The energy sector has changed a lot since Travis Brannon ’13 started law school.
While different sectors continue to fight over pieces of the energy pie, the pie is also getting bigger as growing demand drives global energy production, according to Brannon.
Brannon’s job is to help his clients adapt to the ever-changing environment in the globalized and connected energy economy.
An associate at K&L Gates in Pittsburgh, Brannon represents well-known oil and gas exploration and production companies, as well as other large corporate clients in the energy industry. He also serves companies involved in renewable energy resources as they step up their presence in the industry.
“These companies’ issues are evolving, just as much as the issues of those in the fossil fuel industry,” Brannon said. “It’s exciting to be on the front end of all aspects of the energy industry. As an energy attorney, I find my work shifting as the market shifts.”
Brannon was drawn to energy law because the production, transportation, demand, and cost of energy resources impact every household, business and branch of government. All the markets in a particular region are tied to the global market in some form.
“I like to think of energy law as a base for the U.S. and the global economy,” he explained. “To be involved in my small way, mainly through oil and gas and commercial litigation, is exciting because I know that one transaction or one case in this region can have ripple effects throughout the entire economy.”
K&L Gates doesn’t just handle cases in this region, however. The firm has 45 offices in 17 countries and tackles intricate issues for heavy hitters in the energy industry. The global firm gives Brannon access to more experienced lawyers around the world, and he can take advantage of ongoing training and vast institutional resources to keep up with the changing field.
“Our clients have interesting and complex cases that move very quickly, so in order to represent them, it takes a lot of time and you have to be available at a moment’s notice,” Brannon said. “That’s what causes life in a big firm to move fast and require long or sometimes strange hours. But something new or groundbreaking walks through the door every day.”
Brannon was no stranger to the energy industry. He came to WVU Law after earning his bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia’s College at Wise. There, he interned with the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration and for the coal company, Alpha Natural Resources.
“It was those two jobs that got me interested in energy law,” Brannon explained. “When I made my choice of law school, I looked for schools that could provide me with a robust energy curriculum. And of course WVU Law stood out. Taking the classes geared toward energy law really gave me an edge in being able to talk about the relevant issues in job interviews and in practice.”
Marcellus Shale development and the natural gas boom was at its height while he was in law school, so Brannon took classes focused on oil and gas law, and environmental issues. He also participated in the Energy Law Association, and he received pro bono distinction through his work with the Alternative Dispute Resolution Society at WVU Law.
Brannon gained hands-on experience in energy law as a summer associate for Bowles Rice in Charleston, West Virginia. He was also a summer associate at K&L Gates, which led to his hiring after graduation.
“Having a position in a summer associate program at a firm in this region really gives you a head start on a possible longterm career,” he said. “Many positions at these firms are filled by former summer associates, and that definitely held true for me.”
Now Brannon gives back to WVU Law by judging its annual National Energy and Sustainability Moot Court Competition with other members of K&L Gates. The competition focuses on relevant energy issues each year and attracts students from law schools across the United States.
“The energy moot court competition is a wonderful event the College of Law creates for students looking for an energy-centric opportunity. I was once one of those students,” said Brannon. “To go to Morgantown and give back by being a judge, that’s something I really enjoy doing. And the firm gets to see the emerging talent coming from law schools across the country."