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. This new language about a warning has not been discussed at previous meetings. It's not available online. Since it must be made public knowledge before the vote, does anyone know exactly what it says? Further, this proposal was held up for 5 weeks because members Carol and Lucy insisted that all terms used be defined. So now, definitions are unnecessary and have not been inserted? Beyond these requirements, what is the logic behind giving one free pass to discriminators? Is that how laws work - break it once and that's ok? Just don't do it again? Three members of Carmel's council have done just about everything they can think of to prohibit an anti-discrimination ordinance in Carmel, much to Brainard's consternation, I'm told. These three 'want to be so careful' that they have failed to do what at least 13 other communities, including Martinsville, have already done. It's not being careful. It's standing in the way of what 60% of Carmel residents want. It's hurting CArmel in thT businesses have refused to locate because the council has not gotten with the program. And now they want to give discriminatory one free shot to do so. Unacceptable. Once three members leave the council because they lost their races, the Carmel council will have unanimous approval of the ordinance as originally drafted, not with a one free shot to discriminate freebie. That happens in January 2016. Why give a freebie when all we have to do is wait 3 months and get an ordinance with teeth from Day 1? If nothing else, can you please get s copy from Carmel and post it so we can see what else has changed in the proposal?

  2. Here is an interesting 2012 law review article for any who wish to dive deeper into this subject matter: Excerpt: "Judicial interpretation of the ADA has extended public entity liability to licensing agencies in the licensure and certification of attorneys.49 State bar examiners have the authority to conduct fitness investigations for the purpose of determining whether an applicant is a direct threat to the public.50 A “direct threat” is defined as “a significant risk to the health or safety of others that cannot be eliminated by a modification of policies, practices or procedures, or by the provision of auxiliary aids or services as provided by § 35.139.”51 However, bar examiners may not utilize generalizations or stereotypes about the applicant’s disability in concluding that an applicant is a direct threat.52"

  3. We have been on the waiting list since 2009, i was notified almost 4 months ago that we were going to start receiving payments and we still have received nothing. Every time I call I'm told I just have to wait it's in the lawyers hands. Is everyone else still waiting?

  4. I hope you dont mind but to answer my question. What amendment does this case pretain to?

  5. Research by William J Federer Chief Justice John Marshall commented May 9, 1833, on the pamphlet The Relation of Christianity to Civil Government in the United States written by Rev. Jasper Adams, President of the College of Charleston, South Carolina (The Papers of John Marshall, ed. Charles Hobson, Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 2006, p, 278): "Reverend Sir, I am much indebted to you for the copy of your valuable sermon on the relation of Christianity to civil government preached before the convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church in Charleston, on the 13th of February last. I have read it with great attention and advantage. The documents annexed to the sermon certainly go far in sustaining the proposition which it is your purpose to establish. One great object of the colonial charters was avowedly the propagation of the Christian faith. Means have been employed to accomplish this object, and those means have been used by government..." John Marshall continued: "No person, I believe, questions the importance of religion to the happiness of man even during his existence in this world. It has at all times employed his most serious meditation, and had a decided influence on his conduct. The American population is entirely Christian, and with us, Christianity and Religion are identified. It would be strange, indeed, if with such a people, our institutions did not presuppose Christianity, and did not often refer to it, and exhibit relations with it. Legislation on the subject is admitted to require great delicacy, because freedom of conscience and respect for our religion both claim our most serious regard. You have allowed their full influence to both. With very great respect, I am Sir, your Obedt., J. Marshall."