Women in Energy: Sheila Hollis

Every month we feature a women in energy that has shown exemplary leadership. We want to showcase her story and what she has done to get to where she is today. These women come from diverse backgrounds and roles; they bring with them a unique perspective to gender equality within the energy sector.

Sheila Slocum Hollis

Partner and Chair, Washington Office
Duane Morris, LLP

Sheila Slocum Hollis is chair of the Washington, D.C. office, and was the office's founding managing partner, as well as the founding practice group leader for the firm's Energy, Environment and Resources Practice Group. She served on the firm's Executive Committee for more than a decade and the Partners Board for 18 years.  

Ms. Hollis practices in the areas of energy transactional and regulatory law and international and administrative law before government agencies, Congress and other entities. She focuses on domestic and international energy, water and environmental matters, representing governmental bodies and the power and natural gas industries. With a long career in issues relating to infrastructure, natural gas development transportation and distribution, energy reliability, enforcement and compliance, and international energy policy, Ms. Hollis successfully represented the District of Columbia in a key electric reliability case and represents the towns of Plymouth, Massachusetts and Scriba, New York, and Oswego County in tax and related infrastructure safety, environmental protection and security negotiation matters. She served as lead investigator of a grid operator's market monitoring practices, and as lead investigator for an electric grid in a Congressional investigation of a major blackout. She also has represented numerous clients in investigations related to natural gas and oil development, trading, transportation and other energy and environmental activities.

Ms. Hollis has served twice in Federal service. She was the first director of the Office of Enforcement of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, establishing the office and its policies and procedures, serving from 1977 to 1980. Those policies and procedures remain in place today. She began her energy law career as a trial lawyer at the Federal Power Commission from 1974 to 1975, serving as lead counsel on the Pennzoil-United spinoff case. Over the course of her career, she has played a key role in the formation and implementation of energy law and policy. As a Professorial Lecturer in the Law at George Washington University School of Law, she has taught energy law for 20 years to over 600 students in the Environmental and Energy Law Program.

In 2014 and 2015, Ms. Hollis was named one of Washington, D.C.'s Top 50 Women by Super Lawyers, and is the first energy lawyer to be named to this list. Ms. Hollis was named one of the 50 Key Women in Energy Worldwide and received the 2011 Lifetime Achievement in Energy in Platt's Global Energy Awards. She is the first attorney in private practice to receive the Platt's Award. In late 2012, Ms. Hollis was elected to membership in the American College of Environmental Lawyers. In April 2012 she was awarded the Outstanding International Law Alumni Award by the Nanda Center for International Law and Policy of the Sturm College of Law at the University of Denver Law School and delivered a major address on international energy law at the award event. Ms. Hollis served as a delegate of the American Bar Association to the United Nations Rio+20 Conference in June. In 2009 Ms. Hollis delivered the "Dean of the Oil and Gas Bar" address at The Energy Law Institute of the Center for American and International Law in Houston, Texas. In 2010, Ms. Hollis received the Paul Nordstrom Service Award for her contributions to the legal profession and the community from the Energy Bar Association and the Charitable Foundation of the Energy Bar Association.

Ms. Hollis is chair of the Standing Committee on Gavel Awards of the ABA from 2009-2012. She serves in the House of Delegates of the ABA as senior delegate from the Section of Environment, Energy and Resources, and also on the Nominating Committee of the ABA and the Steering Committee of the Nominating Committee. She also serves on the Standing Committee of the Law Library of Congress and on the ABA's Standing Committee on Governmental Affairs. Ms. Hollis served as the Chair of the Board of Editors of the American Bar Association's Journal from 2007-2010, and as a member of the Board from 2001-2007. She chaired the ABA's Council of the Fund for Justice and Education from 2006-2009. She is the past chair (2001-2002) of the Section of Environment, Energy and Resources of the American Bar Association, representing 11,000 ABA members. She served a three-year term as the Federal Circuit representative on the Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary and in that capacity was one of the two primary investigators in the nomination of Justice John Roberts. In addition, she served as chair of the Standing Committee on Environmental Law from 1997 to 2000 and served two terms as chair of the ABA's Coordinating Group on Energy Law. A member of the American Law Institute and a Fellow of the ABA, Ms. Hollis was the first woman to serve as president of the Energy Bar Association (1991 to 1992). She served as president of the Women's Council on Energy and the Environment (1997-2002). She is the only person to serve as both president of the Federal Energy Bar Association and chair of the ABA Section of Environment, Energy and Resources. She is treasurer and a board member of the United States Energy Association and chaired its nominating committee. She is chair of the Federal Bar Association's Section of Energy, Environment and Resources. She also is a member of the Advisory Committee of the North American Energy Standards Board. Ms. Hollis served as a professorial lecturer in the law on the subject of energy law at The George Washington University Law School from 1979 to 1999 and was recently recognized by the school for her 20-year teaching contribution. She serves on the Board of the American Friends of the Royal Society, which is one of the oldest scientific bodies in the world. She is also on the National Sustainability Advisory Committee of KB Homes. Ms. Hollis was awarded the Cheryl Blackwell Bryson Leadership Award in 2012 from the Duane Morris Women's Initiative during the firm's Annual Retreat in Boca Raton, Florida. Ms. Hollis served on the Host Committee of the D.C. Legal Community City Year held in Washington, D.C. on November 8, 2012. The initiative of this group is to assist with high vulnerability students to stay in school and graduate from high school.

Admitted to practice in the District of Columbia and Colorado, she is a member of the American Law Institute and served for decades on the Board of Trustees of the Center for American and International Law and was vice chair of its Institute for Energy Law. She was also a trustee of the Eastern Mineral Law Foundation and served on the board of the Women's Bar Association of the District of Columbia. With an extensive background in international energy law, Ms. Hollis is admitted as an honorary, international member of the Commercial Bar of England and Wales. Ms. Hollis is widely published in energy law and policy matters, having co-authored two energy law texts and numerous articles on energy policy, energy enforcement, natural gas, independent power and cogeneration, hydroelectric energy regulation and related environmental topics. She was ranked by The National Law Journal as one of the United States' top 20 energy lawyers and is listed in Chambers USA: America's Leading Lawyers for Business (2008-present), AV® Preeminent™ Peer Review Rated by Martindale-Hubbell for 25+ years, Who's Who in America (1990-present), Who's Who in the World (1990-present) and other biographical directories, including The World's Leading Oil and Gas Lawyers and The World's Leading Project Finance Lawyers. In 2011, Ms. Hollis was selected for inclusion in Who's Who Legal Directory for Oil and Gas. (The attorneys included in this publication were selected based upon comprehensive, independent survey work with both general counsel and oil and gas lawyers in private practice worldwide. Only specialists who have met independent international research criteria are listed.)

A Colorado native, she is a 1973 graduate of the University of Denver College of Law and a graduate of the University of Colorado at Boulder, cum laude in general studies, honors in journalism. She is conversationally fluent and has some reading ability in Spanish.


Question: Over your career, have you witnessed changes within your organization to promote more women into leadership positions??

Answer: Yes. Duane Morris has, in the course of the last 20 years, promoted and developed a variety of women across the practices and across the offices in our worldwide firm. The firm has – I was the first woman head of a practice group – the first managing partner of an office that was female, and, lastly, the first female to be a member of the five-member Executive Committee of the firm. At the same time, as I was in those leadership positions, a variety of other women began or continued their path forward in the firm and they are now heads of offices, heads of practice groups and on the Partners’ Board of the law firm and also the woman who took the spot that I had on the Executive Committee is the head of our London office, Susan Laws, appropriately enough, who is a business lawyer in London. Previously, I was in government and then also in other leadership arenas. I have had the good fortune of being in leadership positions since I was a young lawyer, first in the Office of Enforcement capacity, then in a senior capacity with the Butler Binion – I was among the first women partners at Butler Binion, which was a large Houston firm with a Washington, D.C. office. I then became a senior member of a smaller firm and then headed up the energy practice in Washington for Vinson Elkins law firm, and since my time at Vinson Elkins as a partner, I was a lateral partner into that firm, I have been in a leadership position, either within my own firm, which was Metzger Hollis Gordon and Alprin, and then we moved that firm over to be the Washington office of Duane Morris, I had negotiated those, primary negotiator on that arrangement, and that was in 1997 and since that time I’ve been in a leadership capacity, and on the Partners’ Board, headed the office, and now chair the office in Washington, D.C.

Question: Technology is pushing the traditional utility business model, from renewables, grid modernization and smart meters to data analytics. Utilities that view potentially disruptive threats as opportunities will remain relevant to their customers and can create new revenue streams. Data shows links between diversity, quality, and innovation.  What is your organization doing to attract, retain, and promote more women into senior management positions to respond to the dramatic industry transformation?

Answer: Across the bounds of energy and environment, throughout the firm, we are deeply committed to promoting diversity. We have a women’s interest group called WINS, that promotes development, expansion of practices, business tips, support in the bar associations and other outreach, as well as internal training and internal promotion and support. The firm has been recognized by Working Mother as one of the top places in America to work, it’s been recognized as one of the best places for women to work in the practice of law and in a variety of different settings throughout the country. Because so many areas of practice are arenas in which women may be general counsels of the organizations or in leadership positions, they certainly expect, if not demand, to see women and more diversity beyond gender diversity in the teams of lawyers that represent them, so, it goes hand-in-hand with service to our clients, as well as service to our own lawyers, that we would promote, support and reward diversity, and it’s a key part of our initiatives. We have a very large overall diversity initiative headed up by Joe West in our Washington, D.C. office, and we meet on a continuous basis throughout the year, as well as in diversity retreats in which women and other minority and diverse individuals who are a part of the firm are encouraged to speak, to write, to reach out and to enhance their professional standing and their talent.

Question: Are talented women within your organization making it to top leadership positions? Why/why not?

Answer: I think I’ve answered that. We have a large number of women on our Partners’ Board, women who head up our offices – our Los Angeles office, London office, Shanghai office and our Singapore offices have women in very high leadership positions in each of those offices, and our Las Vegas office as well. And we have practice group subsets headed up by women, a large number of women partners, as well as a large number of women attorneys overall in the firm.

Question: Based on a report published by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants and the Economic Social Research Council, “Research suggests that gender diversity facilitates better decision making, greater independence, better adherence to corporate governance, less insolvency, greater innovation and creativity, and less ‘group-think’ where members of similar backgrounds can tend to ignore alternative views or concerns, leading to flawed decision making.”  What is your organization doing to bring more women onto the board?

Answer: Well, I’ve answered that, I think, in the prior question, number 4. We work at it – it’s a major initiative – our managing partner, John Soroko, is extremely committed to it. We award, every year, a woman who has made a contribution in her professional life who is an outstanding professional, as well as women who are able to balance the work life sides of their life. And the award is the Cheryl Blackwell Bryson award, I was fortunate enough to receive it several years ago, it’s front and center on my desk today. So, we have a number of very strategic meetings. At each of these meetings, it’s not just empty – we have women who are active in developing their practices, who share those tips. We have women from outside the firm come in and speak to our people and assist them in molding their careers and in developing their practice and in developing their presence in the profession. In addition, we’re working on a number of pro bono efforts, including veterans’ pro bono work, work for immigrant children and overall pro bono work for the community, and we are noted for that across the board for our contribution in that arena.

Question: Companies that embrace diversity outperform their competitors.  What type of diversity programs does your organization have in place to mentor future women leaders?  How does your organization measure and report gender diversity? Is the data publicly available?

Answer: In law firms, all this is tracked pretty carefully. It’s reported to the press, it’s also reported to a number of our clients who want to know, and in the Minority Corporate Counsel Association, it’s reported to them. There are a number of entities that we report to. I think every year, the diversity is analyzed and is public, certainly for all of the AmLaw 250 and the AmLaw 100, in particular, and because we are in the AmLaw 100, and all major law firms are held to account for their diversity initiatives and where women stand and where women in other diverse, either associates or partners in the firm, are progressing, not just in raw numbers, but in how they’re doing. Not just simply a raw numbers’ analysis – how many lawyers, but well beyond that. And actions speak louder than words. I think it’s very obvious from looking at our leadership mix that we have very serious women leaders in the firm.

Question: What actions should the sector be focused on to accelerate change, increase diversity, and foster a better gender balance in the boardroom?

Answer: Well, I think the first, most important is the recognition of the role that women play and that all lawyers play, but of course, to recognize that women do bring, in many times, something different to the table that they can bring. Other insights, different perspectives, the same with respect to diverse candidates. The demands are out there for diversity. I think that’s an external driver, but there has to be a commitment in the firm and in corporations, of course, to accelerate that change and increase the diversity and foster better gender balance. And we are certainly committed to that and I think our numbers speak for themselves as to how far we’ve taken it. So, women in leadership throughout the firm is a key part of the way we function. It’s just the way we roll, and we’re pleased with our progress, we’re pleased with the recognition that we get, and deeply committed to going forward on the same basis.

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