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On 20 September, The Legal 500 were delighted to host a celebratory reception to launch the very first GC Powerlist Sweden at our partner, Hamilton Advokatbyrå’s office in Stockholm.

GC Powerlist Sweden, following a substantial research process, recognises the innovation and excellence of 80 general counsel. The event was one of celebration but also gave attendees the opportunity to hear from Michael Coates, associate general counsel, based at Shell’s headquarters in The Hague, The Netherlands. Michael is no stranger to excellence and innovation and has himself been included in GC Powerlist UK.

Michael spoke about the changing role of in-house counsel and the themes of innovation and excellence from his previous experience as Shell’s head of legal in the UK and now as associate general counsel supporting Shell’s global upstream business.

‘At Shell, we aim to run the legal function like a business and therefore align closely with the business strategy of the Shell group as whole. This means continually seeking to innovate and improve our operational performance. We have borrowed an expression from our business that “improving the work is the work” - meaning that a key aspect of any lawyer’s role is to seek continuous improvements in their day-to-day activities.

It also means that we use what we call “horizon scanning” - trying to see what is coming at us over the horizon so we can plan and resource our teams accordingly.’

According to Coates, cost is another key focus at Shell Legal, again in common with Shell’s business teams. The use of alternative fee arrangements (also referred to as appropriate fee arrangements) has been widely reported and Coates elaborated on this concept in his presentation.

‘We have moved away from standard hourly rates as the basis for charging, because we believe it can lead to inefficient and sometimes costly outcomes for Shell. We would much rather have alternative arrangements like fixed fees, caps, or other structures which better share risks and rewards between Shell and the relevant law firm. This leads to budget certainly, predictability and can be a win-win situation for both parties.’

When asked whether law firms have generally accepted this approach, Coates said: ‘By and large they have done and it is a very rare case where a deal or other matter cannot be structured under an AFA arrangement, provided that both sides are willing to be creative and flexible’.

The importance of the rule of law is another theme touched upon in the presentation. Coates mentioned that, last year, the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law (part of the British Institute of International and Comparative Law) created a business network in order to bring together companies that can influence these issues collectively. The International Bar Association was also noted as doing important work to uphold the rule of law.

Finally, Coates touched upon people and the importance of diversity and inclusion within Shell’s legal team. ‘We work very hard to create a diverse and inclusive legal team which reflects the places where we do business, as well as the diversity of our customers and other stakeholders. Shell Legal has made great strides on this topic but there is always more to do.’

Following many interesting and pertinent questions, the formal part of the evening moved into one of networking, enjoying the hospitality of our hosts, Hamilton.

Our congratulations again to the general counsel acknowledged in GC Powerlist Sweden and our grateful thanks to Hamilton for their support of this initiative in Sweden.

Please scroll down to see pictures of the event: