Senior Vice President, Chief Legal and Compliance Officer, Spire Inc.
When Mark Darrell graduated from Georgetown University Law Center in 1982 in the midst of a lackluster economy, he was happy to land a job at the U.S. Department of Energy. It was a fateful choice.
Darrell has spent his nearly 40-year career in the energy sector, most of it as an in-house attorney for natural gas companies. Since 2004, he has played that role as the senior vice president, chief legal and compliance officer for St. Louis-based Spire.
“I’ve really enjoyed the in-house role,” he said. “It’s suited me almost to a T.”
Darrell’s interest in the legal issues that surround highly regulated industries dates to his undergraduate days at Syracuse University in New York, where he earned a political science degree in 1979.
“I’ve always had an interest in politics, history and public policy,” he said. “Those were the primary drivers in wanting to become a lawyer and the type of lawyer I wanted to become.”
That interest carried over to law school, where he hoped to work in a heavily regulated industry such as banking, communications or airlines.
“It just so happened that energy was something that became available to me,” he said.
After two years as a staff attorney for the Department of Energy, he moved into a legislative and regulatory affairs position for the American Gas Association. In 1987, he joined a boutique energy litigation practice in Washington, D.C., then known as Miller, Balis & O’Neil.
Private practice had been Darrell’s goal upon earning his law degree, but the lack of client contact he had as an associate attorney took its toll.
“I had a number of friends from law school who had in-house positions, and they seemed to be a lot happier than I was,” he said. “So I just figured, let me try this role and see how it works.”
He took a job in his home state with the New Jersey Resources Corporation, and from there went to the Columbia Energy Group in Richmond, Virginia, which later merged with NiSource Inc. Then in 2004 he was asked to be general counsel for what then was known as The Laclede Group in St. Louis.
Geographically, it was an odd choice for someone who had spent his life on the East Coast and whose only visit to St. Louis was a flight connection. But with experience that touched on just about every legal issue a gas company might encounter, he was a perfect fit.