Reflections of a “Foreigner” on OTC

Gary W. Miller

May 20, 2011

Assuming that 75,000 attendees can’t be all wrong, it was a good year for the 2011 Offshore Technology Conference held in Houston. Much of my focus was on our visitors from the UK and especially Aberdeen, so I was a bit of a foreigner among a close knit group of locals.

Once again, the Post Oak Hilton was sold out with participants from Scotland, and in visiting with more than just a few, I would characterize the mood among the attorneys as cautiously optimistic and the attitude among the business owners as somewhat more upbeat. Bank lawyers were more cautious and hopeful, cautious about the Scottish banks’ ability and willingness to lend, but hopeful that their reorganization would allow a return to normality. Merger and Acquisition attorneys were beginning to see some action, but still longed for the days just a few years ago when middle market deals were their constant companion. Lawyers and business people alike were happy to be a year down the road from the Deepwater Horizon, and optimistic that drilling should return to reasonable levels in the Gulf.

The week started on Saturday morning with the OTC kickoff breakfast sponsored by Houston Grampian Association and the British American Business Council. Bob Ruddiman, Head of Energy with McGrigors, focused on changing times as the key note speaker and was the first attorney I have heard give the address. For the visitors, there was Texas golf at its best that followed, as well as a chance to get some quality personal time with their business associates from Aberdeen. From there, it was seminars on the new UK Anti-Bribery laws presented by Aberdeen attorneys from two firms, the always rather excellent Simmons and Paull & Williamsons cocktail parties, as well as a variety of dinners, lunches and cups of coffee. Absent this year were our friends from the Schjødt firm in Norway, but we will look for them again next year.

All in all, for an American lawyer placing himself in the middle of hundreds of overseas visitors, OTC was a good time to renew old friendships and a time to be cautiously optimistic about the times to come.