Interview with Armando Benincasa

Current association: Member, Steptoe & Johnson; joined the firm in 2002

Past associations: West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, 1995-2002

Law School: University of Virginia

Undergraduate: Washington & Lee, B.A.

Spouse: Marcy

Children: Bianca and Sophia

Home: Charleston, West Virginia

Favorite restaurant in Charleston: 1010 Bridge. They always have an interesting menu. The food is fresh and always has a great taste.

EMLF Involvement: Member of the Executive Committee; speaker

You worked several years early in your career for the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection. Did that experience give you some insight that you have been able to use to help your clients after you went into private practice? Working as a regulator and then moving into private practice, you realize that you are working in a small space. The bar is small and the officials you deal with are a set few. Trust and transparency are important both to you and your clients. Your effectiveness to find solutions and get good results for your clients hinge on these relationships that you must maintain with regulators in whatever state you may be working in.

You have been very in the Energy & Mineral Law Foundation, as well as similar groups. What is it about EMLF that prompts a busy lawyer like you to be so involved in the organization? I have been involved with EMLF for many years and it has provided me with many opportunities both from an educational and business perspective. I have met many good people at these events and those relationships have been maintained over time. EMLF members are a valuable resource. Being active in the organization is a way of giving back.

The level of oil and gas activity has increased dramatically during the time you have been in private practice. What has it been like to go through that period of growth? It has been interesting in that the development of the Marcellus and Utica shales has remade the industry in Appalachia and has provided an incredible opportunity to those who work in and for the industry. This evolution makes today’s oil and gas industry almost unrecognizable in comparison to the recent past. With this growth comes challenges.

I see you at a lot of energy law conferences, but do you find time to travel for fun? Do you have a favorite place to visit? We enjoy a few places – New York City just for the so many different things it has to offer whether it is sports, museums, plays, food, night life, history. We spend a lot of time in Naples, Fla. for the beach and sun and so many other activities, but also allowing you to slow down and read a book of your choosing which can be rare for us. I grew up loving the water and this place often feels like home.

Any hobbies? I enjoy cooking as a great way to relax and to distract from your everyday schedule. I will make everything and anything from fresh pastas to cakes and pies. I have also always enjoyed the movies – regardless of genre or quality. Even something that is basically dreck you can still enjoy with a laugh. Travel – to just about anywhere – we love larger cities where we can taste foods and attend events (sports, plays, etc. . .), as well as investigate history.

Do you have any favorite holiday traditions or foods for Christmas? My larger family still does the traditional Feast of the Seven Fishes which is a traditional Italian meal served on Christmas Eve. My immediate family enjoys decorating for the holiday, we have eight trees up in our house, and we enjoy traveling to small communities to view lights and displays during the season.

What about New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day? Football – enough said.

You have been practicing law for a while and have had success. Is there any advice you would give to new lawyers and law students who are about to become lawyers? Always protect your integrity and remember to respect those who practice with you and against you and those who help you in the practice. Find your place – it may take a little while, but try to find what part of the practice provides you with the most fulfillment. It is OK, and I would say imperative that you enjoy what you do and the people around you. Stay humble – assume  that everyone in the room is pretty smart and you can always learn something from someone.

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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