Columbus, Ohio-based general practice firm Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease has opened a Pittsburgh office with three energy lawyers from Jackson Kelly.

About a year and a half after merging their Indiana, Pa.-based oil and gas boutique Gormly Gormly & Yuhas into the Pittsburgh office of West Virginia-based Jackson Kelly, oil and gas lawyers Kevin M. Gormly and Melissa McCoy Gormly have joined Vorys as a partner and of counsel, respectively.

Abigail L. Marusic, who had been an associate at Jackson Kelly, has also joined Vorys as an associate.

Kevin Gormly, who focuses his practice on litigation, transactional, environmental and regulatory work related to oil, gas and mineral law, told The Legal on Monday that he was interested in joining a firm with a strong presence in Ohio and called Vorys an oil and gas “industry leader” in the state.

“I thought they were well-positioned and well-respected in the energy industry,” Gormly said, calling Ohio and Pennsylvania “two strongholds” of recent oil and gas development.

Pittsburgh-based recruiter Maura McAnney said Vorys is a “well-regarded Ohio firm” and that, with additional offices in Washington, D.C., and Houston, Pittsburgh is a logical choice for the firm to expand its energy practice.

With about 350 lawyers and $162 million in gross revenue in 2012, Vorys was ranked 159th on Legal affiliate The American Lawyer‘s most recent Am Law 200 list.

In addition to energy, the firm’s practices include bankruptcy and creditors’ rights, government relations, intellectual property, real estate and labor and employment, among several others.

Vorys joins a growing list of out-of-state firms that have opened offices in Western Pennsylvania with a specific focus on the oil and gas industry.

Vorys’ entrance into the market comes on the heels of one of those firms losing two key attorneys, proving that the rise of the drilling industry in Western Pennsylvania has not necessarily made Pittsburgh a sure bet for firms coming in from outside the state.

The Sadler Law Firm opened a Pittsburgh office in December 2011 with 10 lawyers, including partner Jacob Lenington, who had managed the firm’s Appalachian area and moved to Pittsburgh from Houston to manage the new office.

Lenington, however, left the firm earlier this month along with senior counsel J. Thomas Parrino to form a new firm called Lenington & Parrino.

Neither Lenington nor Sadler managing partner Randall K. Sadler could be reached for comment Monday.

Both Gormly’s short tenure at Jackson Kelly and the departure of the Sadler attorneys demonstrate the volatility of a Western Pennsylvania legal market that is still trying to establish its foothold in the oil and gas industry.

McAnney said the oil and gas practice, as it exists today in the wake of hydrofracturing and the natural gas industry that has built up around it, is still new to Pennsylvania.

“I think we are still in a phase where energy practices are emerging and, over the next few years, it’s very likely there will be changes,” including the entry and departure of more law firms looking to capitalize on the oil and gas industry’s rise to prominence in the region, McAnney said.

Indeed, Vorys and Sadler are just a few of the out-of-state firms that have set up shop in Pennsylvania in recent years hoping for a piece of the action.

Before them, Houston-based Burleson LLP and Fulbright & Jaworski, along with West Virginia-based Steptoe & Johnson, made similar moves.

When asked whether he thought Vorys would have trouble establishing a presence in the Pittsburgh market, Gormly said it already has one, noting that the firm has been a frequent sponsor of industry-related events.

Gormly said many of his oil and gas operator clients had already worked with Vorys before he joined the firm.

“I think a lot of people are already familiar with Vorys in the oil and gas industry,” Gormly said.

Vorys managing partner Russ Gertmenian echoed these sentiments in a press release.

“Many of our clients within the industry, including producers, midstream companies, and drilling and services companies, have operations in both Ohio and Pennsylvania,” Gertmenian said. “We have assisted our energy clients in Pennsylvania for some time. The addition of this office demonstrates our desire to stay further abreast of the unique regulatory and statutory guidelines in both states and remain easily and quickly accessible to our clients. We also have plans to expand the office to include additional legal practices in order to better serve all current and future clients in the region.”

The press release said the firm has leased temporary office space in Pittsburgh with plans to move into permanent space early next year.

A spokeswoman for Jackson Kelly said the firm wishes the Gormlys well and is continuing its growth plan.

Zack Needles can be contacted at 215-557-2493 or zneedles@alm.com. Follow him on Twitter @ZNeedlesTLI. •