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Gift endows new chair in energy law

October 02, 2014

TLC 1014 McCulloch400

A $2 million gift from Jim McCulloch (L ’77) and his wife, Susan, will create the McCulloch Chair in Energy Law and lead a broader campaign to raise funds for an endowed center in the field.

Photo courtesy of Jim McCulloch 

TLC 1014 EnergyLawChair400

Through a partnership with Valero Energy Corp., Tulane Law students each semester tour the St. Charles Refinery for close-up exposure to the complex compliance issues encountered by lawyers representing clients in the energy business.

Photo by Jackson Hill 

As a law student, Jim McCulloch (A&S ’74, L ’77) didn’t plan on a career in energy law. He focused instead on maritime law, immersing himself in Tulane’s unrivaled admiralty curriculum.

Now, the energy industry veteran, who serves as senior vice president and general counsel for Houston-based Forum Energy Technologies, has committed to help Tulane leverage its strength in maritime law to build the same profile in energy law.

In September, McCulloch and his wife, Susan, gave $2 million to endow the McCulloch Chair in Energy Law. The gift will enable Tulane to recruit a top legal scholar and is meant to be the lead gift in a broader campaign to raise funds to create an endowed center in the field.

“The McCullochs’ gift is not only generous, but visionary,” Dean David Meyer said. “The McCulloch Chair will enable us to drive new research and innovation in energy law and close the loop with Tulane’s closely aligned strengths in maritime, environmental and international law.”

The new chair has infused momentum into a host of related initiatives through which Tulane has been moving to reassert its global leadership in a field of rapidly growing importance, with high-stakes implications for the economy, the environment and international security.

The distinctive expertise of Tulane law faculty regularly is tapped on topics from the maritime ramifications of the Deepwater Horizon disaster to the environmental impact of shale gas extraction to the rights involved in new underwater gas fields discovered in volatile parts of the world.

Domestically, the law school last year partnered with Valero Energy Corp. to take students on field visits that show them the refining business close up and introduce them to the complex compliance issues the company’s lawyers encounter. And internationally, Tulane in 2012 accepted the State Department’s invitation to assist in developing a new program in energy and maritime law in strategically important Azerbaijan. 

McCulloch said he’s excited about boosting a specialty area that complements Tulane’s historical strengths.

“Energy law fits in extremely well with these other niches. It’s another leg to the chair for Tulane to excel in,” he said. “It’s going to help propel the law school to more recognition and more interest from prospective students.”

McCulloch said Tulane can serve both students and the industry by providing expanded academic training in a field that is increasingly vital and complex.

“Most lawyers that go into the energy industry have to learn by doing,” he said.

McCulloch’s focus on maritime law as a student proved instrumental in his early career, which included work for a shipping company in Florida and a stint in the admiralty section at Phelps Dunbar. He joined Global Marine, a leading international offshore drilling contractor, as an assistant general counsel in 1983 and later spent 12 years as the company’s senior vice president and general counsel.

“It was helpful to have an interest in a niche area of the law,” he said. But he also gives credit for his success to skills he learned at Tulane Law School. Professors, he said, “were excellent and strongly oriented toward reasoning, analysis and the philosophy of law, which have all helped me greatly in dealing with new and emerging legal issues.”

Reflecting on the impact of his legal education on his career, he said, “The older I have gotten, the more I have realized how much credit Tulane deserves for the success that I have had. Had I gone to another law school, it is clear to me that my career path would have been both different and less successful.”

The McCullochs’ daughter, Lauren (L ’11), an associate in Morgan Lewis’ litigation practice in Houston, shares her parents’ commitment to Tulane. In law school, Lauren McCulloch was senior managing editor of the Tulane Maritime Law Journal, received the Ray J. Forrester Award for Excellence in Constitutional Law and graduated magna cum laude.


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