Legal Business Blogs

In-house: Shell finds internal replacement for Rees as it picks Ching as legal head

Energy giant Royal Dutch Shell has this time found an in-house replacement legal director Peter Rees QC, today (10 February) announcing former Singapore legal head Donny Ching as its new legal director with immediate effect.

UK-qualified Ching, whose most recent role was general counsel for Shell’s project and technology business replaces litigator Rees, who surprised many when he announced his departure last month – three years after joining Shell from Debevoise & Plimpton.

Ching, a qualified barrister, joined Shell in Australia in 1988 and requalified as a lawyer in Victoria, Australia in 1989. He worked initially in its resources business before moving on to downstream and corporate work for Shell Australia.

He moved to Shell Hong Kong in 1992 to work on the Nanhai Petrochemicals Project in China that marked Shell’s entry into China. 2004 saw a move to Singapore as the associate general counsel for the gas and power business in Asia-Pacific. The role included supporting the growing LNG trading business and LNG projects such as Sakhalin LNG and Gorgon LNG. He became Singapore head of legal in 2008 with responsibility for legal support to the downstream business in south-east Asia. He then became general counsel of projects and technology in June 2011.

His most recent position is based in Rijswijk, in The Netherlands, but he will relocate to The Hague.

Shell took the unusual step of hiring litigation partner and former Norton Rose disputes head Rees as legal director at the end of 2010, taking over from incumbent Beat Hess at the start of 2011.

He pushed through major changes to the legal team during his tenure, including restructuring Shell’s estimated 750-lawyer department and hiring 112 new lawyers globally in 2012. He created a global litigation group after discovering that there was no dedicated contentious capability and appointed former Fulbright & Jaworski disputes partner Richard Hill as associate GC.

His arrival coincided with a sharp decrease in external legal spend, with the company’s budget running at around half the level it did in 2007, despite remaining one of the world’s largest corporate users of legal services and spending over £100m annually. In In our in-house survey last year, he told Legal Business: ‘In 2008, we spent 35% of our annual total in-house and 65% was spent externally. In 2012, 68% went on in-house, while 32% was spent outside. We had also reduced overall spend between 2008 and 2012 by a third, so we have actually reduced spend on external work by a half.’

Last year he conducted a full-scale overhaul of Shell’s external legal panel, inviting 357 firms in 20 jurisdictions to tender before narrowing that down to between two and five suitable firms for each practice area in each jurisdiction who ‘pre-qualified’ to pitch for Shell’s legal work.