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Attorneys discuss ethics of energy law practice

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Ethical issues faced by attorneys practicing energy law are often the result of the small number of lawyers currently in that field of law.

Evansville lawyer Kathryn Schymik, of Jackson Kelly, says that many energy law practitioners in Indiana are on a first-name basis and it’s not uncommon for a case to come up where a potential conflict exists.

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An Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum conference on Feb. 22 focused on the expanding and changing area of energy law, with one session devoted specifically to ethical challenges. Linton attorney John Rowe and Schymik led the 30-minute open discussion, which included 26 Indiana attorneys attending either in person or via webcast.

One of the ethical challenges energy law practitioners brought up at the session involved conflicts of interest between parties they’re representing. In this area of law where mining or natural resources are tapped for energy, those owning the land and others producing or purchasing the end-product often rely on the same attorneys to handle their legal work.

Steve Link in Evansville said he often has clients who request his counsel on different stages of the same matter, such as an oil and gas operator that signs a land lease to drill wells and later the company that purchases the product from that land owner.

“We often see that there can be a question of who your duties are to at that point, and that’s something we all have to be mindful of,” Link said.

Schymik said she tries to be up front with clients about potential conflicts that could exist and let them know that, because of the small network of attorneys, they might have to be referred to other counsel.

For example, she said one of the challenges that she’s faced involves title work for one client on a lease or land transaction and then later having a purchaser or lender ask to rely on the same title opinion in order to draft a similar agreement. Essentially, Schymik said she must carefully examine what work-product and privilege issues exist.

Practitioners in this growing practice area say the changing nature of energy law and the regulatory environment present issues that could significantly alter their practices. This is particularly true when it comes to renewable energy issues surrounding wind, natural sustainability and climate change.

“We’re dealing with something akin to the Wild West from a legal perspective,” said Jeff Lorenzo of Lorenzo & Bevers in Seymour. “Much like the law related to the Internet, so many new issues have arisen in the past 15 years and we’re just beginning to sort through them.  But we can see a framework being constructed as we move forward. As the Legislature and courts respond to new environmental technologies, we’ll be confronted with issues we have no or very little regulation for. It will give attorneys a ground floor opportunity to contribute to the development of ethical responses to critical issues.”•

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  1. Someone off their meds? C'mon John, it is called the politics of Empire. Get with the program, will ya? How can we build one world under secularist ideals without breaking a few eggs? Of course, once it is fully built, is the American public who will feel the deadly grip of the velvet glove. One cannot lay down with dogs without getting fleas. The cup of wrath is nearly full, John Smith, nearly full. Oops, there I go, almost sounding as alarmist as Smith. Guess he and I both need to listen to this again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CRnQ65J02XA

  2. Charles Rice was one of the greatest of the so-called great generation in America. I was privileged to count him among my mentors. He stood firm for Christ and Christ's Church in the Spirit of Thomas More, always quick to be a good servant of the King, but always God's first. I had Rice come speak to 700 in Fort Wayne as Obama took office. Rice was concerned that this rise of aggressive secularism and militant Islam were dual threats to Christendom,er, please forgive, I meant to say "Western Civilization". RIP Charlie. You are safe at home.

  3. It's a big fat black mark against the US that they radicalized a lot of these Afghan jihadis in the 80s to fight the soviets and then when they predictably got around to biting the hand that fed them, the US had to invade their homelands, install a bunch of corrupt drug kingpins and kleptocrats, take these guys and torture the hell out of them. Why for example did the US have to sodomize them? Dubya said "they hate us for our freedoms!" Here, try some of that freedom whether you like it or not!!! Now they got even more reasons to hate us-- lets just keep bombing the crap out of their populations, installing more puppet regimes, arming one faction against another, etc etc etc.... the US is becoming a monster. No wonder they hate us. Here's my modest recommendation. How about we follow "Just War" theory in the future. St Augustine had it right. How about we treat these obvious prisoners of war according to the Geneva convention instead of torturing them in sadistic and perverted ways.

  4. As usual, John is "spot-on." The subtle but poignant points he makes are numerous and warrant reflection by mediators and users. Oh but were it so simple.

  5. ACLU. Way to step up against the police state. I see a lot of things from the ACLU I don't like but this one is a gold star in its column.... instead of fighting it the authorities should apologize and back off.

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