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Can you be sure of Shell? Coveted oil giant unveils new panel

Eleven firms, including Allen & Overy (A&O) and Baker & McKenzie, have been successful in winning a place on Shell’s new global legal panel, which was unveiled yesterday (22 May).

The tender, which kicked off in March, went out to 357 firms in 20 jurisdictions. The aim, according to legal director Peter Rees QC, was to find between two and five suitable firms for each practice area in each jurisdiction who would then be ‘pre-qualified’ for Shell legal work and who would compete with each other for significant mandates.

Rees, who took over from Shell’s former legal director Beat Hess in January 2011, said: ‘We have notified all the unsuccessful firms and have told all the successful firms that they have been successful in at least one practice area in at least one jurisdiction. We are in the process of sending out framework agreements to the successful firms giving the precise details.

‘Many of the (over 150) firms we have selected are local firms for specific local practice areas but there are 11 firms who have been successful in three jurisdictions or more.’

Out of those 11 firms, survivors from Shell’s 2010 panel overhaul include Allen & Overy and Clifford Chance. The other nine firms are Baker & McKenzie, CMS Cameron McKenna, Debevoise & Plimpton, Holman Fenwick & Willan, King & Spalding, Linklaters, Norton Rose Fulbright, Simmons & Simmons and Dentons. 2010 panel member Hogan Lovells is not named, although it is not known if the firm has been successful in less than three jurisdictions.

Before winning a place on the panel firms had to come to an agreement over rates with Shell and going forward panel firms will be asked to give a price for a deal based on those fixed rates. Around three firms will be asked to quote for each deal and Rees said: ‘If all three firms come back with roughly the same price we will pick the best not the cheapest. If one comes back as £1m and one as £5m we will talk to both to find out why they are so far apart.’

Unlike Shell’s previous panel, which was largely procurement driven, Rees has pitched the panel to law firms as an opportunity to grow their relationship with Shell and those who develop the best relationship with the bluechip can be expected to win more work in three years’ time when rates are reviewed. Rees, who was formerly a litigation partner at Debevoise & Plimpton and before that head of litigation at Norton Rose, said: ‘Based on my experience as outside counsel you do the best work for the clients you have the best relationship with.’