New energy law center at LSU aims to tackle 21st century issues

11 12, 2012 by The Times-Picayune

LSU Law Center Chancellor Jack M. Weiss told | The Times-Picayune last week that legal and regulatory issues in the energy industry have become more specialized and complex, prompting the law center to begin a specialized program studying energy law. Students interested in studying energy law will have a place to go, as the Louisiana Board of Regents approved the LSU Energy Law Center in August.

The center will collaborate with the LSU A & M campus in areas that will increase the knowledge base of students in the energy law program.

As Mr. Weiss held conversations with alumni, he came to realize the field of energy law had been modernized and went beyond the traditional courses of oil and gas.

The center plans to offer courses in geology, petroleum engineering, nuclear sciences, coastal sciences, environment science and chemical engineering that will train potential lawyers in the 21st century world of energy.

Oil and gas, however, will remain at the core of the program, Weiss said.

"It occurred to me that the importance of energy in Louisiana, job offers for students and issues in the state, that the program would be beneficial at LSU," Weiss said.

Students outside the energy law program, will also have the opportunity to gain an understanding of the legal subject matter that surrounds science, engineering and other disciplines critical to the new world of energy.

Practicing attorneys in the energy field will also be able to take advantage of enhanced continued legal education at the law center. Other facets of the new law program, includes consulting with law firms and businesses throughout Louisiana and the Gulf Coast.

After finishing the energy law program, attorneys would be able to tackle certain issues with expertise, such as the regulation and transmission of energy, financing of energy, transportation and distribution of energy.

The energy law center, however, wouldn't have its steam without John Laborde, who's a LSU Law Center alumnus, World War II veteran and retired chairman and CEO of Tidewater Inc., the largest worldwide oil and gas marine offshore owner and operator of vessels.

Laborde has agreed to donate $2 million to the energy law center, which will be used to establish a double distinguished chair in Laborde's name that will allow the center to attract leading figures in the industry to occupy the chair and the remaining donation will go towards creating a challenged fund, to attract more donors.

"It's almost a pattern in my career," Laborde said. "Agreeing to make a substantial donation would be a really good fit to LSU and lead to longtime and future growth of more and more young people in this specific field."

In 1940 Laborde became a freshman at LSU. "I spent a lot of my life at LSU," said Laborde. "LSU played a very important part in my career." Laborde, 89, has spent more than 40 years of his career in the oil and gas industry.

Laborde said his donation doesn't have a material gain for himself or his companies. "I occupy office space, but nothing tangible, it's more reputation wise," Laborde said of his donation to the law center.

"I'm very hopeful that the donation will help the law center at LSU, to keep growing and improving academically," he said.

Weiss says the program is aiming for an official launch two or three academic years from now and will continue to develop throughout the process.

There have been three hires so far, Weiss said. Keith Hall and Blake Hudson, both associate professors of law, will be teaching courses related to oil, gas and the environment.

"I would hope in an interim class, that it would be a significant number of students in energy law," Weiss said. "We certainly envision joint-degree programs that have a focus on energy law."

Robert Sloan will serve as the initial director of the energy law center. Sloan, who has 40 years of legal experience across the world, will bring a wide-range of professional and international perspective to the directorship of the center. Sloan has recently served as the executive vice president, general counsel and secretary of Entergy Corporation in New Orleans.

The LSU Law Center will be the first in the state to have an energy law program, joining just a handful of other public institutions across the country.