Houston, the home of the global energy market, is a popular landing place for University of Virginia School of Law alumni interested in the energy business, but the metro area of nearly 7 million people offers many opportunities to attorneys.

More than 240 alumni are based in Houston, according to LinkedIn and Law School Foundation records. We talked to several to gather their work experiences and tips for students and graduates on how to succeed there. (Also see our Dallas-Fort Worth network)

The UVA Law Network is an occasional series on careers for graduates. The school's 20,000 graduates are located in 50 states and more than 60 foreign countries.

Advice from Alumni in Houston


John C. Ale '79

Retired Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary, Southwestern Energy

How did UVA Law prepare you for your practice or career choices? 
The Law School taught me how to think with dispassionate logic while passionately caring about ethics and the quality of my work. Old-fashioned Socratic dialogue with smart and caring faculty and classmates helped me immensely in learning to think in “real time” before I spoke, and to acknowledge (often humbly!) the flaws in my logic. Being an editor on the Law Review honed my writing and analytical skills and was terrific preparation not only for judicial clerkships but also for being a business lawyer. Yes, a business lawyer — where your job is to analyze carefully and thoroughly and convince the other side, not a judge, that your position is correct or avoid the course of action.

Do you have any advice for new UVA Law grads wanting to work in Houston?
Energy is and has been Houston’s premier industry. Having some knowledge of the sector generally — not energy law specifically but a basic understanding — can smooth coming into practice here, just like knowing a bit about the financial sector can help in New York or the entertainment business in LA. But you don’t have to take a bunch of courses in energy law: I never had one and was in private practice for over 25 years and have spent four years as a general counsel for two different oil and gas companies! Regardless of geography, the main thing is to put your legal work in the context of your client’s business (if a business client) or personal life (if working on personal or criminal matters) and learn that. It makes you a better counselor as well as advocate. But the basic advice is, come on down — this is a great town for everyone, including lawyers!


Kate D. Barrington McGregor '14

Associate, Bracewell

How did UVA Law prepare you for your practice or career choices? 
I took a great short course at UVA on oil and gas, which was a wonderful way to learn to “talk the talk” of energy speak. It has made a big difference, working in Houston. I also took classes during my 3L year that I knew would be relevant to my practice area, including securities regulation and secured transactions.

Do you have any advice for new UVA Law grads wanting to work in Houston?
Houston firms usually take a handful of 1L summer associates, so if you think you’re interested in Houston, I highly recommend considering spending part of your summer here as a 1L to see if you’d like to end up here. The other great thing that Houston firms do is a split summer, which gives you the opportunity to work at two firms (or one firm and then somewhere else) and even to try out two cities. I benefited from being in Houston here for six weeks of my 2L summer and in another city for the rest of my summer, which made me more confident in my choice that Houston was the right fit for me. I had found Houston has a nice balance between high-level transactional law work without a grinding lifestyle. Houston is a big city with a small city feel, and where the people are friendly and very welcoming to non-natives. Add the great cost of living and amazing food, and I knew I had found the right place. I would also suggest reaching out to UVA Law alums when you’re looking at Houston — the network is close down here, and people are often very generous with their time, which can be a great way to learn a lot about different firms and practice areas while helping you to sound even more knowledgeable and informed in interviews.


Corbin Blackford '14

General Counsel, Taste of Texas

How did UVA Law prepare you for your practice or career choices?
UVA Law taught me to think critically about the law, question my assumptions, and discover weaknesses in arguments. It also taught me that one needs balance in life — that, at some point, the law of diminishing returns kicks in, and an hour’s rest may be more beneficial than another hour on Westlaw. But most importantly, UVA Law taught me how to ask the right questions about the key issues. Working for a smaller business, I have learned quickly that I cannot be an expert in every legal area and that I, at times, must rely on the good work of others, including outside counsel. Asking the right questions helps ensure that everyone is working towards the same goal, in an efficient manner, while covering the bases. And, this kind of problem-solving helps not only with legal questions but with the multitude of other, non-legal issues that businesses confront daily.

