Briefing Room


Nadorff ’80: Empowering Local Oil and Gas Lawyers

July 1, 2010 | Alumni

Editor’s Note: When we last caught up with Norman Nadorff ’80 in January 2007, he was just embarking on the creation of a post-graduate legal program in Angola, West Africa. More than three years later, that dream has become a reality.

When Norman Nadorff ’80 arrived in Luanda, Angola, in 2006 to commence his position as senior counsel of BP Angola, he didn’t know that he would help create and implement a program that would bring forth a sophisticated level of education in oil and gas law, the first of its kind in Africa, and one of the few in the world.

Nadorff also didn’t know that the program would eventually earn him the 2009 Annual Education Award from the Association of International Petroleum Negotiators.

Now, three years into the oil and gas LL.M. program at the Agostinho Neto University College of Law, Nadorff has taught and helped graduate two sections of professionals in the oil and gas business.

“The idea is to upgrade the skills of Angolan lawyers and other professionals,” Nadorff said. “We run it every two years and enroll about 40 students. It’s been quite successful and students have managed to enhance their careers.”

Of the success stories emerging from the program is that of Susana Ramos, who won a Fulbright Humphrey grant as a result of the program. She is now studying at American University and specializing in anti-corruption law.

But Nadorff said that the networking opportunities for students enrolled in the program have proven to be the best indirect benefit.

“Networking has become just as important as the academics,” Nadorff said. “The program has raised the stature of the law school, and we’ve established great relationships and dialogue with other universities around the world.”

Nadorff said he believes that establishing this dialogue with other universities helps to locate and attract the best professors to teach the program and also to begin establishing student-teacher exchange programs.

“People aren’t very familiar with Angola,” Nadorff said. “The country was in war for 35 years. Professors were apprehensive about coming at first.”

In order to attract top professors, Nadorff successfully argued that some of the program’s modules should be taught in English.

 “If we only taught the program in Portuguese, we would have been limited to Brazilian, Portuguese, and Angolan professors,” Nadorff said. “You cannot be a successful oil and gas lawyer if you do not know English. Negotiations and contracts are primarily done in English.”

Nadorff, who is also an instructor within the LL.M. program, teaches in both Portuguese and English.

“I teach in both languages because it seems to help with comprehension,” he said. “When I taught contractual indemnifications in Portuguese some of the concepts were difficult to express, so I would switch back and forth between languages.”

The program has attracted a wide range of students.

“Many of the students are oil and gas lawyers,” he said. “Our target student is a lawyer in an oil and gas law department who aspires to be legal manager or a senior lawyer. Some of our students work for oil and gas companies and others don’t. Thus, the first two weeks are spent getting non-energy sector students up to speed. In the end professionals from various sectors and backgrounds profit from the program.”

Nadorff describes the curriculum’s focus on local industry, policy, and law as one of the best aspects of the program.

“An Angolan who has money can get an LL.M. elsewhere,” he said. “But what they won’t get overseas is instruction in their own oil and gas regime. In this program we talk extensively about uniquely Angolan issues.”

The Angolan LL.M. program eventually caught the attention of lawyers and educators in Thailand. Nadorff conducted two workshops there late last year, one at the Ministry of Energy and the other at the Chulalongkorn University Law Faculty, which led to the creation of a similar program there.

“The Thailand program will be eight weeks and be part of an existing LL.M. program in international law. I will be teaching in that program and hope that similar programs will be developed in other oil producing countries. Indonesia, Russia, Mexico and China, to name a few, seem like good candidates.”

Nadorff said that a major goal is to make the Angolan LL.M. program self-sufficient. An essential ingredient in this regard is to develop a group of home-grown professors. “Some of our best LL.M. graduates have gone on to lecture in the program. Hopefully over time the faculty will be largely Angolan.” Nadorff said that one of the original objectives in establishing these programs worldwide is to enable local lawyers to handle their respective complex oil and gas law matters.

“During my career, I have noticed that the most interesting legal work is handled by expatriate lawyers with local lawyers being generally relegated to handling less interesting local law matters,” he said. “Oil and gas law is a very specialized and complicated area of law requiring significant training and experience. Our program provides local lawyers with the knowledge and credentials to tackle the most complex transactions and issues.”

When Nadorff first talked with us on this subject in 2007 he felt he would be working somewhere else by 2010. But for now he is happy to stay in Angola a while longer in order to finish the job he started . . . whenever that may be.