South Texas College of Law Houston is pleased to announce the formation of its Oil & Gas Law Institute. The Institute seeks to be responsive to the practical needs of law firms and energy companies, and aims to give students the opportunity to acquire the analytical and practice skills necessary to make immediate contributions to the oil and gas industry. The Institute will also promote oil and gas legal scholarship germane to industry practice in Texas and beyond.
The United States is in the midst of an historic energy transformation, and Houston, as usual, is at the heart of this revolution. Known as the energy capital of North America since the Texas Oil Boom of the early 1900s, Houston has long embraced the importance of the oil and gas industry’s role in meeting the world’s ever-increasing energy needs. Now home to more than 5,000 energy firms and the world’s largest concentration of refineries and petrochemical plants, the Houston region is unrivaled in its understanding of and its ability to provide unparalleled leadership in the oil and gas industry. As the source of more than 75 percent of global energy, fossil fuels will continue to provide abundant, reliable, versatile, controllable and storable energy sources throughout our lifetimes and beyond.
The tremendous workforce needs of the oil and gas industry continue to grow, particularly in the legal arena—a fact well understood by South Texas College of Law Houston. Uniquely positioned in Downtown Houston, the city’s oldest law school has been educating and preparing practice-ready graduates to serve the energy industry with distinction for decades. South Texas College of Law Houston provides a diverse body of students with the opportunity to obtain an exceptional legal education so they can serve their community on many levels, including the oil and gas industry. In academic year 2013-14, South Texas College of Law Houston enrolled 1,197 students, of which 34.1 percent were minorities, awarded 398 J.D. degrees, and celebrated an 84.12 percent bar passage rate, two points higher than the state average. The College is known for its award-winning Advocacy Program, as well as its renowned Legal Research and Writing Program, Transactional Practice Center, Frank Evans Center for Conflict Resolution, and Randall O. Sorrels Legal Clinics, which serve some of the greater Houston community’s most disadvantaged citizens.
Now, South Texas College of Law Houston has added another center of excellence to build on its successes. The College has established the Oil & Gas Law Institute to enhance the law school’s efforts in providing a comprehensive and useful legal education for students interested in working for energy companies, law firms with energy practices, land companies, and regulatory agencies. By combining a wide-ranging regimen of courses, projects, symposia and scholarship, the Institute builds on the College’s expertise in providing students with the practical knowledge and skills they need to contribute immediately to law firms and energy companies upon graduation.
Energy law is a complex and multi-faceted field that encompasses a variety of industries. The predominant industry in Texas is comprised of oil and gas companies and there are a multitude of career opportunities in this sector for South Texas College of Law Houston students to pursue. Depending on the type of oil and gas law attorneys choose to practice, students also need to acquire, to varying degrees, a background in corporate and business law, transactional drafting and negotiation skills, bankruptcy, dispute resolution skills both in and out of court, and an understanding of the regulatory environment.
The Institute, headed by Visiting Associate Professor Christopher S. Kulander, will focus on developing applied petroleum-related transactional, title, and regulatory practice skills. A sampling of classes being taught over the 2014-15 academic year include: Oil, Gas and Mineral Law; Advanced Oil & Gas Law; Domestic Energy Law; International Energy Law; Texas Oil, Gas, and Land Title Examination; International Petroleum Transactions; and, Transactional Skills, Energy. South Texas College of Law Houston professor and General Counsel Harry L. Reed continues his ground-breaking class on Oil & Gas Law. Adjunct faculty teaching in the Institute include Michael Jones, M. Ryan Kirby, James T. Perry, and Harry Sullivan. New classes in development for the 2015-16 academic year and beyond will focus on midstream and downstream components of the oil and gas industry, and mining law.
As the Oil & Gas Law Institute expands, future areas of study will include international petroleum transactions and other sources of energy, such as solar, wind, hydro, biomass, geothermal, and nuclear energy. Even with an expanded focus on alternative sources of energy, South Texas College of Law Houston will continue to offer a plethora of core, relevant courses for law students interested in oil and gas law. The Institute, in concert with the College’s Office of Career Resources, will also seek to place advanced students in legal departments of oil and gas companies around Houston. This internship program will expose students to real oil and gas legal issues, and provide graduates with a direct route for potential future employment. Significantly, the Institute will produce and promote scholarship related to the oil and gas legal business to augment, provide nuance, and—where necessary—serve as a counterpoint to the current discourse in legal circles and the popular media in Texas and across the nation. It is envisioned that the Institute will grow over time to partner with other educational institutions and policy institutes to help lead public discourse on topics pertaining to the oil and gas industry, and the energy sector overall. With a planned advisory board comprised of representatives from the energy industry, academia, and regulatory and legislative agencies, the Institute will sponsor policy papers and public symposia on specific current issues.
