Hogan Lovells has confirmed the departure of leading corporate energy partner David Levin to energy merchant business Nekton Group, months after losing a three strong energy team, including global co-head of energy and natural resources Matthew Williams to US firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe.
‘We haven’t turned ourselves into a boutique’ – Ashurst’s head talks strategy, Bain and pushing energy and finance
After having brought in Bain & Co last year to advise on the firm’s strategy, Ashurst’s chairman and New Zealand-born litigator Ben Tidswell (pictured) talks to Legal Business about the firm’s new direction and its renewed focus on financial institutions, energy and infrastructure, and the Asia-Pacific.
Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe has continued with its European strategy revamp, building its energy team in London by hiring Hogan Lovells’ global co-head of energy and natural resources Matthew Williams and renewables co-head John Deacon.
- Group general counsel: Coralie Bouscasse.
- Team headcount: 134 lawyers.
The legal team at French nuclear giant Areva has been praised for its capabilities in ‘perhaps one of the largest and most complex cases in the history of international commercial arbitration’, namely its high-profile battle against Finnish energy consortium Teollisuuden Voima Oyj (TVO) over the construction of Olkiluoto 3, a nuclear power plant on the shore of the Gulf of Bothnia in the municipality of Eurajoki in western Finland.
Having started in 2005, the plant is being built jointly by Areva and the German engineering giant Siemens, but delays and cost overruns at Olkiluoto 3 triggered a legal battle between the Areva-Siemens consortium and TVO. The Areva-Siemens consortium initiated arbitration proceedings in December 2008 and the dispute is now in arbitration at the International Chamber of Commerce. In October last year, Areva-Siemens raised its claim against TVO to €3.5bn. Adding to the complexities was TVO filing its own claim against Areva-Siemens in September 2012 and it is seeking compensation from Areva-Siemens for financial losses stemming from delays in building the 1,600MW nuclear reactor.
‘Throughout that time, we have been consistently impressed by the Areva team’s ability to maintain a grasp over every one of the case’s many angles,’ says one partner at an international law firm. ‘Through its hard work, it made a seemingly unmanageable case function like clockwork. The level of sophistication the team has shown in this process is remarkable and worthy of much praise.’
General secretary Pierre Charreton, who served as GC until April 2014, is cited for his ‘cunning sense of strategy’. Team members also highlighted for their contribution include current legal chief, Coralie Bouscasse; Jens Bürkle, GC for nuclear activities; and senior legal counsel, Marion Saizeau.>
Concludes one partner: ‘Charreton stands as a prime example of excellent leadership. His presence and leadership are clearly the key ingredients that make Areva’s legal team run as seamlessly and effectively as it does.’
- Director of legal services: Liz Tanner.
- Team headcount: 63 lawyers.
2014 was a busy year for the legal team at this renewable electricity and gas supplier, which appointed a new director of legal services, reorganised its in-house legal department and oversaw the appointment of the energy provider’s first ever legal panel, consolidating almost 30 external law firms into a panel of seven. Firms including Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, CMS, Addleshaw Goddard and Osborne Clarke made the final cut.
Following Liz Tanner’s appointment as director of legal services, the in-house function was reorganised and the team is now split into different capabilities, closely aligned to the demands of the business. These include infrastructure and real estate capability, data protection, commercial and litigation.
Big mandates for the team include undertaking a major asset disposal programme with an estimated worth of around £1bn, as well as progressing a large and diverse portfolio of improvements to economically regulated electricity networks. This includes the £1.2bn Caithness-Moray subsea transmission link to provide increased network capacity required for electricity generation from renewable sources, in line with legally-binding international targets.
One partner at an SSE adviser firm comments: ‘They genuinely are industry leaders. They are extremely good at what they do and we find it a really rewarding relationship because we learn as much from them as they do from us. They are an entrepreneurial team and it’s an entrepreneurial business.’ He adds: ‘Part of the reason for doing the panel review was that they really wanted to focus on panel firms that could provide services to their core business areas seamlessly. They want to build longer term relationships with their panel firms.’
- 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.
- General counsel: Graham Vinter.
- Team headcount: 82 lawyers.
Cited as popular with its commercial partners, the legal team at FTSE 100 oil and gas company BG Group also receives high praise from external nominators. A near 6,000-staff energy company operating across more than 20 countries in five continents, the in-house team runs a slim external advisory panel and last year shaved the roster from four firms to three, dropping Allen & Overy (A&O) and Herbert Smith Freehills in favour of Clifford Chance, which won a place alongside incumbents CMS Cameron McKenna and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.
Having in recent months taken part in guiding the business through a transitional period pending the highly publicised appointment of the company’s new chief executive, Helge Lund, major mandates for the team have included the recent US$5bn sale of its Australian gas pipeline network to APA Group as part of an ongoing review of its business in the wake of slumping oil prices.
Widely recognised as a heavyweight among in-house advisory and lobbying groups is BG GC Graham Vinter, who last year succeeded Centrica legal head Grant Dawson as chair of the GC100 group, which brings together the most senior legal representatives from over 80 of the UK’s FTSE 100.
Vinter, who joined BG in 2007, came with impeccable credentials, having long been established as one of the City’s top projects and energy practitioners in a lengthy career at A&O. One partner at a Magic Circle firm gives high praise to Vinter, describing the GC as a ‘brilliant legal mind’, who is ‘strategic and a great manager’. BG Group’s corporate chief counsel Howard Landes is shortlisted for our Rising Star of the Year Award 2015 (see ‘Making their mark’, page 51). Daniel Silver is BG Group’s head of ethical conduct and compliance.
The partner also credits the team as a whole, commenting: ‘The industry is challenged by falling energy prices, increasing geopolitical risk and continuing environmental concerns, leading to the legal team being front and centre of the long-term and major capital investment decisions of the group. In many areas of the business the in-house team has far greater industry and specialist legal knowledge than their outside advisers.’
Q&A: A year on – Shell’s legal director Donny Ching on handling oil industry pressures and a 1000-strong team
Donny Ching (pictured) replaced Peter Rees as Royal Dutch Shell’s legal director in February 2014. After almost a year in the top role, Ching talks to Legal Business about law firm collaboration, appropriate fee arrangements and pressures facing in-house teams in volatile industries.
Reed Smith has made a further lateral hire to bolster its City offering, as Prajakt Samant becomes the second energy partner in just over a year to join from McDermott Will & Emery, joining as a partner in the top 30 Global 100 firm’s energy and natural resources group in London. Continue reading “Reed Smith bolsters City energy practice with further hire from McDermott”