The questions come in slightly different forms. “How do you like working for XYZ Oil and Gas Corporation?” “What is it like working in-house?” They come most frequently from attorneys in private practice, at both large and small law firms, but occasionally from attorneys in governmental positions and even attorneys in non-legal corporate roles. Sometimes attorneys are considering a professional move and other times they are just satisfying the inquisitive nature residing in most attorneys. This article is not intended to be a comprehensive overview of the role of in-house attorneys in the energy industry, but merely an attempt to satisfy some of the curiosities of those attorneys who may be considering such a professional choice. The perspectives in this article are those of one in-house energy attorney, which may certainly differ from the experience of other in-house attorneys.
In-house counsel operate within a corporation as conventional employees who handle the legal needs of the organization for whom they work. Depending on the size of the company and its legal needs, in-house counsel may work solo or within a small or large team of other attorneys and support staff who function similarly to a law firm embedded within the company. In-house counsel handle a wide variety of legal matters at varying depths of involvement. Nearly every company differs on what types of legal matters are (1) handled entirely by a company attorney; (2) referred to outside counsel working for the company in private practice with supervision by a company attorney; (3) or completely turned over to private practice attorneys working for the company.