United States > Industry focus > Energy: litigation > Law firm and leading lawyer rankings
Index of tables
- Bracewell LLP
- Covington & Burling LLP
- Kirkland & Ellis LLP
- Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP
- Norton Rose Fulbright US LLP
Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP
- Sidley Austin LLP
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP
- Steptoe & Johnson LLP
Susman Godfrey LLP
Thompson & Knight LLP
- Vinson & Elkins LLP
- Winston & Strawn LLP
David Beck -
- Robin Gibbs - Gibbs & Bruns LLP
- Richard Godfrey - Kirkland & Ellis LLP
- Robert Meadows - King & Spalding LLP
- Chris Reynolds - Reynolds Frizzell LLP
Karl Stern -
Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP
- James Thompson - Vinson & Elkins LLP
- William Williams - Sidley Austin LLP
- William Wood - Norton Rose Fulbright US LLP
- David Beck -
Handling litigation for oil and gas companies is the cornerstone of Baker Botts L.L.P.’s longstanding energy practice. The team handles a diverse range of cases for major oil and gas clients, including royalty claims, ‘flaring’ and environmental litigation, lease disputes, title lawsuits, and class actions. The Texas Oil & Gas Association retained co-head Bill Kroger and Jason Newman, both based in Houston, as well as Austin’s Thomas Phillips to challenge the first-ever hydraulic fracturing ban and the drilling moratorium passed by the city of Denton, which Denton subsequently repealed. On behalf of Gazprom and affiliated companies, Washington DC-based co-head Michael Calhoon, Dallas lawyer Van Beckwith and Houston’s Michael Goldberg defeated Texas-based Moncrief Oil International in its suit alleging tortious interference with a joint venture and theft of trade secrets. Amy Pharr Hefley was promoted to the partnership in January 2015.
Texas-based boutique Beck Redden has a ‘strong’ and ‘fabulous’ team of trial and appellate lawyers, which acts for many of the most prominent energy companies as well as individuals. Austin’s Eric Nichols successfully defended ExxonMobil, ExxonMobil Chemical and ExxonMobil Refining & Supply Company at trial in a Clean Air Act suit brought by Environment Texas Citizens Lobby and the Sierra Club alleging unauthorized emissions and deviations of their federal operating permits. Houston-based appellate team head David Gunn and of counsel Erin Huber represented royalty owner Charles Hooks in its fraud suit against Samson Lone Star based on the alleged supply of false information about the location of a well. Other clients include Plains Exploration & Production and Cameron International. David Beck is an established name in the market. Patrice Childress was elevated to the partnership in January 2016 and Murray Fogler left the firm to found Fogler, Brar, Ford, O’Neil & Gray LLP.
Houston-based Gibbs & Bruns LLP has an impressive client base, including many key industry players, and provides deep expertise in representing plaintiffs and defendants in litigation and arbitration. A team including Barrett Reasoner defended various affiliates of Kinder Morgan in a contract suit filed by Alliance Energy Services alleging nine causes of action for declaratory judgment and damages; Kinder Morgan subsequently asserted counterclaims and in the end the dispute was settled amicably. Kathy Patrick and Scott Humphries represented WGI Emerging Markets Fund and several other institutional investors as plaintiffs in a securities fraud action against Petrobras and its auditor PwC arising out of the Lava Jato or ‘Car Wash’ operation. In arbitration, the team represented Colorado-based oil and gas company Venoco in a contract dispute with Denbury Onshore. Robin Gibbs is an ‘outstanding lawyer’.
King & Spalding LLP has oil and gas disputes at its core and ‘provides extremely high-quality’ representation. A team including co-head Charles Correll and Robert Meadows is representing longstanding client Chevron in a large oil and gas royalty class action suit filed in California in which the plaintiffs asserted a number of claims, including breach of contract, violation of California’s Unfair Competition Law, fraud and fraudulent concealment, and sought compensatory damages for royalty underpayments, punitive damages and injunctive relief. The team also acted as Chevron’s national trial counsel in a number of MTBE cases involving municipalities, water purveyors, state attorneys general and individuals. In one case, plaintiff Orange County Water District sought remediation costs, declaratory and injunctive relief as well as punitive damages pertaining to alleged MTBE contamination. Co-heads Reginald Smith and Doak Bishop are noted for their arbitration expertise. Benjamin Pollock, Elizabeth Silbert and Elizabeth Taber were promoted to the partnership.
