Interview with Whitney R. Kerns

Current law firm or association: Bowles Rice LLP

Past associations: I’ve been with Bowles Rice since they took me in from law school.

Law School: West Virginia University College of Law

Undergraduate: West Virginia University – Political Science

Spouse: Robert “JR” Kerns. He is also an attorney and currently serves as the Dean of Student Affairs for Garrett College.

Children: Daughter, Elle (9) and a son, Kellan (3)

Current hometown: Morgantown, WV

Favorite bar or restaurant in current home city? Why? Keglers – it’s where my husband and I have been going since law school.

EMLF Involvement: I’ve attended multiple EMLF events, including seminars in Pittsburgh and annual conferences in Memphis and Amelia Island. I recently served on the planning committee for the Amelia Island conference, and I’ve had the chance to speak with law students about careers in energy law through some virtual EMLF programs.

Where did you grow up? Charleston, WV

What is your area of practice? Energy law, representing both coal and oil and gas clients, as well as real estate and some estate planning.

How did you get involved in that area of law? I became involved in energy law somewhat by chance. That is where Bowles Rice needed me, and once I got involved, I realized it was a great fit. I enjoy both the practice of energy law as well as teaching it to future attorneys.

How much of your time is spent representing clients in the coal, oil and gas, or other energy industries? Probably 90%

You have spoken at a couple of EMLF events and have been involved in EMLF committees. Has that involvement benefitted you?  If so, how? It has provided me numerous opportunities to connect with attorneys in the energy field both regionally as well as nationally. There are chances to discuss up and coming opportunities that I might not be able to find or hear about otherwise. It also provides a sense of community.

Now that the COVID-related restrictions on restaurants, gatherings, and travel are ending, is there anything that you have done or look forward to doing soon, that you were able to do during the shutdowns? It’s nice to be able to get back to in-person conferences and in-person meetings. I am also an adjunct professor at the WVU College of Law where I teach Coal, Oil and Gas and it was awesome to be able to get back into the classroom without a mask on and see everyone’s faces again.

You’re still a young lawyer but have been practicing for a few years. Looking back, what two or three things have been most helpful to you in developing as a lawyer and as an attorney at your firm? I started out working in courthouse records rooms, working on mineral titles. That foundational knowledge and experience I think has been key to my development in the energy law field. I think it’s also helpful to find one or two mentors or attorneys who you can aspire to model and mold your practice after. Finding good teachers and mentors within your firm or organization is priceless. I’ve been lucky enough to have that here at Bowles Rice.

Is there any advice you would give to new lawyers and law students who are about to become lawyers?  Have a plan for the law that you want to practice. Set both short term and long-term goals to keep yourself on track. And get involved in areas of the law where you enjoy the type of work you will be doing. Also, make sure you appreciate the support systems that you have backing you along your legal journey.

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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