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The following is an excerpt from Practice Perspectives: Vault's Guide to Legal Practice Areas.

Giji John, Partner—Energy & Infrastructure

Giji John’s practice focuses on the development and finance of domestic and international energy projects. He has extensive experience representing project sponsors through development, acquisitions and dispositions, joint ventures, and financings. His representation has included transactions involving LNG facilities, methanol facilities, petrochemical refineries, carbon capture and sequestration facilities, natural gas processing and storage facilities, natural gas and CO2 pipelines, wind energy, solar energy, natural gas-fired peaking and combined-cycle power plants, thermal and battery energy storage, transportation, aviation, and ports.

Describe your practice area and what it entails.

I focus on project development and financing of energy projects, particularly wind and solar energy projects, although I have worked on any number of different technologies, including natural-gas-fired power plants, liquefied natural gas (LNG), carbon capture and sequestration, natural gas processing facilities, and petrochemical facilities. My work involves negotiating various project-related contracts that support long-term operations and financing for my clients.

What types of clients do you represent?

Most of my clients are project developers. They have included ENGIE, EDP Renewables, Renewable Energy Systems, Pattern Energy, Recurrent Energy, and Cheniere Energy. I also represent large corporates, such as Microsoft on its large-scale purchase of renewable energy to meet its sustainability goals.

What types of cases/deals do you work on?

I am fortunate to work on cutting-edge transactions in my field.

Recently I worked with Microsoft to develop new renewable energy contracting structures, known as proxy generation power purchase agreements and volume firming agreements, intended to reduce risk for buyers in corporate power purchase agreements. This structure is intended to expand the corporate and industrial market for renewable energy through innovative provisions that leverage renewable energy, commodity, and financial markets techniques.

I also worked on the multi-phase, multi-billion-dollar project financing of the first LNG export facility in the lower 48 states—Cheniere Energy’s Sabine Pass LNG Liquefaction Facility.

How did you choose this practice area?

I didn’t actually know my practice area existed until I was a summer associate. At that time, I had a vague notion of wanting to do some sort of “transactional work,” not quite knowing what that would entail. I got lucky in that one of my first summer associate projects involved looking at a tax issue for a Pakistani power plant. Narrow issue, but it introduced me to the idea that international project finance was a practice area option. As I did more deals, I got hooked.

What is a typical day like and/or what are some common tasks you perform?

When a deal is at full momentum, we are often reviewing some document or position that the other side’s lawyers have prepared, evaluating it, and helping our clients walk through the risks and/or the benefits. So my typical day involves lots of meetings/calls/emails/etc. in the context of negotiating those deal points. My associates do most of the drafting of major documents, and I’ll work with them to get everything the way clients want.

What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area?

The most obvious recommendations are secured transactions, tax, and bankruptcy classes. But I would also suggest taking courses from your business school on accounting and finance.

What do you like best about your practice area?

It’s constantly changing. When I started practicing in this prac-tice area, renewable energy was literally nonexistent (other than some ’80s-era wind farms in California). Now, renewable energy represents the lion’s share of new electricity projects in the U.S. New technologies constantly change the landscape in energy and enable new deals.

What misconceptions exist about your practice area?

I think the common misconception about transactional lawyers is that we tend to sit, holed up in our offices poring over documents. All lawyers do this at some point—and probably daily. But, at its best, I think project development/finance is one of the more creative practice areas. Especially on deals that have not been done before, or with respect to new products/technologies that we are pushing to market, we are working with clients, financing institutions, and sometimes governmental institutions in order to build out the legal framework of how to do something new. That takes a lot of emotional intelligence, the ability to think on your feet, and good argument skills. I liken it to arguing in front of a very active moot court panel.

How do you see this practice area evolving in the future?

There is a convergence happening between the energy industry and technology. Examples include how electric cars help stabilize the electric grid and the use of blockchain to enable residential solar. So, what lawyers do and our practice areas will probably also converge. I already see this a lot at Orrick. We focus on the technology and innovation, energy and infrastructure, and finance sectors, and we often work across teams to help our clients with matters related to this convergence.

For those considering corporate work, why would you advise them to specialize in energy, oil, and gas?

There is no shortage of energy work—whether that is in oil and gas extractive industries, conventional electricity, or renewable energy. And most of the largest law firms have, or want to have, significant exposure to that work. They are falling over themselves trying to grab associates. And since the deals are inherently very complicated, associates have meaningful and challenging work on day one.