Bracewell LLP primarily appears on the defense side, acting as counsel to oil, gas and power industry clients, but it does also represents plaintiffs in litigation and arbitration. In a power-related matter, head of department Stephen Crain defended GDF SUEZ Energy North America against claims by derivatives traders Aspire Commodities and Raiden Commodities that the electricity provider used its bidding strategy to manipulate the market, causing the plaintiffs to lose tens of millions of dollars. In the oil arena, Cain, Sean Gorman, who joined the Houston office from Ahmad, Zavitsanos, Anaipakos, Alavi & Mensing P.C., and Christopher Dodson represented private equity-backed Canadian oilfield services company FPUSA as defendant and later as plaintiff in patent litigation against M-I L.L.C., a division of Schlumberger.
Covington & Burling LLP frequently represents oil and gas businesses in national and international disputes, including high-stakes arbitration proceedings against commercial counterparties and foreign governments. TL Cubbage and Miguel López Forastier represented subsidiaries of ExxonMobil as plaintiffs in an ICSID investor-state arbitration against Venezuela arising out of the uncompensated expropriation of the plaintiffs’ entire investments in Venezuela, and other measures in violation of the Netherlands-Venezuela bilateral investment treaty. Elsewhere, a team including Allan Moore and Maureen Browne represented BP and a number of BP subsidiaries and affiliates in cases arising from Deepwater Horizon, including the trifurcated bench trial and related proceedings related to BP’s civil liability under admiralty law and the Clean Water Act. Cubbage heads the practice alongside Steven Rosenbaum. Washington DC-based Alexander Berengaut and New York-based Nicole Duclos were elevated to the partnership.
Kirkland & Ellis LLP’s strength is oil and gas litigation, as evidenced by the defense of BP in relation to the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig. Chicago-based Richard Godfrey and Washington DC’s Mike Brock defended BP against allegations of gross negligence with regard to its efforts to respond to the breach. The team reduced the potential exposure faced by BP’s subsidiary by more than $4bn, proving that the oft-quoted ‘five million barrels’ overstated the size of the spill. Statoil Gulf of Mexico retained the team, including David Zott, as trial counsel in a breach of contract dispute relating to overriding royalties on a production lease in the Gulf of Mexico. Other clients include Chesapeake Appalachia and ExxonMobil.
Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP is ‘well informed of current developments’ and handles litigation and arbitration work across the entire energy industry. Its clients include utility, nuclear power, and oil and gas companies, and it often works on cases with environmental aspects. The team was boosted at the end of 2014 by the arrival into its San Francisco and Los Angeles offices of William Kissinger, Camarin Madigan, Rick Rothman and James Dragna from the now defunct Bingham McCutchen. Recently, the team defended Cotter Corporation against claims brought under the Price-Anderson Act; the plaintiffs alleged personal injuries and emotional distress as a result of alleged exposure to hazardous, toxic and radioactive substances produced as by-products of the Manhattan project. Deanne Miller and David Schrader are representing Shell Oil in mass toxic tort litigation arising from alleged petroleum hydrocarbon contamination in a residential neighborhood in Carson, California. Kathryn Sutton heads the energy practice from Washington DC, while Ella Foley Gannon, also from Bingham McCutchen, leads the litigation team from San Francisco.
A ‘go-to firm for upstream litigation’, Norton Rose Fulbright US LLP has oil and gas disputes at its core, and also advises midstream, downstream and oilfield services clients, including Shell, Anadarko Petroleum, EOG Resources, Cabot Oil & Gas, and Chevron. A team including the ‘very smart’ and ‘thorough’ Daniel McClure represented Chevron in a class action brought by Kansas and Oklahoma royalty owners for alleged underpayment of oil and gas royalties by the client. Los Angeles lawyer Joshua Lichtman represented Shell in putative class actions brought by industrial and commercial consumers of natural gas in the states of Colorado, Kansas, Missouri and Wisconsin. Plaintiffs alleged that Shell conspired with ten other companies to manipulate natural gas index prices between 2000 and 2002 by reporting false trade data to the index publishers. ‘Great trial lawyer’ William Wood heads the energy and infrastructure practice, which includes Bob Comer, who joined the Denver office from Jackson Kelly PLLC, and new partner Jeffrey Webb.
