September 14, 2009 1:18 PM
New Chevron GC Has Attention of Law Firm Leaders
Posted by Brian Baxter
The National Law Journal reports that Chevron's new general counsel, R. Hewitt Pate, doesn't have to work hard to get the attention of outside counsel. Pate's new employer has an annual legal budget of $350 million, and roughly $190 million of that goes to outside counsel.
San Ramon, Calif.-based Chevron, the third-largest energy company in the world, has been in the news recently for corruption allegations relating to billion-dollar environmental mass torts case in Ecuador it has been fighting for over a decade.
The Ecuador case is just one of many that Chevron's in-house lawyers need to monitor. The NLJ reports that the company is sued an average of two to three times every day.
The 47-year-old Pate (pictured at right), a former global competition practice leader at Hunton & Williams who worked under former Chevron GC Charles James at the Justice Department, was named the company's legal chief in July.
The NLJ reports that Pate's appointment has some in legal circles wondering whether Hunton will maneuver itself into the inner circle of firms seeking the lion's share of Chevron's outside counsel pie.
While 500 firms share in the $190 million disbursed to outside counsel, about 35 get more than $100 million from it. Another four--Jones Day, King & Spalding, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, and Latham & Watkins--divvy up about $60 million annually.
Jones Day and King & Spalding have taken the lead on the Ecuador case--along with local Ecuadorian lawyers employed by Chevron--and Pillsbury's relationship with the company goes back more than a century.
But the times are a changing.
Shortly before Pate's hiring, Chevron hired Hunton's privacy and information practice for data privacy work. Pate told The NLJ that he was surprised when informed of his former firm's retention, but demurred when asked if Hunton might want some more work from his new employer.
"I think a lot of firms would enjoy working with Chevron," he said.
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