Scottish law firm Ledingham Chalmers has launched a new exploration and production (E&P) practice as it welcomes two renowned oil and gas lawyers back to the firm.
Aberdeen-based partners Laura Petrie and Uisdean Vass have joined Ledingham Chalmers from Womble Bond Dickinson. Mr Vass has also taken up the newly-created head of oil and gas position.
The new practice will advise upstream companies on a range of issues including contracting and regulatory matters such as acquisition, divestment and farm-in arrangements, as well as operational considerations and decommissioning.
Firm chairman and partner, Jennifer Young, said: “Ledingham Chalmers has, since its inception over 25 years ago, tracked Aberdeen’s emergence as the capital of the European oil and gas exploration and production sector and as a centre of excellence for professional services.
“We have maintained a strong focus on the business sectors which drive the regional economy — of which energy remains an integral part. Uniquely amongst firms of our size, we’ve retained a global outlook reflecting our continued involvement in the international energy sector, and these appointments re-introduce an E&P practice within our specialist commercial offering.”
Mrs Young added the hires are in response to client demand.
“In the context of the oil industry striving to reduce costs, we’re seeing increasing demand for locally-based skills to deliver transactions and provide specialist commercial and regulatory work.
“Uisdean is a well-respected oil and gas specialist with decades of experience practising in the UK and internationally; while Laura brings formidable oil and gas experience together with broad commercial abilities in areas including renewables, corporate and banking law.”
Both new partners have worked with Ledingham Chalmers before: Mr Vass, a graduate of the University of Edinburgh and Louisiana State University, was a partner in the oil and gas team in 2003.
University of Aberdeen alumnus Mrs Petrie was a trainee in the firm’s Inverness office between 2004 and 2006.
She said: “Over the last year or so, we’ve seen a growing trend of new entrants to the North Sea acquiring assets from the old guard. These majors and supermajors are facilitating these transactions by retaining some decommissioning liability and, accordingly, a presence in the region.
“We expect to see a continuation of these kinds of deals over the short to medium term, ultimately resulting in a more diverse operator landscape.
“In addition, with decommissioning activity forecast on around 349 fields across the UK, Norwegian, Danish and Dutch Continental Shelves to 2025, there’s a massive scope of work for the service sector too with the shift to end-of-field life activities.”
Mr Vass brings 30 years’ experience in the international oil and gas sector to the firm: 17 of those spent working in North and South America.
He said: “The rise in the oil price — about 150% since January 2016 — will naturally help the international oil business, and likely stimulate deals and opportunities.
“Closer to home, we expect to be increasingly supporting clients working in line with the new regulatory framework — the Maximising Economic Recovery (MER) Strategy — which represents a huge shift for oil companies, and indeed the processes and structures they need to have in place.”
A third new start, Laura Edmunds, joins the commercial litigation team in Aberdeen as a senior solicitor.
These three hires bring partner numbers to 31, with 141 staff across Ledingham Chalmers’ Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Inverness and Stirling offices.
Mrs Young said: “These appointments underline the firm’s ongoing commitment to sustainable growth, including within this new E&P practice, through aligning ourselves with clients’ evolving needs.”