Susan Ormand Berry
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Partner, King & Spalding LLP, Houston
29 FortyUnder40 feat. Ormand Berry, Susan

Susan Berry stands just 5-feet tall but don’t let her size fool you. The legal powerhouse has advised clients on billions of dollars of loans to upstream exploration and production, oilfield service and midstream companies. And as a partner at King & Spalding LLP, she helps expand the firm’s energy edge within its global corporate, finance and investments practice group.

“Since joining King & Spalding a year ago, I have found myself in a whirlwind of business development and collaborative opportunities with my partners,” she says. “Growing a world-class business with my partners, and for our mutual clients, is remarkably rewarding.” 

On the job: At King & Spalding, Berry focuses on commercial financing and other business transactions within the energy sector. She helps financial institutions and corporate borrowers on a variety of financial transactions, including complex lending matters involving reserve-based loans, acquisition financing and multiple lien priorities. 

Earlier this year, she helped develop content for her client’s business lines, unpacking the lessons learned from the recent commodity price downturn in the context of energy lending. She and her team also designed and offered client trainings on the documentation of reserve-based loans. 

Before joining the firm, Berry was a partner at Reed Smith LLP. She previously worked as a senior associate at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP. 

Berry began her legal career at Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP after graduating from Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law. 

Called to action: In 2016—at the height of the commodity price downturn—Berry accepted a prestigious legal secondment with Capital One. The year-long contract required her to work full-time outside her law firm, shoulder-to-shoulder with the valued banking client. Her position focused on the energy lending portfolio and integrating with the bank team as an internal legal advisor. 

“This was a very different role than that to which I was accustomed but an interesting prospect to say the least,” she says. “At a time when the oil and gas industry suffered more than $150 billion of aggregate debt subject to U.S. bankruptcies, I was responsible for co-managing the legal oversight of the debt affected by the depressed market conditions for a major player on the energy lending front.”

“At a time when the oil and gas industry suffered … I was responsible for co-managing the legal oversight of the debt affected by the depressed market conditions for a major player on the energy lending front.”

Added to the challenge was the fact that Berry was up for partner at the law firm where she then practiced. On a personal front, she lived a state away from her family for a few months and traveled frequently. 

“Between these new obligations, I had to make time to remain a contributing member of the law firm to continue as a strong partner candidate.” 

As the secondment year closed, the bank asked Berry to remain for an additional six months. Berry needed to return to servicing other clients but wanted to see the project through, so she committed to the additional period on a part-time basis. 

“I did make partner while on secondment that year, effectively working two jobs at the time,” she says. “I took a calculated risk accepting the secondment, and it was one of the most rewarding professional experiences of my career.” 

All in the family: Berry is a fourth-generation oil and gas professional whose industry lineage dates back to the late 1800s. Her paternal great-grandfather was a driller in East Texas and parts of Indiana, and her grandfather later entered the business after serving during the Second World War. He eventually acquired and invested in service companies both nationally and internationally. In the late 1970s, Berry’s father entered the oil and gas industry in Kuwait. 

“My family has passed down their respect for the industry and its positive impact on quality of life, and I have witnessed firsthand the economic benefits it yields our country, state and in particular Houston,” Berry says. “I am proud to play a role, however big or small, in an industry that has such a significant bearing on our lives and history in general.”