experience when hiring legal professionals, so you are likely to be in demand if you’ve already worked in Western Africa and/or the Middle East. Specialist experience within specific energy areas – such as nuclear, renewables and wind farms – is also valued highly.
There are some outstanding opportunities for legal professionals in the UK, but there are also good prospects in overseas jurisdictions. Job levels are strong in the Middle East, West Africa, the CIS (former Soviet Union States) and Kazakhstan, and there are also some good opportunities with firms operating in the North Sea.
If you want to move in-house, the most important thing to do is to get as much commercial experience as possible so that you have specific knowledge of the energy industry. You should also try to be as flexible as you can on location – if you’re prepared to relocate outside of central London to Aberdeen, or even internationally, you will give yourself a much better chance of securing one of these jobs.
To be offered a private practice job, you’ll need extremely strong transactional skills. Experience of specific areas within energy – such as nuclear, LNGs, renewables and wind farms – is an advantage. At a senior level, you’ll also need to bring a book of business with you.
At the same time, you’ll need to be absolutely sure you want to make the move. There is a culture of billable hours in private practice - it is one where you will be providing very detailed legal advice (possibly in complex legal cases) rather than commercial advice.
If you want to move in-house, the most important thing to do is to get as much commercial experience as possible so that you have specific knowledge of the energy industry.
Corporate, M&A, project finance and construction are the main practice areas where demand levels are higher, so you will be best placed to secure a job if you have experience in one of these areas.
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