Want to Be a General Counsel? Try Texas!

By Mark Wilson, Esq. on July 24, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Welcome to the world of in-house counsel, the attorney who lives inside a company as one of its employees, advising and representing it. Did you go to the right law school for this? If you went to Harvard Law School, then you're well on your way.

Harvard, though, isn't your only option. Other top law schools send their graduates in-house, as well. For example, have you considered The Lone Star State? University of Texas, Austin ranks #5 in terms of sending its graduates in-house. UT School of Law ranks #15 on U.S. News and World Report's list of the best law schools -- nothing to sniff at -- but is among the biggest providers of in-house counsel. What gives?

Black Gold, Texas Tea

The Lone Star State is a lovely place on its own, but for lawyers eager to break into the GC market, Texas has two things going for it: natural resources and patents. It's no secret that Texas is awash in oil and gas, but in 2013, the ABA Journal reported that business has been booming even more than before in the field of energy transactional law. A combination of mergers, acquisitions, and energy contracts, valued at over $1 trillion, happened in Texas between 2010 and 2012.

These numbers will only get bigger: Texas, like many oil-rich states, is doubling down on hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") in order to extract natural gas from shale. Of course, more fracking means more regulation, and more regulation means more regulatory lawsuits.

The Patent Draw

Texas' other major draw for lawyers working in-house -- aside from oil and The Alamo -- is the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. The Eastern District is well- known for being friendly to patent holders, meaning corporations have set up LLCs just in Texas so they can file patent infringement suits there. (One court in the Eastern District does so much patent litigation that it's referred to as "the rocket docket.") And all those LLCs need Texas-barred lawyers to fight their patent infringement cases.

More and more, Texas is drawing in-house talent as energy corporations make more money and get into more regulatory battles, and as companies fight their IP issues there. This is likely a major contributor to University of Texas' position toward the top of the in-house counsel list. It should come as no surprise at the school has both an intellectual property law journal and an energy law journal. So if you're looking to become an in-house counsel, Harvard is nice, but also, apparently, is UT Austin.

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