The 2014-15 Director of the Institute, Professor Kulander is of Counsel to Haynes and Boone, LLP, serves as an expert witness, and frequently gives presentations and speeches. He received his J.D. from the University of Oklahoma, where he was assistant managing editor and note editor for the American Indian Law Review, and three year research assistant for Owen L. Anderson, Eugene Kuntz Chair of Oil & Gas Law.
Before teaching, Kulander practiced full-time for four years in the Houston office of Haynes and Boone in the Energy Practice Group, focusing on energy lending, finance, and bankruptcy. Prior to that, he practiced for two years with Cotton & Bledsoe in Midland, focusing on oil and gas title and leasing.
Kulander received his bachelor’s of science and masters of science degrees from Wright State in Dayton, Ohio, and his Ph.D. in geophysics (petroleum seismology) from Texas A&M, after which he worked as a geophysicist for the U.S. Geological Survey. He has written and published in the fields of oil and gas law, as well as in geology and petroleum seismology. Additionally, he serves as an editor of the Oil & Gas Law Reporter.
Kulander will represent the Oil & Gas Law Institute and College at various oil and gas events in Texas and throughout the nation, an important piece of the Institute’s public mission. He addressed the 27th Annual Energy Law Institute for Attorneys and Landmen on Aug. 27-28, 2014, at South Texas College of Law Houston. More than 100 attendees heard from oil and gas legal experts about subsurface trespass, title issues, hydraulic fracturing, environmental law impacts on energy, lease maintenance, royalties and deductions, case law updates, and allocating risk in oilfield contracts. Kulander addressed the attendees, speaking on non-Texas case law. Kulander is scheduled to attend and speak at approximately 10 CLEs and conferences during the 2014-15 academic year, including the Oil & Gas Law Annual Short Course by the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation, the Section Annual Meeting of the American Bar Association Business Law Section, the 2014 Texas Land Institute of the American Association of Petroleum Landmen, and the Annual Case Law Update of the Houston Bar Association. He has placed four energy law articles in various law reviews in 2014 on topics such as LNG exports, international investment in American oil & gas real property, and groundwater regulatory takings affecting the oil & gas business in Texas, and will complete and publish four energy law articles in 2015.
The Institute will host the Third Annual Hartrick Symposium: Career Paths for Young Attorneys in the Energy Sector on Mar. 27-28, 2015. This symposium, jointly sponsored by the school and the Institute for Energy Law, is comprised of a two-day conference promoting legal careers in oil and gas for law students.
Additionally, South Texas College of Law Houston will host the first regional Energy Law Negotiation Competition on Feb. 21, 2015. Judges for this competition will be recruited from top energy law firms and energy companies in Houston, allowing students to meet prominent oil and gas attorneys from the region. The Institute will assist with judge recruitment, contest materials, and participant assessment.
The Institute also provides South Texas of Law Houston the opportunity to build on its well-established transactional law practice expertise. South Texas College of Law Houston hosts the Transactional Practice Center, whose mission is to train law students in business practice. The Center currently offers various transactional law courses, including one focused on energy finance involving a semester-long scenario stimulating the financing and conveyancing of an offshore platform. The Institute seeks to support the Center in conducting this and future such courses with both materials and expertise.
South Texas College of Law Houston’s ability to sustain operations and make strategic investments in initiatives such as the Oil & Gas Law Institute hinges on the amount of annual support at its disposal, and the size and strength of its endowment. For academic year 2014-15, the College has directed a portion of its annual operating budget to fund the formation of the Oil & Gas Law Institute. This budget has been supplemented by early philanthropic investments in the Institute made by generous friends of the College.
In order to sustain the Oil & Gas Law Institute in future years and expand and enhance its programming and reach with resources to add new faculty and staff, partner effectively with other industry and academic thought leaders, and introduce CLE courses, public lectures and symposia, South Texas College of Law Houston needs to enlist the support of the oil and gas community.
Annual and endowed gifts to the Oil & Gas Law Institute strengthen instruction and curricula, ensure top-notch tools and resources, and provide the financial security necessary to embark on multi-year initiatives and institutional partnerships that keep the Institute on the cutting-edge and ensure its place as Houston’s premiere legal teaching and learning resource serving the oil and gas industry.
The evolution of oil and gas law—and of the legal education and scholarship behind it—challenges all of us to be more nimble and purposeful. It requires us to innovate, reimagine, and adapt. So too do we understand the growing role philanthropy must play in the life of any educational institution that wishes to lead. South Texas College of Law Houston calls upon valued leaders in the oil and gas industry, other corporate and foundation partners, alumni, and community members to seize this transformational moment. Together we can craft a powerful future for the Oil & Gas Law Institute.
For more information or to make a fully tax-deductible gift to support and strengthen the Oil & Gas Law Institute, please contact:
Vice President, Advancement and Alumni Engagement