Comments on three law-department management points from ConocoPhillips

A backgrounder on Janet L. Kelly, the general counsel of ConocoPhillips, in the Nat. L.J., Vol. 30, Nov. 5, 2007 at 8, offers material for three comments.

The third-largest US oil and gas company reported 2006 revenue of $188.5 billion yet the legal team consists of 130 lawyers worldwide. At less than one lawyer for every billion dollars of revenue, the company is about as low as you will see on that key benchmark (See my post of Jan.18, 2007 on lawyers per billion of revenue across industries; and Feb.1, 2007 about the low ratio at Cummins.). It is well known that total legal spending within any industry drops, as a percentage of revenue, as companies get larger (See my post of May 4, 2005 on TLS as a percentage of revenue declining as revenue increases.), but I have not looked specifically at lawyers per billion.

The profile also mentioned that the law department is organized into three main areas, each supervised by a deputy general counsel in Houston (See my post of Nov. 20, 2007 regarding deputy general counsel.). Each of them might have 20-to-50 lawyers reporting to them.

The third point worth noting is that lawyers at ConocoPhillips have offices in such exotic locations as Singapore; Moscow; Aberdeen, Scotland; and Perth, Australia. Since the huge energy company has employees in 38 countries, there may well be more lawyers in many more countries (See my posts of May 27, 2007 about Carrefour and its lawyers in 30 countries; April 17, 2007 on J&J and its 35 locations of lawyers; and April 22, 2007 about Aon and lawyers in 17 countries.). Perhaps a rule of thumb is that a law department should be considered global (See my post of Feb.12, 2006 for definitions of “global” and “international.”) only if it has lawyers in ten or more countries outside the home country.

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