Editor: Why is ADR important to Shell, and how have you incorporated it into your law department’s culture?
Rees: We deal with corporations around the world. Inevitably, given the large number of contracts we enter into, there are going to be some disputes because that is the nature of life. ADR allows us to resolve many of those disputes in a way that helps not only to maintain business relationships but also to get back to business quickly rather than being bogged down in litigation. So, as far as I am concerned, that is a great result for Shell. We have been doing this since the 1990s when mediation was beginning to be exported from America to Europe.
Editor: Shell is a Founding Signatory of CPR’s 21st Century Pledge. Why did you make this commitment?
Rees: Shell’s entire management views CPR’s 21st Century Pledge to be very important. We know that if you can avoid litigation, you get a huge value from the Pledge. You can speak sensibly to others who have signed the Pledge about finding ways of resolving a dispute. It shows that we are willing to put ourselves forward as a company that is going to talk first. When we talk to other companies that have signed the Pledge, they feel the same. We look first at how we can resolve the dispute. That is ingrained in the DNA of the lawyers at Shell.
Editor: Why is it important to systematize ADR into Shell’s legal practice?
Rees: The first thing you think when a dispute arises with a corporation that has also signed the Pledge is – good! You know you will be dealing with somebody who shares your values, somebody who believes it is important to look at ways of resolving a dispute first rather than fighting. It doesn’t mean we will always resolve the dispute because sometimes you just can’t. The Pledge is something that makes you think, “Okay, this looks like something that we have a pretty good chance of resolving if we can sit down and talk sensibly.”
Within a large organization like Shell, systemizing something like ADR into our practice means that we have a process that we can go to immediately. The lawyers who handle disputes for Shell know that ADR frequently offers the quickest way to resolve a dispute. In school you are taught the quickest way to get from A to B is a straight line. Having a systemized process within Shell legal means that it is the first thing we turn to.
Editor: How has CPR supported Shell in its efforts to incorporate ADR into its systems/practices?
Rees: CPR has given validation and clear and specific support to the entire idea of using ADR as a global means of resolving disputes. Recently, Shell and CPR sponsored a mediation conference in Brazil that helped raise the awareness and knowledge of lawyers in that region about the advantages of ADR.
CPR makes available significant resources that enable Shell and all CPR’s other members to work more efficiently using its rules and protocols. CPR’s publications keep us informed of the latest developments in ADR. It is always in the background supporting us.
Editor: Why is it important to support CPR?
Rees: CPR has been in existence for more than 30 years. It is an independent nonprofit company that is entirely open and transparent in what it does and what it is seeking to do. It deserves the support of the legal community. CPR brings together in one place the best thinking about ADR from corporations (including large global corporations like Shell), law firms, law schools and other organizations.
It is a valuable resource for us and for all in-house legal teams. It means that you have something separate and independent that you can look to for the latest developments in ADR. CPR provides phenomenal value for corporations of all sizes.
Editor: Shell received CPR’s 2012 Corporate Leadership Award. What did that mean to Shell? What impact did it have on your team? On your practices?
Rees: Firstly, we were hugely flattered and honored. It was a great validation for all of the hard work that Shell’s lawyers around the world have done to preserve relationships with our suppliers and customers and to be a true partner with our business clients. To have that recognized by an organization like CPR, that is universally admired throughout the legal community, is hugely important and extremely valuable for the morale of the team. It acknowledges that assuring the most effective implementation of ADR is a team achievement. It is nice to be recognized in the outside world and not just within your own company.
Published May 21, 2013.