Briefing Room


Partner started career as 3L in energy law

March 1, 2012 | Alumni

From energy regulatory specialist to corporate transactional attorney, Brian Chisling ’94 is a partner in the corporate department of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP, a law firm known for its high-profile merger and acquisition transactions in the United States and abroad.

Named partner in January, Chisling took the road less traveled to partnership status after 17 years with the firm.

“I was hired into the Columbus office as a third-year student at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. It was a small branch office, with only four attorneys. I was brought on as an energy regulatory attorney and to assist with ongoing litigation matters,” Chisling said.

“Simpson Thacher was not a particularly well-known opportunity among the firms interviewing on campus and only hired new attorneys for the Columbus office about every four or five years, so I was lucky to find a great job in a relatively difficult legal market during my final year.”

Having no prior experience in energy law before accepting the position at Simpson Thacher, Chisling was able to change his course schedule to participate in an independent study course on utility regulation at Moritz in his final semester. “It introduced me to the field of energy law, but I mostly learned on the job. However, I received a great education and the foundation to work at a large law firm. I was fortunate enough to learn from and work on research projects with many great professors, including Professor Emeritus of Law Philip Sorenson.”

Although Chisling began his career in energy regulatory law, primarily in the power sector, he slowly transitioned to lead transactional work within the energy and infrastructure sector, moving to the firm’s main office in New York City after the firm closed its Columbus office in 2002.

Today, he specializes almost entirely in energy and infrastructure transactional work, advising electric and gas utilities, independent power producers, private equity investors, and financing parties with respect to mergers and acquisitions, financings, and securities issuances, as well as related federal and state regulatory approvals and filings.

Finding his work both interesting and challenging, Chisling noted that in order to be successful at what he does, he must “understand not only corporate law and energy regulation, but also the physics of the power sector – how electricity is generated, transmitted, and distributed, from the fuel source to electricity to customers, and why different investors want certain facilities in certain locations.”

As part of the energy and infrastructure group at Simpson Thacher, Chisling has responded to industry changes through cycles of regulation and deregulation and continues to provide advice on an ongoing basis to numerous energy companies. Through his work, he remains at the forefront of complex and innovative transactions across the full spectrum of the energy sector.

Chisling also remains an energy regulatory expert, including making filings and appearing before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, an independent government agency officially organized as part of the Department of Energy. The purpose of the commission is to protect the public and energy customers, ensuring that regulated energy companies are acting in compliance with federal law.

“People can relate to what I do. This wasn’t the case when I first started,” Chisling said. “Now with energy becoming more significant on the political landscape, people are more aware of greenhouse gas emissions, oil and gas resources, deregulation of retail markets, and spikes in fuel prices. So what I do is directly related to issues people are reading about and are interested in.”

Chisling said no day is ever exactly the same, as he encounters different projects daily. He finds work demanding at times because energy law is constantly changing, either due to new environmental and economic regulations or the changing landscape of energy with new participants and new fuel sources.

“It’s important that people find something they enjoy doing. Being an attorney is a difficult profession. Lawyers work hard. You have to find a place where you enjoy your work and the people that surround you. I was lucky to find that in Simpson Thacher. I found a professional environment that allowed me to thrive,” he said. “It took me a long time to make partner, but I have been able to mold my career from a purely regulatory practice to an all-encompassing transactional practice, and I have been given the resources and opportunity to distinguish myself in the energy field through my work with excellent colleagues and a variety of great clients.”

This article was written by Callie Broomfield.