Atman Shukla

Partner, Sidley Austin LLP, Houston

Atman Shukla joined the oil and gas industry as a lawyer because he wanted to be a part of something big and complicated. Since then, he has represented major players in the industry during transactions and has dedicated time to encouraging diversity and innovation in his field. 

Why did you enter the oil and gas industry? 

“Growing up in Houston, I was always surrounded by the energy business. After earning my undergraduate degree in economics from the University of Pennsylvania, I returned home (in a way) to attend the University of Texas at Austin School of Law. I knew upon entering law school that I wanted to work on large and complicated deals, and at that time, the energy industry was a major hub of transactional activity amidst the shale boom. Thanks to the shale revolution, the major influx of capital and the resultant deal flow, I was lucky to start my career at a time (in 2010) when it felt impossible not to be busy as a deal lawyer in Houston.”

Which of your professional achievements are you most proud of?

“Last year, I got the chance to represent Enbridge in its $3 billion acquisition of Moda Midstream from Encap Flatrock Midstream. I’m extremely proud to have helped Enbridge in a key new venture that significantly advanced its U.S. Gulf Coast strategy. It was especially rewarding to assist on a transaction that fit with earlier transactions I had worked on with Enbridge—getting to work with an important client on a repeat basis in a way that sheds light on the ‘big picture’ is a treat for a deal lawyer.”

What has helped you develop your leadership abilities during your career?

“When I think about leadership, I try to think about the folks who I’ve enjoyed working with and their unique qualities. They are reliable, available, resourceful, energetic and empathetic. They are open-minded and find ways to get the best out of their colleagues without having to ask. They are willing to roll up their sleeves and look under the hood, to advance the ball rather than impede progress. I’ve been lucky to have been around very inspiring senior lawyers, so for me it’s easy. I just try to develop the qualities that I’ve appreciated in others throughout my career.”

What advice would you give other young professionals in the industry?

“For the most part, it’s really just the basic stuff—show up, have a good attitude, be a helpful team player, revel in the details, work extremely hard and take a long-term view. It’s [also] important to have outlets that are healthy, refreshing and restorative and to find a work environment where colleagues respect and encourage your committed priorities. It’s key both for career success and for long-term health to find something constructive to do away from the desk. To quote ‘The Shining’: ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.’”

What transformations do you think the industry must undertake for it to thrive in the future?

“The priorities of new entrants in the workforce have demonstrably changed since I started. It’s not that folks aren’t willing to work hard, rather the optimization function of younger employees has evolved to include more variables, such as health, balance, family and overall well-being. As I see it, this is a natural and necessary evolution of the conception of work and is a good thing. Employers who don’t embrace this evolution will simply be left behind if they don’t find ways to recruit and retain a talent pool whose mindset has fundamentally shifted.”

Three More Things
  1. My wife is a pediatric neurologist and hearing what she does every day helps me keep perspective.
  2. I enjoy some healthy competition outside of the office, whether that’s a match on the golf course, playing a few games of “Guess Who” with my 4-year-old daughter or playing hide and seek with my 3-year-old son.
  3. My wife and I lend our time and resources to various charitable organizations, including Magic Bus USA, a global nonprofit that uses mentorship and community service to help children and young people in India to escape the cycle of poverty.