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Life Experience: On site and in the classroom with Harry Sullivan

Nov 21 2016 Be the first to comment!

harry sullivan profileNorman Nadorff shared with us that the ARCO International Legal Department produced several lawyers who made their mark. In this story we talk to Harry Sullivan, who has an interesting career spanning private and public work.

Harry Sullivan currently works at Kosmos Energy in Dallas, and since 2013 he has also taught oil and gas law specific courses at SMU Law School and Texas A&M Law School in Fort Worth.

“When I went to law school,” said Harry, “you picked up writing and contract negotiations skills once you were practicing. Now the firms want the applicants to arrive with these skills. I am teaching basic oil and gas law this semester at Texas A&M Law School and International Oil and Gas Negotiations at SMU Law School. Oil and Gas Negotiations is a hands-on course where students negotiate oil and gas specific issues with one another using different simulations such as joint operating agreements or contracts with the government of Tanzania. Students play the roles of government and oil companies,” said Harry.

Harry brings in guest speakers at different times. He finds that students like guests, and team teaching and seminars allow for some great chemistry. “It is nice too,” shares Harry, “if people disagree on an approach. That is real life. It is good to see these different approaches. I like teaching a lot, but I don’t wish to be a pure academic. I like bringing some real life experience into the classroom setting. You can get rusty very quickly out of industry. For people like me teaching from a practical perspective, you must keep your hand in the business,” said Harry.

I see teaching as a way to help the next generation of oil and gas lawyers and to give back some of the great experience and learnings from my careers at ARCO and COP

Harry Sullivan

“The main complaint companies have of new graduates is that they don’t write well,” continues Harry. “Texas A&M has taken that on board and has specific courses to make sure graduates can write a contract. Course offerings now include an oil and gas contracts drafting course, a real estate drafting course, intellectual property drafting courses, and other courses which focus on practical teaching.”

Universities are focusing on the idea of experiential learning. Harry has found a niche teaching students to draft agreements, clauses in agreements, tailoring agreements, and writing letters. “Frankly,” finds Harry, “most law schools teach you about disputes, but they don’t teach much about doing transactions, which is where most of the real-life negotiating occurs.”

Harry has been doing gas work throughout his career. He was with ARCO from 1984, and then he transitioned to Phillips about six months after the BP acquisition of ARCO. Harry travelled frequently, and has had his home in Dallas since 1989. With COP, he commuted from Dallas to Houston and travelled frequently and for long periods of time. COP graciously allowed Harry to work from home while teaching at SMU. In 2014, Harry retired from COP to teach more and joined Kosmos on a part-time basis, ending his commuting lifestyle. 

The change from COP to Kosmos was "night and day".

Harry Sullivan

The change from COP to Kosmos was “night and day” said Harry. “Kosmos is 200 employees or less worldwide. Kosmos is focused on exploration and creativity. Their initial success was in Ghana. That was phenomenal. I joined them right before they drilled a significant gas discovery well in Mauritania and then in Senegal. I am supporting the effort to monetize the gas discoveries in Mauritania and Senegal. Steve Sills (ex-ARCO) is our engineering expert and in addition Kosmos hired Greg Beard (ex-ARCO). I did gas sales contracts with Greg in Indonesia and China in the ARCO days. Greg left Noble in 2015 and helps Kosmos with gas marketing which has been his expertise since the ARCO days.” remarks Harry.

Harry’s ARCO memories include the many international projects in Indonesia and China., as well as LUKARCO projects. Harry was involved setting up a joint venture in 1995 between LUKoil and Arco called LukARCO. LUKARCO had an office in Moscow and Amsterdam. ARCO sold its LUKoil stock before BP took over, but the LUKARCO enterprise stayed. BP acquired the joint venture when it bought ARCO and gradually sold out to LUKoil. COP did almost the same thing as ARCO and bought LUKoil stock in the early 2000s, and had a seat on the board.

Looking at his role, Harry finds that the challenges have definitely changed. With the downturn people are looking much more carefully at contracts and ways to get out of contracts. It is also an interesting time in the LNG long term sales business as it faces a number of significant challenges, including the emergence of a shorter-term commodity business. “Contract drafting is not a static thing.,” explains Harry. 

People dream up new ideas all the time. You have to be on guard all the time and understand what contracts are doing and any unintended consequences

Harry Sullivan

“While I was at ARCO, I took a great course at SMU when working on my law master’s degree,” remembers Harry. “It looked at science, technology and law. Law is always behind technology. The law relies on principles which often have to be adapted to meet evolving technology. As an example, when oil was first discovered in the mid-1800s, the law was behind in addressing this new technology. Courts adapted existing principles to create the rule of capture. This empowered the oil industry.” shares Harry.

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