EMLF Member Spotlight: Gregory Russell

Current association: Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP (1992-present)
Law School: Harvard Law School
Undergraduate: Washington and Lee University
Spouse: Anne
Children: Hannah (26), Joe (23)
Home: Columbus, Ohio
Favorite restaurant in Columbus: Right now, it’s The Eagle in the Short North.  You can never have too much fried chicken!
Favorite place to visit: I’d have to say Florence, Italy.  Anne and I went for our 25th Anniversary, and we hope to return once the pandemic ends and travel restrictions lift.
EMLF Involvement: EMLF Board of Trustees, 2006-present, Chair of the Energy & Mineral Law Foundation’s Special Institute on Title and Development Issues in the Utica Shale (2013), past speaker at multiple EMLF events.

You have been doing oil and gas law for more than 25 years. How did you get started in this sort of work? When I was a new associate, my former partner, Jon Airey, asked me to help represent producers in the Columbia Gas Transmission bankruptcy and I never looked back.

So, you were representing oil and gas clients before the Utica Shale became a big deal. How has the rise in activity in the Utica Shale affected the practice of oil and gas law in Ohio? The practice has changed in a number of ways, really. One of the first things you notice is that the number of attorneys focusing on oil and gas law has increased dramatically, and has gotten significantly younger. Prior to the increase in activity, you might have had half a dozen attendees at the state bar association meetings, where I was frequently the youngest participant (neither is the case now). And it has become significantly more interesting in a legal sense. Where there was little incentive to finally determine the answers to issues that other producing states have long-settled law on, today those issues are front and center—and that means that the attorneys in the oil and gas space are shaping how development will take place in the future. It’s an exciting time to be an oil and gas lawyer in Ohio.

You have a busy practice, but over the years you have been made time to be very active in various mineral law organizations, including the Energy & Mineral Law Foundation. Why? What has EMLF meant to you? Has your involvement had a positive effect on your career? When I first started practicing oil and gas law in Ohio, the legal world was fairly small, just a handful of members, several of which worked at my firm. EMLF gave me the opportunity to meet others in the practice, both in-house and outside counsel, and learn more about the issues faced by our industry. It also forced me to develop certain skillsets that I otherwise might not have tried – such as learning to speak in front of large crowds (believe it or not, I’m a natural introvert). It has been a very valuable part of my practice over the years and I’m thankful to have gotten involved.

You teach oil and gas law as an adjunct at Ohio State Law School. How do you like teaching? I really love teaching at the law school. The students are engaged, the topic is always evolving, and I’m lucky to have the support of others who teach oil and gas law full time who have been very generous with their teaching materials and lessons that they’ve had over the years.

Some lawyers are almost afraid of math, but the year after you earned your undergraduate degree you studied mathematics for a year in Germany under a Fulbright grant. How did that come about? Well, I majored in mathematics at W&L and was thinking about getting my Ph.D. in order to teach at a college or university. One of my roommates at W&L had gotten his degree in chemistry and done a Fulbright in Germany a couple of years earlier. He suggested that I might want to give it a go to see if I really wanted to spend the next six years studying higher mathematics (spoiler alert – I did not, as it turns out). So I applied and was fortunate enough to be one of the grant recipients. It was an absolutely fantastic experience, despite the fact that I really didn’t speak the language when I first got there. The people I met were wonderful, I had some real adventures (e.g., I was homeless for about six weeks and basically lived on the German rail system), and it broadened my horizons. I recommend it to anyone who has an interest in international travel.

Do you find time to travel for fun? We do. Every year, we take at least one long-ish trip with family or friends. The last several summers, we’ve been to South Dakota to visit the state and national parks, the Finger Lakes in New York, and Quebec, Canada (for the poutine … well, and the sights too).  We have a trip planned to Yellowstone (the national park, not the Dutton Ranch) in May, and after that, hopefully Italy again!

You are about two decades into a successful law practice. Is there any advice you would give to new lawyers and law students who are about to become lawyers? Try to pay attention to and learn from everyone you work with. Everyone has some bit of knowledge, whether of substantive law or way of doing things, that can be helpful to your practice and the balance you need with “real life.”

Join EMLF!

Membership in the Energy & Mineral Law Foundation is open to anyone who is concerned with issues pertaining to the energy industry.

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