Legal Business

Royal Dutch Shell

  • Legal director: Donny Ching.
  • Team headcount: 700 lawyers globally.

Shell’s huge legal team, led by legal director Donny Ching, supports one of the world’s largest companies, with businesses across more than 70 countries and total revenues of $451.2bn in 2013. They play an integral role on issues ranging from acquisitions, divestments and litigation to project construction, sales and marketing, intellectual property, and ethics and compliance, and manage millions of contractual transactions with tens of thousands of suppliers.

The way in which the legal team is organised reflects the structure of the company as a whole and is divided into upstream – the part of the business that searches
for and recovers crude oil and natural gas – and downstream, which manages Shell’s refining and marketing activities for oil products and chemicals.

Shell’s global litigation team, which was led by Brad Nielson until 1 April when the role was taken on by associate GC Richard Hill, is in particular praised for its technical brilliance. According to one litigation and arbitration partner: ‘The team deal with a huge range of litigation, which would challenge many private practice lawyers in its breadth. They have pushed external firms in a pioneering way to provide appropriate fee arrangements on all matters, and engaged in a constructive and imaginative way with those firms to help them understand what fee structures are most valuable to Shell’s business objectives.’

Shell’s global litigation managing counsel for Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, Sarah Morton, is recognised at page 50 as a Rising Star.

The team had a number of big mandates in 2014, such as the $2.9bn agreement to sell Shell’s Australia downstream business to Vitol – including the sale of the global energy giant’s Geelong refinery and 870-site retail business – and the $5.7bn sale of a majority stake in Woodside Petroleum, also in Australia, as the energy supplier moves to develop its own gas assets in the country.

In the UK, Ching is supported by the UK head of legal, Michael Coates, who is also associate GC, downstream.