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

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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.”•

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  1. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  2. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  3. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  4. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  5. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

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