Do you have any advice for new UVA Law grads wanting to work in Houston?
It is important to show an interest in Houston. I was very lucky in that my wife is a Houstonian. But it was still important that I found an internship after my 1L year to show a track record of interest during OGIs. Equally significant is having the right attitude. From my experience, fit matters quite a bit to Houston firms. Firms here want good grades, but I think many of them also want to make sure their associates are well-rounded individuals with interests that extend beyond the firms’ walls. As a result, I found that — at least at the firm for which I worked — partners cared about the development of their associates, both professionally and personally. I have really enjoyed practicing law here — both as an associate and now in-house.


Matthew Einbinder '05

Partner, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett

How did UVA Law prepare you for your practice or career choices?
UVA Law emphasized that people, community and quality work matter. Being thoughtful about those things translates well into building relationships with clients (as well as counterparties) and helping them negotiate deals efficiently.

Do you have any advice for new UVA Law grads wanting to work in Houston?
Candidates with a sincere interest in Houston and the energy industry will find a warm reception from its legal market. Standard advice such as being friendly, authentic and proactive goes as far in Houston as it does in other markets, if not farther.


Adam Milasincic '11

Trial Attorney, The Ammons Law Firm

How did UVA Law prepare you for your practice or career choices? 
UVA Law’s network and reputation open doors. That fact helped me land my first position, and it is rare for a month to pass without meeting a new client, opposing counsel, judge, etc., with a UVA connection.

The topics covered in class turn out to be more practical than one may assume at the time. For example, I have used information — and even old outlines — from my Agency/Partnership and Employment Discrimination courses dozens of times. From remembering a little-known form of coverage that I learned in my Insurance Law class with Professor Abraham, I recently increased a client’s settlement by hundreds of thousands of dollars. If you choose courses linked to your desired practice area — in my case, commercial litigation — you will be surprised at the frequency of practical application.

Do you have any advice for new UVA Law grads wanting to work in Houston?
If you want to be a trial lawyer, Houston is a second-to-none destination. The number of trial-focused boutiques in town seems to increase every year. The quality of life is just as appealing. As you begin your practice, the Houston Young Lawyers Association is quite dynamic and offers solid opportunities to network with colleagues and judges.

If you have not previously lived or worked in Houston, it is ideal to secure a summer internship (even unpaid) in Houston working for a judge, government agency or pro bono services group. When the time comes to apply for firm jobs, applicants who have demonstrated a concrete desire to work in Houston are more likely to survive the initial resume culls and screening interviews.


Kerry Notestine '83

Shareholder, Littler Mendelson

How did UVA Law prepare you for your practice or career choices? 
Very well. Houston was a great market for employment law which is my specialty and the field of my job search out of law school.

Do you have any advice for new UVA Law grads wanting to work in Houston?
There are many great firms in Houston, although only some of the larger corporate firms come to the university to interview. Networking can lead to great opportunities in boutique firms, particularly in litigation, employment, IP and similar specialties. Houston has a large number of corporate headquarters of Fortune 500 companies, which also lead to good in-house opportunities. We have a vibrant arts community, are one of the most diverse cities in the U.S., have great restaurants and enjoy a cost-effective standard of living. UVA grads also are well-respected.


More in the UVA Law Network Series

240+ Alumni

Leaders in Houston

John C. Ale '79
Retired Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary, Southwestern Energy

Bruce Bilger '77
Chairman and Head of Global Energy, Lazard Freres & Co.

Nathan Cherry '07
Managing Director, Morgan Stanley

Patrick Conlon '83
Compliance Coordinator and Litigation Counsel, Exxon Mobil

Dennis Duffy '82
Director, Labor and Employment, Kane Russell Coleman Logan

Tull R. Florey '95
Partner, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher

George Gerachis '83
Partner, Vinson & Elkins

Maria Kim '02
Senior Counsel, Exxon Mobil

Sarah Morgan '04
Partner, Vinson & Elkins

Greg Nelson '81
Partner, Paul Hastings

Kerry Notestine '83
Shareholder, Littler Mendelson

M. Catherine Ozdogan '94
Partner, Latham & Watkins

Philip Peacock '03
Executive Vice President and General Counsel, Navitas Midstream Partners Holdings

Kwame Satchell '94
Managing Counsel, Labor & Employment, Toyota Motor North America

John Sinders '79
Managing Director, Founders Advisors

Ann Stephens '94
Senior Legal Counsel, Shell

Carolyn Tillman '84
Managing Counsel, Occidental Petroleum

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