Where are you seeing the most potential for disputes?
Whenever we see macroeconomic financial challenges in the industry, we see changing priorities for all players, and that leads to a desire to find flexibility in existing commitments, to move in different directions. Naturally that can see an increase in disputes coming through the supply chain, and for long term supply relationships. We see challenges coming through an increasing focus on local content, environmental and issues arising from international labour mobility due to changes in labour laws globally.
Where do you see the biggest potential for disputes geographically?
We are seeing operational interruption evenly distributed across the globe as we move through the pandemic. That has been a great leveller this past year in terms of commercial disputes. Certain social and political pressures have over the past several years put pressure on local content policies in almost every continent. And we’re seeing tensions coming through the maturing of employment law in certain labour markets.
As General Counsel, where have you felt the most pressure during the COVID crisis?
Initially it was the relentless pace of it all, needing to solve very new challenges simultaneously, in terms of working locations, moving people around internationally, contract implications. As the pandemic draws out, we are seeing more fundamental impacts; permanently changed working methods, locations and structures. Which brings opportunities to respond more creatively in the longer term to the lower demand that we are seeing across the industry through 2021, and potentially beyond.
Which activities are most likely to lead to disputes right now?
Operational delay due to COVID and force majeure is a really hot issue. Movement of goods and people across borders and to offshore locations continues to be very challenging.
How are in-house teams typically starting to use technology?
The use of AI and automation in our supply chain and commercial agreements has huge potential to help us manage risk through standardisation and greater alignment between suites of project agreements across our enterprise. It is the key to cost and time efficiency in contracting. It’s much easier for us to run stats on our agreements to increase consistency of content, and be able to monitor key metrics. As an offshore drilling company, we are hugely adept at developing and using innovative technology. That shouldn’t stop when it comes to our onshore business.
What involvement do you typically seek from external counsel and in what circumstances would you look to bring them in?
No matter the calibre of a strong in-house team like Seadrill’s, international businesses like ours will always look for quality specialist jurisdictional knowledge. Having the international umbrella of external firms, helping us access and manage local content in emerging jurisdictions and challenging jurisdictions, is hugely valuable. In areas like complex dispute management, law firms are becoming real specialists in their ability to handle and process the volumes of data involved and offer a more joined-up service to get all the way through to resolution.