A Quiet Word

A few years ago, working for an operator on the UKCS, I had dealings with a young lawyer working for a small contractor.

He tried to be personable, but this was not his forte. He wanted to get down to business, where he evidently thought he held the whip hand. I was less sure that he did.

He was very ambitious in his commercial demands and his style was aggressive. At one point he said: “Well, if you can’t be bothered to agree my deadline for signing, then perhaps I can’t be bothered to continue the negotiation.”

As it turned out the transaction was blown away by an unforeseen event, so we never concluded the negotiation or discovered where the bargaining power really lay.

I thought no more of it until, a few weeks later, I had a call from one of my oldest and closest friends in the business, now very senior. He asked if we could have a quiet word.

He was hiring lawyers and had had an application from my young opponent, who had mentioned my name as one of the industry lawyers he had dealt with.

“So you have actually dealt with him on a transaction?” asked my friend. “Yes” I replied.

“Am I interested in his application?” he asked.

I knew what he was asking: is this young man a first-rate upstream lawyer in the making? I thought for a few moments.

I have nothing against him. This was just business, after all. Once I too was young and ambitious, and (I now think) too aggressive in meetings. But I think he was rude, and a poor judge of a commercial situation.

“No,” I replied at length. “Do you want chapter and verse?”

“No,” he replied. “That’s all I need. Thanks for your help.”


Chris Thorpe

Chris Thorpe is a respected independent lawyer in the upstream oil and gas industry, and an established lecturer and author. Chris has a LLB in law from Magdalene College, Cambridge and trained as a barrister in London. He worked for eight years' as an in-house lawyer for BP and Marathon. Since 1991, Chris has run his own upstream legal practice, CPTL, which has acted for many upstream clients. He has extensive experience of international upstream transactions, principally in the North Sea, the FSU, Africa and the Middle East. Chris has spoken at many UK and International Conferences and Seminars, both public and in-house. His most popular current lecture is Fundamental of Upstream Petroleum Agreements, a two-day course with accompanying book.