Recent law grad enjoys success at Florida Public Service Commission - The University of Tulsa
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Recent law grad enjoys success at Florida Public Service Commission

Family, rigor, and effectivity are just a few of the words that come to mind when Jon Rubottom (JD ’21) describes his time at The University of Tulsa’s College of Law.

Rubottom was involved with the Energy Law Journal and earned a certificate from the Sustainable Energy and Resources Law (SERL) program, where students participate in a rigorous curriculum focusing on international, national, state, and local issues taught by leading scholars in energy, environmental, and resources law and policy.

Following graduation, Rubottom secured a fulfilling position as an attorney for the Florida Public Service Commission and has gone on to argue before the Florida Supreme Court. Like many alumni, he credits his professional success to his time at TU Law.

 

Q: What made you choose The University of Tulsa for law school? 

A: First and foremost was the fact that I had family in the Tulsa area and that my father went to TU Law.

Second was the affordability and the generous scholarship I received. It made law school something that was manageable and that didn’t put me starting my career too far in the red in ways that dictated my career choices. I’ve been able to pursue the kind of work I want to do rather than simply the right amount of money regardless of the kind of work. I’m very grateful to TU Law for that.

Third was the academic rigor and job placement statistics of TU Law. It was important to me that I go somewhere with a good reputation in the marketplace evidenced by good bar passage and post-graduation job placement rates. I wasn’t interested in attending a place that primarily produced lawyers for the academy, but one that prepared lawyers to enter society and contribute to their communities in productive ways.

 

Q: What were some important skills you learned at TU Law?

A: Writing effectively was by far the most important, hands-on skill I learned at TU Law. It contributed to my success in every course I took in law school, and I believe it is the main thing that helped me stand out as a job candidate after graduation. Good writing helps me succeed as an attorney every day, whether it’s emailing other lawyers or technical experts in the state agency where I work (the Florida Public Service Commission), writing a recommendation to commissioners on a case, drafting commission orders, or writing briefs for the Florida Supreme Court, I continue to remember and hone the writing skills I learned from the excellent legal writing faculty and other professors at TU Law.

 

Q: What were some of your favorite classes at TU Law? 

A: I most enjoyed the classes that engaged with underlying theory and policy. Classes such as Contracts, Energy Regulation, Administrative Law, and Constitutional Law, all gave me opportunities to consider a lawyer’s responsibility to the law itself, and to the principles of justice and fairness embodied in the laws we work to apply. No lawyer is above the law, so a respect for foundational principles of the law is an attitude that must be cultivated even as we advocate for a client’s interests.

 

Q: What was it like arguing before the Florida State Supreme Court? 

A: In a word, it was FUN! It was definitely intimidating and required a lot of preparation, but I enjoyed the experience of discussing the case with the justices and answering their questions. I approached it as a conversation, which made it easier to consider and appreciate their questions without being afraid of saying the wrong things. It was humbling to have an experience few attorneys ever enjoy and to do it just 18 months after graduating law school. It also illustrates how working for a state agency can provide many unique opportunities for new (and very green!) attorneys such as me that other recent grads might not have.

 

Q: You’re an attorney at the Florida Public Service Commission. What are the most pressing issues facing Floridians in that field? 

A: Of course, I can only speak for myself, but I think the work of public service commissions in each state will be essential in the coming years and decades as the field of electric utility regulation attempts to maintain the level of service reliability citizens are accustomed to amidst competing philosophies about good long-term policy in the area of electricity generation and fuel sources. There are also big rules coming out of the Environmental Protection Agency on the federal level that will have big impacts on the ground in electricity as well as water and wastewater regulation. Regulating monopoly utilities means creating an environment where customers are protected and the utilities can adapt to new technologies as well as overcome new challenges while protecting and serving customers. There are many new technologies and new challenges to overcome, which means lots of work to be done for regulators and the attorneys that serve them!

 

Q: What is your favorite part of your job? 

A: My favorite part of my job is the fact that I have the opportunity to work with a wide range of areas of legal work, from administrative hearings to agency rulemaking to defending commission orders on appeal – and even things beyond our agency like contributing to legislative efforts the commission is working on. And with all of it, I especially enjoy the chance to think about how any particular issue fits into the larger puzzle and patchwork that is regulatory and legislative policy. One goal of monopoly regulation is to do the impossible: mimic the free market forces that by law do not exist in these industries. Knowing that is impossible is actually liberating, because we are free to admit that it will never be perfect, but it also challenges us to think carefully and creatively about how to cultivate a healthy marketplace for each class of stakeholder while advancing the policy directives of the legislature and the commissioners.  Those are the kinds of things I love to think about, discuss, and incorporate into my work.

 

Q: What advice would you give current TU Law students?

A: Cultivate a humble curiosity about the law and its purpose. Many people wish to use the law selfishly as a tool by which to reshape society in their own image, when its purpose and highest use is just the opposite. Everyone lives in some legal relationship, whether to one another, to the government authorities, or to God, who is the first and supreme lawgiver and judge over all mankind. The law is given to point us to that lawgiver and his perfect standard of justice, and the purpose of human laws is to conform to that standard while cultivating a just, peaceful, and ordered society despite our many flaws and weaknesses. Scripture says that God’s law is “holy, just, and good” but that we are “carnal, sold under sin,” and thus are lawbreakers. (Romans 7:12, 14). “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” (James 2:10). But thankfully, law-breaking mankind can have hope because “we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” (1 John 2:1).  So, stay humble, but be curious enough to investigate each area of the law you encounter to see where it truly comes from and what greater purpose it serves. Remember as you advocate for others that you also will one day need an advocate.