Jill Dorancy will join the Denver District Court bench July 1. Since 2017, she served as counsel for Jost Energy Law where she handled regulatory matters and litigation in oil and gas.
Including Dorancy, Gov. Jared Polis has appointed five Black judges to Colorado’s courts during his first 18 months, and the majority of his judicial appointments have been women. Dorancy spoke with Law Week about diversity in the oil and gas sector of law, why she chose to apply for Denver’s bench specifically, and why inclusion is necessary for diversity to be meaningful.
LAWWEEK: When we talk about diversity within the legal profession, we tend to talk about it in really broad terms, whether it’s within firm leadership roles, within the judiciary, things like that, but I have to imagine that diversity varies between different types of law practice. What have you seen about diversity within the oil and gas practice specifically?
DORANCY: I started with oil and gas about maybe eight or nine years ago. My first real foray into oil and gas was with the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission as a hearing officer. When I first started, I was the only woman and the only person of color in that role. There had previously been hearing officers who had been women.
In the oil and gas regulatory world, women are definitely well represented. I think women do a good job before the Commission of ensuring that their positions are heard. And they’re well represented in terms of representing clients and representing individuals. But when it comes to people of color, it’s not a very diverse field. So, in my time at the commission, it was rare that I would see a person of color participating in front of the commission.
But I know there are a number of people of color who do represent oil and gas companies as in-house counsel, and it’s still not a high amount. The field, in general, is pretty lacking in diversity. So I consider myself fortunate to have been selected by the firm that I was selected [by] as well as by the commission when I decided to enter this this particular area of law.
LAW WEEK: And because you are a woman and because you are a person of color, does that influence the type of mentorship and guidance that you have sought out over the years throughout your legal career?
DORANCY: At this point, pretty much half the profession are women. So for me to dive into oil and gas, or any field at this point, as a woman I think is a lot easier. I’ve been able to find a lot of mentors, even those younger than me, such as the partner at the firm where I work, Jamie Jost. She’s the founder of Jost Energy. She was a great support for me when I entered the industry as well as when I decided to go to her, though she’s been practicing for less time that I have.
But I’ve also been able to find people who serve as in-house counsel who have been good mentors for me, people who understand the industry helped me to navigate through how it is to represent operators before local governments and in these different fields.
It’s definitely hard to find people of color who can do it, but there are people who did step up to give me guidance. But in general, finding mentors throughout my career, it wasn’t difficult at all. I knew that I could always turn to attorneys who were more experienced than I was in the Sam Cary Bar Association to find support, and Sam Cary has been, really, a wealth of information and support for younger attorneys. I’m proud to have served as their vice president for the last six months.