When he became an attorney, Dan Connelly was following in the footsteps of his father, a former litigator and long-time judge. For a long time, however, Connelly had resisted going down the same path.
“I was not one of those people who went directly from college to law school,” Connelly says. “I graduated from the University of Texas Film School. I didn’t always know that I wanted to be a lawyer, and I took a circuitous path to where I am now.”
For Connelly, that “where” is HMH, an oil and gas industry equipment, services, and technology company owned equally by Baker Hughes and Akastor. After working for Baker Hughes on the M&A transaction that created HMH, Connelly opted to jump to the spin-off. Today, as senior vice president and general counsel of pressure control systems, he applies the cumulative expertise from his years of law firm and in-house practice, all while discovering for himself what it truly means to be an effective GC.
Upon college graduation, Connelly cut his teeth as a public health investigator for the City of Houston. Once he finally reconsidered a career in law, he pursued his JD at South Texas College of Law Houston before accepting a federal clerkship for the chief judge of the Eastern District of Texas. He joined the international M&A team at Vinson & Elkins one year later, during a period of intense growth for the firm. “I had an interest in living overseas and practicing international law, so when we opened offices in Asia, I lobbied for a transfer to the Beijing office,” he says. “One of the throughlines in my story is a passion for international work.”
Recently, that passion landed Connelly an appointment as New Zealand Honorary Consul-General for Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma—a title that he has held since 2014. It motivated him to continue living abroad even after jumping from Vinson & Elkins to leading the corporate section of Norwegian law firm Wikborg Rein in Shanghai. However, it wasn’t long before he answered a new call: going in-house.
The decision brought Connelly to GE Oil & Gas, back in Houston. “Supporting a business and learning the basic skills of becoming an effective general counsel is a very different skill than working for clients in a law firm. GE had such an excellent, robust legal department and is where that journey began for me,” he says.
“You have to pay attention to so many different aspects impacting the business and remain aligned with leadership,” he continues. “You need to do the hard work and understand the financials, learn the engineering behind the products and how they perform—it makes you a valuable partner and an effective counselor when you can intelligently assess risks.”
In his nine years at GE and Baker Hughes, which GE had acquired in 2017, Connelly increased the scope of his responsibilities as well as his proximity to the business. Still, he admits that his current role came with its own learning curve. “You inhabit so many roles at a small or mid-sized company,” Connelly explains. “You get involved in every part of the business and see things you’d never be exposed to at a large company like Baker Hughes or GE. It’s really satisfying to roll up your sleeves and have a direct impact.”
As part of a leaner team, Connelly finds himself handling a daily mash-up of disparate matters, from setting up HMH’s insurance program to supporting HR to drafting corporate and environment, social, and governance policy. “My philosophy is that there’s nothing outside the remit of legal,” he says. “If running a compliant business is truly one of the business’s key goals, legal and compliance need to be involved in everything that’s happening.”
Connelly is proud to lead a diverse—and global—legal team at HMH. In interactions within his team and across the company, he seeks to embody openness and approachability. “I try to approach strategy and leadership creatively and with an inclusive and curious mind,” he says. “I want to help my team succeed, grow their careers, take on as much responsibility as they can handle, and just have fun.”
At the same time, Connelly remains fully aware of the energy industry’s importance, especially in an era of ongoing global unrest and economic uncertainty. “Energy is a key part of national security, the global economy, and any meaningful conversation about the environment,” he says. “We at HMH are honored to be playing a critical role. When HMH was formed, one of our stated goals is organic and inorganic growth. I’m here to help the business development team identify possible acquisitions, support those M&A activities, and grow HMH into a large company with a truly global reach.”
White & Case:
“I have had the privilege to work with Dan for nearly twenty years, in the US and overseas. Dan is the epitome of a global energy lawyer and his deep experience sets him apart.”
–Christopher Richardson, Partner