Norman Nadorff '80--Making His Mark on the African Landscape
It is quite an achievement for one to make a mark in a particular industry. Norman Nadorff ’80 is able to claim something rarer still – he is making a mark in the legal system of an entire country.
Since April 2006, Norman has served as in-house counsel for BP in Angola. In that position, he oversees all legal matters for that operation, including multi-billion dollar projects and local legal compliance issues. That position requires an array of skills and knowledge, including a mastery of Portuguese and familiarity with Angolan energy laws as well as U.S. and U.K. laws with extraterritorial effect.
Soon after his arrival in Angola (after a nearly 20-year absence) an opportunity arose that Norman never expected when he accepted the position. With generous funding from BP, Norman conceived of and has helped design a one-year LL.M. program in oil and gas law at Agostinho Neto University College of Law, which is slated to commence in April 2007. “We want to give Angolan lawyers a chance to train on more sophisticated legal issues. Currently most local lawyers employed by oil and gas companies primarily handle local legal issues. The program is designed to give local lawyers the skills to handle the more demanding oil and gas law issues.” Norman says further, “We feel we are not just training lawyers, but rather the future leaders of Angola.”
Norman said the opportunity to organize the program came “out of the blue” and was one he could not pass up. “BP wanted to do something to help the country. They had an education budget and it was just a matter of finding the best investment,” he says. “This program has the potential of making a difference in the country in a relatively short period of time.”
Norman’s position presents other opportunities as well. “In some ways, Angolan law is not as updated as would be desirable,” he says. “They use a form of Portuguese Civil Code that predates the one currently in effect in Portugal. Also, the judiciary has not been well tested over the years, partly because decades of civil war did now allow the creation of strong legal institutions. And there is not a lot of legal precedent to draw upon.” For lawyers like Norman, this is both a positive and negative. While it makes the job more difficult, it also gives attorneys like him the chance to break new legal ground.
|Norman in Paranhos, where BP installed a solar power system so this village could have electricity for the first time|
Norman enjoys working in Angola for many reasons. On the sentimental side, his first oil and gas assignment was to Angola in 1986 when the country was deep in the throes of civil war. He also enjoys the fact that Angola, because of its Portuguese roots, reminds him of Brazil, which has also played an important role in Norman’s career. “Angolans are very proud of their country,” he says. “There was a lot of turmoil here for many years. Many had to study outside of Angola. But when they looked for careers they didn’t take the easy road; they came back to Angola. There is a dedication to their roots I admire.”
International work was always in Norman’s plans. As an undergraduate he specialized in Latin American Studies and went on to earn a Master’s Degree in Spanish and Portuguese. He served as president of the law school’s International Law Club and was encouraged by Professor Keith Rosenn to apply for the Fulbright Research Fellowship that took him to Brazil immediately upon graduation. During his 25-year career, primarily in manufacturing and oil industries, he has worked in most corners of the globe with companies including DuPont, Conoco, Atlantic Richfield and BP.
From 1981 to 2004, Norman estimates he made at least one overseas trip a month, oftentimes more. “On many a New Year’s Day, I didn’t even know where I would be working during the next twelve months.” he says. In addition to formal mastery of Spanish and Portuguese, Norman largely taught himself French, Indonesian and Italian. “Language has never been a problem for me,” he notes.
|Norman, standing in front of the sort of drilling rigs for which he has written dozens of contracts over the years|
“I always enjoyed studying international affairs and foreign cultures,” he says. “But I wanted to do something more pragmatic and tangible than pure academia, so I sought a career in international law. … I love the challenge of negotiating on foreign soil in foreign languages with people of different backgrounds and mindsets.”
It is not all business for Norman either. He is a musician and composer as well, having played guitar and keyboards in a variety of locales, including many overseas.
Norman said the biggest challenge of his career was working in Indonesia, where he was an expatriate lawyer on two separate occasions during the 1990’s. He said that country has various ethnic groups, each with its own peculiar customs, idiosyncrasies, tactics and behaviors. “You have to know where your negotiating counterparts are from, what their background and religion is, and know something about their family,” he said. “But no matter how hard you try, it seems the longer you stay there the more you realize how much you really just don’t know.”
Norman has shared his enthusiasm for international law as a career with young lawyers and law students by giving presentations in various locales on “The Experiences of an International Oil and Gas Lawyer.” He also recently gave a lecture to a Mini-MBA program on the subject of “The Role of the Lawyer in the International Oil and Gas Business.”
Classmates wanting to hear more stories from this world traveler should
contact Norman by email at Norman.Nadorff@bp.com.