During the course of her career, Anna Rotman has built Kirkland & Ellis LLP's litigation practice in Houston from the ground up, and also successfully argued on behalf of an energy company that it could ax gas-gathering contracts after filing for bankruptcy, which are a sampling of the achievements that earned her a spot among Law360's Influential Women in Energy Law.
Rotman joined Kirkland & Ellis in January 2016 after 10 years at Yetter Coleman LLP. She leads the firm's litigation group and focuses on three main areas in her practice: commercial litigation, restructuring litigation and pre-litigation counseling.
Andrew Calder, a partner in the Houston office and member of the firm's global management committee, said he hired Rotman to launch “from ground zero” and run the firm's litigation group in Houston.
“She actually approached me while at her former firm, and she wanted to talk to me about the potential of having a good working relationship between our firms in the event of a conflict [in representing a client],” Calder said, explaining the intended purpose of the meeting was not a job interview. “Taking the initiative to do that was very impressive ... within minutes of meeting her I knew this is the person we want to run our litigation practice.”
In a ruling that was upheld by the Fifth Circuit in July, Rotman convinced the federal court that her client Sabine Oil & Gas Corp. should be allowed to reject gas-gathering contracts after filing for bankruptcy. The ruling, issued during the oil price slump that drove Sabine and dozens of other oil and gas producers into bankruptcy, sent ripples throughout the midstream industry as other drillers looked to shed their own midstream contracts or renegotiate them.
Getting that win in court required Rotman to parse through a complex area of property law dealing with “covenants running with the land,” but her success on that case was no surprise to Calder, who called Rotman “one of the smartest people I know.”
“She's able to adapt to whatever she's doing very quickly,” he said. “Right before she came over [to Kirkland], commodity prices dropped, and she picked up that type of litigation very quickly and was involved in some of the bigger cases during the downturn. Once the restructuring wave ended, she pivoted back, and it's been very impressive to see.”
Rotman also defended her client GenOn Energy Inc. at a trial in the fall of 2017 against fraudulent transfer claims from a lessor that alleged it was owed $600 million. In the end, the court held the lessor should take nothing on the claims — a ruling that ensured GenOn Energy's bankruptcy plan could move forward in the Southern District of Texas.
In March, Rotman defended Linn Energy against a claim brought by Wells Fargo Bank National Association that Linn owed more than $55 million in default interest. Rotman presented oral argument before U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth M. Hoyt about the contract language, and he agreed with her position that Wells Fargo's claim should be denied.
In 2017, she served as president of the Federal Bar Association for the Southern District of Texas. Rotman also serves on the Local Rules Committee for the Southern District of Texas Bankruptcy Court. And in 2011, she was the recipient of the Texas Civil Rights Project Pro Bono award. Rotman graduated with a bachelor's degree from Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service in 1998 and in 2004 received a degree from Harvard Law School.
In the three years after she received her undergraduate degree and before she went on to Harvard Law, Rotman went to work for a technology consulting firm in the middle of the dot-com boom. It was there, while working on the business development side of the operation, that a colleague suggested she consider going to law school.
Even though she was encouraged to attend law school by corporate lawyers, while she was there she realized litigation was the best fit for her, noting the “emotional engagement in being right or wrong” and the “mental agility and facility” required to successfully advocate for your client in front of an arbiter.
“It's weird to have a profession where you win or lose and I actually really like that because I'm competitive,” she said. “Not cutthroat, at all, I just advocate really, really hard for my side.”
But how she chose the field of energy law had more to do with true love than a professional passion, she said. Her husband, a native of New Mexico, was wrapping up a master of business administration degree while she, a native of Pennsylvania, was finishing law school and he proposed they move to a state with a strong job market where they could both land good jobs.
“If you're building a business in Houston, you really need to become proficient in the energy space. That's the market,” she said. “I love energy because it's so international, it's global ... the people who work in energy come from all over the world, and that, in a sense, has turned out to the international aspect of my career.”
While the energy field overall may have a reputation for being male dominated and unfriendly to women, Rotman said that's not been her experience in Houston
“I find Houston to be a very welcoming place for women attorneys,” she said. “There's a great network in this market, in the energy market, [of women] who are very supportive of each other, and it's been great.”
- Convinced the federal appellate court that her client Sabine Oil & Gas Corp. should be allowed to reject gas-gathering contracts after filing for bankruptcy
- Defended her client GenOn Energy Inc. at a trial in the fall of 2017 against fraudulent transfer claims from a lessor that alleged it was owed $600 million
- Built from the ground up the firm's litigation practice in Houston, which now employs 15 attorneys
- Defended Linn Energy against a claim brought by Wells Fargo Bank National Association that Linn owed more than $55 million in default interest
“She's able to adapt to whatever she's doing very quickly. Right before she came over [to Kirkland] commodity prices dropped, and she picked up that type of litigation very quickly and was involved in some of the bigger cases during the downturn.
Once the restructuring wave ended, she pivoted back, and it's been very impressive to see.”
— Andrew Calder, partner in Kirkland & Ellis' Houston office
REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION FROM THE AUGUST 21, 2018 EDITION OF LAW360 © 2018 PORTFOLIO MEDIA INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. FURTHER DUPLICATION WITHOUT PERMISSION IS PROHIBITED. WWW.LAW360.COM