Shell UK (part of the Royal Dutch Shell Group)

Aa global brands go, Shell is one of the most familiar. But its simplicity and immediacy belies a complex group structure spann ing oil and gas businesses in 130 countries around the world.

Shell UK is the British arm of the business. But which business? The Royal Dutch/Shell Group consists of two parent companies. One, Shell Transport & Trading Co, is listed in London and is the FTSE100’s eighth-biggest player. The other, Royal Dutch, is listed in The Netherlands.

There are hundreds of businesses across the group, employing 300 lawyers worldwide.

Shell UK has a dedicated team of 28 lawyers, headed by legal director Richard Wiseman. It is Shell’s biggest legal team after the US operation and Shell International – the group’s corporate services department, based in London.

Over the coming weeks, Wiseman’s team is to merge with Shell International’s larger legal team, which provides financial and legal advice worldwide. Shell International, based at Shell House on the banks of the Thames, has 42 lawyers (20 in The Hague, the rest in London).

Both teams work closely together, sharing information,expertise and recruitment and training – even seconding lawyers to each other. “This is a process of evolution,” says Wiseman. “We’re putting all our legal advisory services under one roof, although we’ve been acting as a virtual single department for five years.”

Structurally speaking, Wiseman’s team is split into three: property, headed by Janet Batey; North Sea oil and gas, led by Campbell Grant; and oil products, which is overseen by Keith Ruddock.

Batey’s team handles most of Shell UK’s property work, ranging from big deals – including the impending conveyancing on its 400,000 sq ft headquarters, Shell Mex House, which is around the corner from the Savoy – to work on the company’s 1,800 UK filling stations.

“Advising people in the gas part of our business is taking up an increasing proportion of our time following deregulation,” says Wiseman.

Litigation is managed in-house, but handled outside. A range of firms are used for local work, while City firms – typically Herbert Smith, or DJ Freeman in property matters – take on the big cases.

Shell International deals with all manner of global matters, from oil trading and shipping to major litigation. It has two corporate teams, one in London, the other in the Hague.

The London team is split into two smaller groupings – one for the oil production business, the other for the worldwide gas and chemical businesses. There is also a team in The Hague that deals with international exploration work.

The UK and international teams often do their recruiting together, typically hiring three to five-year qualifieds from “good commercial practices – usually in the City”.

UK lawyers often find themselves working abroad. Wiseman, for example, who joined Shell after training at Covent Garden firm Mackrell & Co, has spent two years in Melbourne for Shell Australia, as well as time in Malaysia, Hong Kong and Thailand.

He uses cost benefit analysis techniques to manage and monitor performance. “Our average chargeout rate is £105 per hour, including all overheads,” he says.

With regard to external law firms, he comments: “We have no formal panel, rather lists of people we like to use for particular categories of work.

“Technical expertise goes without saying. Beyond that, we look for the ability of firms to organise themselves in such a way as to provide a cost-effective service. Chemistry with an individual is particularly important.”

Richard Wiseman
Legal director
Shell UK (Part of the Royal Dutch Shell Group)

Organisation Shell UK (Part of the Royal Dutch Shell Group)
Sector Oil and gas
FTSE 100 ranking (Part of) the UK’s eighth biggest company
Market capitalisation £35bn (group: £96bn)
Employees Shell UK circa 8000 (group 105,000)
Legal function 28 lawyers (circa 70 when merged with Shell International team; circa 300 in group)
Head of legal Richard Wiseman, legal director
Reporting to Group legal director Pieter Folmer
Main location for lawyers London, Aberdeen (Shell International: The Hague and satellite offices around the world)
Main law firms Herbert Smith, DJ Freeman, Simmons & Simmons, Mace & Jones (Shell International: Slaughter and May, Allen & Overy)