Greenlight on alum: Lana Le Hir ’12
Le Hir earned a BS in electrical engineering from the University of California at San Diego and worked as a senior applications engineering lead managing the development of a wireless chipset prior to attending Lewis & Clark. During law school, she clerked for Iberdrola Renewables and has continued with the company, now called AVANGRID Renewables, as a full-time in-house contract attorney.
You were an engineer for several years. Why did you decide to go to law school?
I worked in a very high-pressure, fast-paced, and hostile environment developing a new kind of wireless technology for a defense contractor. Working 80 hours a week and having to travel internationally at a moment’s notice made me really think about why I was doing what I was doing. I quit, backpacked around the world for six months, and came to the realization that I wanted to refocus my life on something that mattered to me. I was inspired by the natural world I had rediscovered on my travels, so I chose to pursue environmental law.
How did you get into energy law?
I felt renewable energy might offer the balance of environmental, business, and technical elements I believe is required to achieve environmental sustainability. I worked for Iberdrola the summer after my second year in law school, and quickly discovered how interesting and complex renewable energy law was. And Iberdrola is a great place to work. The legal team is wonderful and supportive. I was also lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time to meet and apprentice under a great mentor.
What do you like most about your work?
I enjoy making a difference environmentally while still maintaining business objectives. Renewable energy is such an interesting and dynamic area. I work mostly on drafting, negotiating, and helping maintain long-term power purchase agreements (PPAs), and while it might seem from the outside like ordinary contract work, the nature of how energy is actually bought, sold, and delivered in the market makes everything more complex. My company builds wind and solar farms around the world, and we sell renewable power to utilities and Fortune 500 companies in most U.S. markets. But selling electricity is not like selling any other commodity, because the rules designed to maintain reliability and competitive markets are different from state to state (or at least region to region) and are constantly developing. The issues that result flow through the long-term PPAs that I advise on. My technical and math background has proven to be extremely useful in interpreting contracts and allows me to engage in technical discussions with business people to help resolve complex legal issues.
What advice would you give to students interested in energy law?
It is a small industry and hard to break into, so I would recommend gaining practical experience. The more exposure you have, the more you will understand how things work and how fluid the industry is. You should be willing and able to adapt to changes, too, because nothing in this industry is static.