The energy disputes practice at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP ‘provides a high service level’ and dedicates much of its time to oil and gas and power disputes, and to a lesser extent disputes involving nuclear power. The team defended AEP Generating Company and Indiana Power Company in a breach of contract and indemnification case alleging $1.4bn in damages related to the operation of a coal-fired power plant located in Indiana. Also on the defense side, ‘excellent analyzer’ Karl Stern - who joined the firm from Vinson & Elkins LLP and who leads the energy disputes practice with Sanford Weisburst - represented Phibro and Phibro Commodities in a putative class action brought by futures and derivatives traders and oil and gas property owners; the plaintiffs alleged that Phibro manipulated the Brent crude price by manipulating the Platts’ Market-on-Close price reporting process. Charles Eskridge joined the firm from Susman Godfrey LLP. Kathleen Sullivan heads the appellate practice from New York.
Sidley Austin LLP’s ‘very knowledgeable’ team is ‘among the best’ and earns praise for its ‘good judgment’. With a focus on oil and gas, the practice represents upstream, midstream and downstream companies and also groups of individuals. A team including Los Angeles-based Michelle Goodman and appellate practice head Mark Haddad represented CMS Energy and CMS Energy Resources Management as one of many defendants in a multidistrict litigation involving alleged natural gas price manipulation. Robert Velevis and Dallas office managing partner Yvette Ostolaza defended EnLink subsidiaries in a lawsuit brought by Targa Midstream Services alleging breach of an agreement to operate a natural gas processing plant in Louisiana. Houston lawyer Tracy LeRoy represented an offshore drilling company in an internal investigation prompted by allegations by an oil producer of kickbacks pertaining to a series of drilling contracts in the Middle East. William Williams is a notable figure in the market.
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP’s strengths lie in dealing with contentious regulatory matters and disputes arising from transactions. The team’s client roster includes a wide range of participants in the oil, gas and power industries, from financial institutions, upstream and midstream businesses to oilfield services and electricity providers. The firm represented XTO Energy in a series of derivative actions brought by trust beneficiaries alleging that the natural gas and oil producer improperly diverted trust assets to a subsidiary. And a team including John Estes and Patrick Fitzgerald represented Barclays in a FERC enforcement action regarding alleged violations arising from trading activity in Western US energy markets. Other clients include Dynegy, JPMorgan and NextEra. Since publication, Los Angeles-based Thomas Nolan has moved to Latham & Watkins LLP.
With a strong electric and oil pipeline practice, Steptoe & Johnson LLP is experienced in representing its clients in a wide range of contentious matters, including FERC investigations. Midstream companies such as Colonial Pipeline Company and BP Pipelines regularly retain the team to defend them in litigation. On the electric side, Washington DC’s Douglas Green defended Entergy against claims of breach of contract and violations of the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) brought by Occidental Chemical Corporation. Energy department head David Raskin, Marc Spitzer and Gary Morgans, all based in Washington DC, defended PHI Companies in Federal Power Act proceedings before the FERC against four state commissions and state consumer advocates. Daniel Mullen joined the Washington DC office from the FERC.
The ‘extremely proactive’ and ‘responsive’ team at Susman Godfrey LLP ‘does a fantastic job’ representing plaintiffs and defendants in mainly oil and gas-related disputes. Los Angeles-based Marc Seltzer obtained final approval for a $37.5m settlement in a class action brought on behalf of a class of more than 7,000 limited partners who invested in 12 oil and gas limited partnerships sponsored by Petroleum Development; the plaintiffs claimed that they were not paid fair value for their interests when they were cashed out of their investments as a result of a series of mergers. Geoffrey Harrison, who is ‘outstanding in all respects’, recovered more than $75m in cash and other considerations for LyondellBasell Industries and its subsidiary Houston Refining as a result of an internal investigation by the firm, which uncovered a $76m kickback scheme perpetrated by a former employee. Shawn Raymond and Alexander Kaplan are ‘forceful advocates’, Thomas Paterson is ‘highly recommended’. Charles Eskridge moved to Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP.
