Legal Business

Power Surge

Energy clients are dictating law firms’ strategic direction and hiring policies. For now at least, energy is king. LB finds out why.

On the last day of August ExxonMobil dominated the business pages, when news broke of its $3.2bn Arctic exploration deal with Russian state-owned oil giant Rosneft. The story surprised energy specialists – a similar deal between BP and Rosneft was previously scuppered by TNK-BP, the partners in BP’s existing joint venture in Russia. The UK oil major suffered a double hit that day, when it was revealed that bailiffs had raided its offices in Moscow, linked to a case brought by TNK-BP shareholders over the failed Arctic deal with Rosneft.

These events attracted significant media attention, not just for the energy companies concerned but also the law firms involved. Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, which ironically advised BP on its failed deal with Rosneft, was now advising Rosneft in the deal with ExxonMobil. Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld was advising the US oil major.

Deals and (more often than not) disputes between the energy giants and local incumbents have attracted significant interest in the press in recent years but it is also an inescapable fact that clients of the energy practices at some of the world’s largest law firms have dictated global growth strategies.