Last week, we spoke with George A. Bibikos, the founder and managing member of Harrisburg-based law firm GA BIBIKOS LLC, to learn about his practice and how it serves the oil and gas industry. This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Q. To start, could you introduce GA Bibikos LLC and give a brief history of your practice?
GA BIBIKOS LLC is an innovative law firm structured in large part to serve as outside general counsel to oil and gas companies and midstream companies operating in the Appalachian Basin. I provide legal advice at every stage of the production process – starting with acquisition of oil and gas rights, to operations and development, to transportation and marketing and everything in between. Sometimes that means representing companies in litigation, sometimes that means doing deals, sometimes that means regulatory advice, and sometimes it’s a combination of all those things. Whatever it is, I try to do whatever it takes to help clients solve their legal problems and achieve their business objectives.
Q. How did you get involved with the energy sector?
I first got started in the oil and gas business around ’05 or ’06, just about the time companies started exploring shale formations in Pennsylvania. I was a young associate at a global law firm at the time, fresh off of a Commonwealth Court clerkship, and one of the first cases I worked on was Belden Blake Corporation v. DCNR. We had a client who owned the severed oil and gas estate underneath a state park, and we ended up suing the government after it gave the client a hard time to access its subsurface estate. Since I had experience with Commonwealth Court, the case ended up on my desk and I worked on it with a couple of senior partners. It ended up being a big case that went to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and we were fortunate to get a good result for the client. Very early on, I had a feeling natural gas development would be important in Pennsylvania, and I thought it was a pretty cool area of law, so I started studying the oil and gas treatises and law reviews. As time when on, I started handling more and more litigation and regulatory matters for oil and gas clients in Pennsylvania and eventually started writing oil and gas law reviews and articles, speaking at conferences on emerging issues, and teaching at the local law school. It’s been my primary practice area ever since.
Q. What differentiates your practice from other peers in oil and natural gas law?
I try to know every detail about oil and gas law inside and out, not just in Pennsylvania but in every other state that has a significant amount of natural gas development. I try to leverage that knowledge to develop legal strategies that aren’t self-evident under Pennsylvania law but that tend to help achieve good outcomes here.
The second is that I try to know every detail about the business. This is a highly technical and highly regulated industry. I’m constantly reading up on the technical, operational, and business aspects of the industry so I can better understand the clients’ objectives and represent them when problems arise. So, it’s not just knowing the law, it’s combining that knowledge with how the business works so you can not only defend against lawsuits but also be proactive and help clients achieve business goals.
The third is that I try to deliver legal services in creative and practical ways. As a solo practitioner, it’s just me and the clients, and I’m available to them on a 24-7-365 basis from anywhere. I can use that flexibility to customize the delivery and costs of legal services to provide clients exactly what they need, when they need it, at the right rates, and without sacrificing the high quality that they deserve.
Q. Where have you seen the value of an MSC membership?
The first is the MSC’s leadership. I’m old enough to remember the days before the MSC formed. The companies had plenty of experience developing oil and gas in other states but not necessarily in Pennsylvania, where (as we’re all painfully aware) the political, legal, and regulatory landscape differs greatly. The MSC helped bridge the gap between the companies and the regulators in the early days and has worked tirelessly since then as the industry’s No. 1 advocate to pave the path for success here in PA.
Second is the opportunities for service providers like me. The MSC gives service providers many opportunities to showcase their skillsets to help member companies if and when they need it.
Third is the networking opportunities. From top to bottom the people in this business are exactly the kind of people you want to associate with and help whenever you can. The MSC provides a forum for all of us who have benefited from having a successful oil and gas industry in Pennsylvania to get together and know one another for everyone’s mutual benefit. It’s nice to be able to meet regularly and see everyone face-to-face not only to talk business but to enjoy each other’s company.
Q. If there is one thing you want to tell a neighbor who is unfamiliar with the industry, what would that be?
In my experience, most people unfamiliar with the industry tend to get most of their information from negative reports in the news media. If they express apprehension, I usually tell them to relax. An oil or natural gas well is the most regulated hole in the ground the world has ever known. The companies and regulators are doing it right. There’s a clean energy source right under our feet and that’s something to embrace.
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