Oil and gas disputes form the bulk of Thompson & Knight LLP’s energy litigation practice. It receives a steady flow of cases concerning royalties, drilling leases, and damage and negligence claims arising from drilling activities, and also provides expertise in class actions and arbitration. The team, which is led by Houston-based Gregory Binns, represents major oil companies, small independent oil and gas producers and private equity-backed such as Boots & Coots, alongside longstanding clients such as Petrobras America and Three Rivers Operating, as is experienced acting for defendants and plaintiffs. The firm’s Texas offices received a considerable boost when counsel Robert Vartabedian joined from Winstead, and Rex VanMiddlesworth and Phillip Oldham made the move from Andrews Kurth LLP. Dallas-based Craig Haynes is another key name.
Vinson & Elkins LLP has considerable clout in the oil and gas arena, representing its clients in litigation and arbitration. Houston partner Guy Stanford Lipe defended Denbury Onshore in a carbon dioxide royalty class action brought by mineral owners in Mississippi alleging that Denbury underpaid its royalty obligations. Marie Yeates - who heads the appellate team with Thomas Leatherbury - represented Occidental Petroleum in an appeal regarding whether or not a class of 2,200 royalty owners under thousands of different oil and gas leases was properly certified. James Thompson and Dallas office managing partner John Wander head the firm’s commercial litigation group. Former managing partner of the firm’s Houston office and head of litigation Karl Stern joined Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP. Michael Heidler was promoted to the partnership.
Winston & Strawn LLP has deep courtroom experience across the entire energy sector, including oil, gas and electric power, and it is regularly involved in enforcement proceedings before federal and state energy regulatory agencies. Other areas of expertise include market manipulation, FERC licensing and environmental matters. The team also handles arbitration, such as in defense of Katch Kan and Quinn Holtby in an ICC breach of contract case pertaining to a distributor agreement in the oil drilling industry. Chicago lawyers Timothy Carey and Elizabeth Bradshaw defended BP California against a claim by former BP employee Christopher Schroen that BP allegedly overcharged California’s Department of General Services for natural gas contracts. Former special agent to the NRC Darrell White joined the practice as an adviser.
Andrews Kurth LLP represents its predominantly oil and gas industry clients in litigation and arbitration arising from energy industry operations such as exploration and production, including royalty and product and service contracts disputes. Timothy McConn and co-heads Stuart Hollimon and Craig Stahl represented Apache Corporation in a dispute relating to the alleged failure to properly conduct shallow water flood operations, resulting in damage to deeper formations and adjacent leases. In another case, McConn and Courtney Ervin defended Apache against allegations of breaches of a purchase and sale agreement and a joint operating agreement. Hollimon and Charles Hampton defended Encana against a claim for underpayment of an overriding royalty interest in the Deep Bossier play in Robertson County. Michelle Scheffler was elevated to the partnership, while Rex VanMiddlesworth and Phillip Oldham went to Thompson & Knight LLP.
Baker & Hostetler LLP has a long history in litigation and oil and gas is a core focus for the firm. Recent work involved defending Cameron in a faulty equipment claim against Stena DrillMAX; Houston-based Richard Stilwell led the representation of the oil well equipment company in a case involving product liability, insurance subrogation and indemnity issues. Denver-based Poe Leggette and Houston-based Ray Whitman- who head the team with Cleveland’s Martin Booher - assisted the Independent Petroleum Association of America and the Western Energy Alliance with challenging the Bureau of Land Management’s imminent rules on hydraulic fracturing by obtaining a preliminary injunction against the final rule. Also on the defense side, Leggette represented oil and natural gas exploration and production company Bill Barrett Corporation in a breach of contract case brought by a royalty owner. Michael Joy joined the Denver office from Reed Smith LLP.
Dentons’ team combines litigation and regulatory expertise, giving it the scope to handle a wide range of energy disputes, including those involving interstate gas pipeline rates and cost allocation, electricity transmission and market power mitigation. Energy practice chairs Clinton Vince and Stuart Caplan represented Navopache Electric Cooperative in litigation before the FERC in response to the transmission formula and annual transmission losses rates proposed by the Public Service Company of New Mexico. Kansas City-based Karl Zobrist represented Kansas City Power and Light Company in the prosecution of a major rate case before the Missouri Public Service Commission (MPSC). Joshua Harden left MPSC to join the firm as counsel. And John Leslie joined as a result of the merger with Atlanta-based McKenna Long & Aldridge in July 2015.
