In-house counsel for Vectren Corp. finds role appealing, challenging

Back to TopE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
In-House Counsel

Few TV shows highlight the glamour of being a corporate lawyer, but Josh Claybourn in Evansville sees the appeal and says he couldn’t have found a better place to utilize his legal skills.

As the in-house attorney for energy and gas company Vectren Corp., the 29-year-old lawyer who’s been practicing for about four years has found his niche.

In-house main Josh Claybourn began as corporate counsel for Fortune 100 company Vectren Corp. last year, staying in his hometown of Evansville where he had practiced privately after law school. (Photo submitted)

“Hollywood is slow to glamorize the in-house side of practicing law, but it can be every bit as interesting as a law firm environment that you see TV shows about,” Claybourn said. “This is not where I thought I’d be when I set out, but as you go on in practice you see there are many in-house aspects that are appealing. … Especially as more companies are wanting their in-house lawyers to take a broader strategic role.”

The Indiana University School of Law – Indianapolis graduate began practicing in 2006, starting at the Evansville firm of Rudolph Fine Porter & Johnson. He handled mostly business transactional work and a large amount of health industry and corporate law, paving a way for the Vectren opportunity.

His former boss, managing partner L. Montgomery Porter, described Claybourn’s departure as a great loss for the firm but the new post seemed like a natural fit for the young attorney. Claybourn was really the first attorney from the firm to move directly into the corporate counsel role, even though another lawyer had previously left the state and returned to that corporate arena of law, Porter said.

But Porter noted that Claybourn is an Evansville native and very involved in the local community, and so staying in the area was very important to him.

“He’s a proponent of, and probably the best kind of example of, keeping the best and brightest in town,” Porter said. “With his talents, Josh could have gone anywhere else to practice. But he grew up here and that’s important to him, and he does more than just talk the talk about staying involved.”

Claybourn left the firm in September and started at Vectren, where he is one of seven attorneys working in-house – a difference from the roughly 20 attorneys who’d been at the firm. He describes the change as a great opportunity, one that brings greater responsibility and many longer hours.

“With all of that kind of role, you have new challenges and opportunities but there’s a big difference: you have one huge client,” he said.

Vectren is an Evansville-based Fortune 100 company that has about $4.3 billion in assets and provides gas and electric services to about 1 million Indiana customers, as well as about 300 more in Western Ohio. However, Claybourn says the company’s seven in-house attorneys makes it one of the smaller-sized legal departments for a company of that size.

“It’s more team-oriented, rather than having the competition you might see within a law firm,” he said. “There’s an interesting dynamic that can arise anywhere between a lawyer and client, but this seems more personal because you’re only focusing on them and not other clients. You get a lot of closure from being there from beginning to end, and seeing a full solution rather than piecemeal resolutions.”

His job is the only that handles day-to-day legal work for the company, and a large amount is general transactional work, contract review, negotiations, and business deals, Claybourn said.

An area that he has found new and interesting is the transition into the utility regulatory scheme, overseen by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission and a similar agency in Ohio. He often travels to Indianapolis to handle that side of things, attending hearings and proceedings before administrative law judges with that state agency.

“This is so much broader, not narrow and grinding,” he said. “It all dovetails together into how there’s such a great depth of work.”

For example, Claybourn notes the need to contain utility costs with a greater desire for environmental and carbon emission controls as one area that brings up interesting issues he faces regularly. Keeping rates affordable in this tough economy versus being able to achieve what the regulations require mean a thorough review of internal company costs and those government rules, Claybourn said.

“All the regulation puts a bigger responsibility on the in-house attorneys to help manage and navigate those waters,” he said.

From the corporate perspective, vice president Ron Christian said he couldn’t be happier with Claybourn’s activity in the past 10 months. He says Claybourn has done an outstanding job, and describers him as a self-starter and excellent communicator who’s helped keep the legal department strong.

Reflecting on his own time at Vectren so far, Claybourn says he’s touching many more lives with the work that he’s doing simply because of the amount of people who rely on his work each day. Families and businesses plan their budgets based on utility rates, and the overall environment might be shaped by how the utility company builds its industry and where those facilities are located, he said.

“We have a pretty big footprint, mostly in the utility world, and there are a lot of legal challenges you have to balance,” he said. “Hollywood may not have jumped on the corporate counsel theme, but you never know – maybe we’ll have our own show about interesting and important this type of job can be.”•


Sponsored by
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.