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Centre for Commercial Law Studies

Energy Law Institute

Norah Gallagher, Academic Director of the CCLS Energy Law Institute (ELI), talks about the Energy and Natural Resources Law LLM.


The photo shows James Dallas, Norah Gallagher, Silke Goldberg, Maria Taylor and Raphael Heffron with the speakers at our first Energy Forum EventThis LLM offers a wide range of modules (see full list of modules here). Students can choose to complete a specialist LLM in Energy and Natural Resources Law or study a different LLM specialism and pick several modules from the energy list. The energy transition will impact all sectors so it will be useful to understand the energy market. Modules are taught by academic staff from CCLS in addition to regular guest speakers who are recognised leaders in the field. The aim is to provide both academic and practical insight into the dynamic energy industry.

Who does this course appeal to? Will it be of interest to professionals already working in the area of Energy Law or someone just starting out?

Both! In the five years we have been running the energy LLM we have had a variety of students. Each year about half of the intake have some work experience; as lawyers, in house counsel or for governments. We have also had engineers working in the upstream sector. Other students have worked in a particular area, for example renewable power projects or procurement in energy supply chains. The rest of the students enrol straight from their undergraduate degree. Students come from all over the world and they really enjoy hearing different perspectives.

Currently, there is an increased interest in energy and climate change. Students hear about the energy transition, and of course everybody's heard of the climate crisis. We now offer an Energy and Climate Change module as well as our popular Renewable Energy Law module. Many of our students have gone on to work as energy regulators, in house counsel, private practitioners, in NGOs and IGOs. Some stay in London for work and others return to their home jurisdictions.

Why would you recommend this course?

Energy is the largest industry in the world. It impacts all our lives and even if you do not want to become an energy specialist it will be useful to have some understanding of the energy markets. The energy transition away from fossil fuels towards renewable more sustainable power generation will have significant impact. Students and practitioners need to be aware of what this transition means and how it will impact their sector. They need to learn about the legal and regulatory requirements and the impact for their home jurisdictions.

Why did you decide to establish the Energy Law Institute at CCLS and introduce this specialist LLM course?

We conducted a lot of research and identified a gap in both the market and the teaching. Energy is the largest industry in the world yet it was not being covered by existing modules offered at CCLS specifically. Some existing public international law modules dealt with expropriation and some energy related issues, and there was one on International Law of Natural Resources. However, there was no coverage of energy contracts and transactions, energy ethics or energy & climate change. We designed the modules based on market research and what LLM graduates would need to know to pursue a career in the energy sector.

Energy graduates today are expected to know the soft law, not just the hard law, for example the Equator Principles, which were revised in November 2019. They impose obligations on the financial institutions that are funding energy projects to comply with human rights, environmental standards, social standards and good governance. Furthermore, energy projects must comply with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 2030 and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

What do students learn in the course of their Energy Law LLM?

They learn about the law and regulation relevant to the energy sector: domestic law, international law, hard law and soft law. The course overall is very practically focused and is designed to prepare our students for a future career in the energy sector whatever employment path they choose.

We have a range of expert guest lectures that enhance the programme. They represent Government (BEIS), industry, regulators (OFGEM), the EU Commission, private practice and NGOs. In addition, we facilitate a number of field trips to power plants and off shore wind farms. There are also other events and seminars arranged for students to meet energy experts including the Friday Lecture Series and the Clifford Chance Annual Lecture (former speakers include Lord Browne, Sir David King, Lord Lamont, Sir Richard Friend and Clare Perry).

I think that one of the most important aspects is the mix of legal perspectives students get exposed to during the year. Our students come from over 30 different countries. It is really interesting for students to hear and learn about the expectations and practicalities of implementing the energy transition from different jurisdictions. This is really informative and fun for students.

Is the Energy Law LLM at CCLS comparable to similar courses offered in other universities? What's unique about it?

I think that one of the best features is the choice of modules. We offer quite a wide range of subjects from upstream contracts to renewables and energy ethics. We also have a mining module to highlight some of the specific challenges for the extractive industry. We cover energy and climate change in a new module offered in 2019, renewables energy and exploitation of energy resources in disputed areas. There are over 50 areas where there are ongoing maritime delimitation disputes: we look at how natural resources- oil, gas or polymetallic nodules – can be exploited in these areas.

The ELI has also been successful in securing internships for our energy students. These include working in law firms in London, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the Energy Charter Secretariat in Brussels. This gives students an idea of what it is like to actually work in the energy industry. In addition, we run a mentoring programme where students are allocated a mentor who has significant experience in the energy sector. Students learn a lot from these meetings. Our central location in London is an advantage over many other Universities as we have a huge pool of legal experts based in the City.

The evidence of the quality of our programme can be seen as some students come back to study with us further. Tedd Mose, one of the first cohort of students after we set up the ELI, returned to do his PhD. He is in the final stage of writing up his thesis. Specialising in energy can lead not only to a career in practice but also in academia.



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