Elise Zoli’s team at Goodwin Procter LLP acts almost exclusively on the defense side and represents clients across the energy sector, with a particular focus on the nuclear and electric power industries. The team frequently represents clients in transmission rate cases and environmental disputes. Washington DC’s Timothy Shuba represented NV Energy in transmission rate proceedings before the FERC. In environmental litigation, Michael Giannotto represented the National Mining Association in opposing a petition for mandamus brought by several environmental and citizens’ groups; the petitioners sought a court order requiring the EPA to promulgate financial assurance regulations for the mining industry. Co-chair of the firm’s appellate litigation practice William Jay defended the American Petroleum Institute in an Endangered Species Act case in which the plaintiffs sought to shut down leasing of federal lands for the exploration of oil shale and oil sands resources.
Many partners at McGuireWoods LLP have prior in-house experience at utilities, which translates into a steady flow of instructions from electric power providers. Utility practice co-head Noel Symons represented Kansas City Power and Light Company in challenging a rate increase proposed by the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) resulting from the integration of the Entergy transmission system into MISO. Managing partner of the Washington DC office and chair of the energy enforcement team Todd Mullins defended two Barclays energy traders in a FERC investigation involving accusations that they manipulated Western US energy markets by scheming to trade day-ahead fixed-price electricity to boost the bank’s financial swap positions. Other clients include Dominion Resources and Great Plains Energy. Brad Funari joined Reed Smith LLP.
Morrison & Foerster LLP represents a wide range of electricity and natural gas market participants and individuals in FERC and CFTC enforcement proceedings. Washington DC-based senior of counsel Robert Fleishman - who heads the team with Robert Loeffler - defended ETRACOM and its primary trader Michael Rosenberg in a FERC enforcement investigation arising from alleged manipulation of the California electricity market. The official unsecured creditors’ committee of Texas Competitive Electric (TCEH) retained the team to act as lead counsel in a bankruptcy case in which the debtors, the committee and numerous creditor groups entered into a new restructuring support agreement.
The ‘great team’ at Reed Smith LLP impresses its clients with ‘impeccable response times’ and ‘deep industry knowledge’. Pittsburgh partner Nicolle Snyder Bagnell and Houston-based Craig Enochs head the team, which represents energy producers and transporters in the key oil and gas producing states, often as defense counsel but also on behalf of plaintiffs. Stan Perry defended Shell Oil against Yolande Burst in a products liability case. On the plaintiff side, Philadelphia’s Robert Frank represented Tri-Realty in multi-phase litigation stemming from property damage and subsequent economic losses as a result of an oil spill from an underground storage tank at Ursinus College. Brad Funari joined the team from McGuireWoods LLP and senior counsel Clyde Lea joined from an in-house position at ConocoPhillips. Michael Joy moved to Baker & Hostetler LLP.
Houston-based boutique Reynolds Frizzell LLP has a ‘strong team’ and a long history of litigation in state and federal courts. It also has experience in domestic and international arbitration. With a focus on oil and gas, the team represents high-net-worth individuals, private equity firms and pipeline companies, increasingly on the defense side but also for plaintiffs. Jean Frizzell, Brandon Allen and new partner Solace Southwick defended Energy Transfer Partners in a breach of contract claim brought by Enterprise Texas Pipeline seeking $400m damages. Allen and Jeremy Doyle defended Wood Group Mustang in a suit seeking over $40m in damages arising from alleged failures to detect certain defects in ten pipelines in Port Arthur. Chris Reynolds is a key figure in the practice. Nathan Smith and Christopher Hogan were elevated to the partnership.
White & Case LLP’s litigation team works in close cooperation with the firm’s regulatory practice and has an impressive international reach. The Washington DC-based head of the energy markets and regulatory practice, Daniel Hagan, continues to represent Occidental Chemical Corporation (OCC) in a number of matters, including in challenging Entergy’s FERC application requesting that it be relieved of its mandatory purchase obligation under PURPA, which requires Entergy to purchase power from qualifying facilities such as Occidental’s Taft Cogeneration facility. In a different matter, Hagan led advice to OCC on filing a petition for FERC enforcement against the Louisiana Public Service Commission (LPSC), and subsequently on filing a federal lawsuit against the LPSC for failing to implement federal law. Other clients include Dynegy and Hess Corporation.