What does energy law involve?
Energy law covers all aspects of renewable and non-renewable energy, from sales to regulation. Lawyers often find themselves dealing with extraction, taxation, distribution and siting for forms of energy like oil and coal, as well as for newer varieties such as wind and nuclear power. There is a big transactional element to this area of law— you could be helping clients to buy or sell gas, or assisting them in sourcing fuel to sell. Energy lawyers also operate within a national and international framework of legislation—many laws have been passed to keep energy safe and, in recent years, to lower carbon emissions. Responsibilities include deciding if it is legal or illegal to pursue a specific energy source within these legal boundaries.
Energy lawyers also deal with the regulation and taxation of existing energy sources, such as oil and coal. There’s a lot to be aware of in terms of how the UK policy influences the energy sector, and the subsidies and research grants available to renewable energy sources. You may find yourself acting on a national level, within the UK’s legally binding frameworks such as the Climate Change Act. Or you may find yourself in negotiations on an international scale, securing imported fuel and dealing with energy transactions.
What skills will I need?
Energy law is often a global area of practice— you will be dealing with clients with assets all over the world, so those who work in this area must have a strong awareness of international affairs. Energy policies differ from government to government and depend on geographical variables, and many countries rely on imported energy. So if you’re considering this area, make sure you’re aware of international developments! You will encounter a lot of contracts as an energy lawyer, as clients are often looking to buy or sell assets within the sector. Make sure that you are a confident writer with clear expression. You’ll also be working at the forefront of current events; from nuclear power to fracking, the likelihood is that you’ve heard of some aspects of energy policy already. You will need to apply your innovative legal perspective to these major issues—and that can only come with a strong understanding of how the sector functions.
A day in the life of Alex Harrison, Partner, Hogan Lovells
What’s the first thing you do when you get into the office?
I change from my trainers into my work shoes. I walk from/to Waterloo Station every day to get my 10,000 steps.
How do you handle and organise/prioritise your workload?
I try to prioritise the tasks that I think will have the greatest positive impact on our business. That’s likely to be focused on looking after my key clients and relationships and trying to unlock or convert opportunities to win new work. I need to balance that with servicing my client workload and save some time for the other firm-wide initiatives (such as citizenship and the advancement of diversity) in which I’m actively involved.
What sort of daily responsibilities does a partner have in energy law? How does it differ from an associate/senior associate role?
The main responsibilities are managing the delivery of existing client work and working, together with others, to win new work and build the firm’s profile in the market. The energy markets are in a period of fundamental transition so keeping an eye on market developments is also key. As a partner, you’re the eyes on the horizon and the hand on the tiller. As an associate or senior associate, you’re the wind in the sails.
Can you give us an idea of the sort of projects you manage from day to day? Which aspects of energy law are dealt with most frequently by Hogan Lovells?
We have a full spectrum power practice so tend to advise on all aspects of the GB energy markets: power generation and development, supply and consumption; electricity networks; energy regulation and trading; and corporate and financing work for energy clients. My work is typically split between transactional roles and advisory work.
What sorts of clients do you generally deal with on a day-to-day basis?
A real mix. Power developers and generators, lenders, government or quasi government counterparties, buyers and sellers, investment managers and entrepreneurs. I tend to work on a number of different matters at any one time, so there is normally a good variety of clients and roles. pa