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Law Center 75th Anniversary 1947 – 2022

An Interview with Professor Jacqueline Weaver

The first night of her arrival in Houston in 1971, the smell of refineries permeated her hotel room in the “Energy Capital of the World.” This memory serves as an apt foreshadowing of Jacqueline L. Weaver’s career trajectory at the University of Houston Law Center. Weaver, now a Professor Emerita, would go on to teach 39 years at the Law Center and remains an internationally sought-after scholar in oil and gas law, energy law and policy, international petroleum, and environmental and natural resources law.

“Ending up in Houston was totally unexpected,” Weaver, a 1975 graduate of the school, said. “I had never really heard of Houston. I had grown up in Europe; then I'd gone to college in the East Coast. Then I got married and went out to the West Coast.

“The whole center of the country was a complete mystery to me. Houston was a great place for my husband's job. In those days, you moved where the main breadwinner moved, and off we went.”

With an economics background, Weaver first found work at Exxon and planned on following in her father's footsteps, traversing the globe as a businessperson. She enrolled as a student in the Law Center's evening program as a step in this direction.

“My father had a very interesting career,” she said. “He'd come home from trips all over the world with great stories to tell, from Russia to Saudi Arabia. That's really what I wanted to do, and I thought I'd get there eventually some way or another. I knew I didn't want to be a lawyer. I went to law school at night to become a better businessperson. Not to become a lawyer at all, or a law professor – I never even thought of doing that.”

Reflecting on her time as a law student, Weaver said the school specialized in providing its students with practical Texas-oriented training in a limited set of courses. No courses existed in environmental law, international petroleum, or many other resource specialty areas.

 

Dean with Students

Professor Weaver’s teaching and research interests cover oil and gas law, energy law and policy, international petroleum, and environmental and natural resources law. She has lectured on topics in international petroleum transactions in Africa (Uganda, Namibia, and Luanda), Kazakhstan (as a Fulbright scholar), Lisbon, China, and Bangkok.

 

 “I had no real choice of classes,” she said. “I worked until 5 p.m., came to law school at 6 p.m., headed back home at 9, ate some dinner – and did it all over again the next day. It was hardly a traditional approach to law school. My perspective was ‘this is not my main job or my career.’”

Like many other alumni, the teaching legacies of Irene M. Rosenberg and Yale L. Rosenberg made a profound impact on Weaver's legal education.

“My favorite class without a doubt was Irene Rosenberg's criminal law class,” Weaver said. “She was so dynamic. She did a big-picture view while also providing the nuts and bolts of what criminal law was all about. It was just fascinating.

“My second-favorite professor was her husband, Yale Rosenberg. That speaks very much to the Law Center’s quest in the 1970s to hire from outside – to try and lure top people from other schools to be more of a national law school. In that regard, it has succeeded thoroughly and tremendously well.”

Weaver said she had a love of teaching from her experiences as a teaching associate at UCLA and as a lecturer at the University of St. Thomas. But it would not become the staple of her professional life until her first son appeared on the scene.

“Having your first-born is an amazingly huge experience,” Weaver said. “At the time, Exxon had zero ability to help professional women who had children. Unfortunately, Simon Frank, the adjunct who had taught me oil and gas law, died about two weeks before the fall semester in 1976. The law school, knowing that I worked at Exxon and assuming I knew huge amounts of Texas oil and gas law, called and asked if I could teach the class. Being nine-and-a-half months pregnant, I said no. But I remembered the phone call.

“I realized it wasn't going to work out at Exxon, where travel was required to climb up the management ranks. It was just too hard to be a dual-career couple with zero institutional support. I called the school back and said that if they still needed someone to teach oil and gas, I would be glad to teach it. I just fell into it – complete serendipity. I fell into a career that couldn't have been better personally and professionally than any career I had thought about before.”

Weaver has taught in many countries of the world – Angola, Australia, Brazil, China, India, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Namibia, Portugal and Uganda – always taking time to see the country and visit with students and faculty. She has also advised several governments on best practices to implement in regulatory frameworks for oil and gas development. She was instrumental in starting up the LL.M. program in energy, environment and natural resources at the Law Center, which has attracted many students from all continents to Houston to study oil and gas and related topics. In her view, these international students enrich the experience of J.D. students who can learn much about the legal and social cultures in Africa, Asia and South America. Weaver said she believes they help make Houston the vibrant city that it is.

 

Dean with Students

Weaver has written articles on offshore safety after the Macondo disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, energy markets, sustainable development in the international petroleum industry, comparative unitization laws, energy policy, and traditional oil and gas law topics. She worked as an economist in the Corporate Planning Department of Exxon Co. USA before joining the University of Houston Law Center.

 

A frequently published scholar, Weaver is best known for her treatise, “Texas Law of Oil and Gas” which she updates annually, and the new 2020 edition of “International Petroleum Law and Transactions” for which she authored chapters on key sustainable development issues, including ESG accounting, oil spills and offshore safety, the future of the industry in a carbon-constrained world, and the foundational background to the international oil and gas industry, including its main players and how to assess geological risk and measure reserves under conditions of uncertainty.

Weaver semi-retired from the Law Center in 2016 when she was the A.A. White Professor of Law, but continued to develop and teach a new multi-disciplinary course titled “Promoting Sustainable Oil and Gas Projects: ESG Frameworks” for two years. She remains active as a scholar and event speaker. As the Law Center enters its 75th year, she sees the institution as well-equipped for the dramatic changes on the horizon for the energy industry.

“The Law Center has so much potential to do even more, especially being in Houston,” Weaver said. “Houston can still be the energy capital of the world in the future, leading in green hydrogen production, offshore wind, carbon sequestration, low-carbon oil and gas, and innovative new energy technologies – if the right policy frameworks and environmental life-cycle analyses are done.”

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