About fifteen years ago I received a phone call from the general counsel of one of the majors, one of my regular clients. He and I knew each other quite well.
After initial pleasantries he came to the point: “Chris, I have to make you an offer that I know you will refuse.”
Intrigued, I said, “go on.”
“Will you work for three months in our Aberdeen office for nothing? It’s just routine North Sea stuff.”
I said: “why are you asking me this, if you know I will refuse?”
He replied: “It’s a new cost-saving rule. You are on our approved list of outside counsel. The rule is that if anyone on the list offers to do legal work for us, I have to offer it to everyone higher on the list on the same terms. A London firm has offered to put a junior in our Aberdeen office for three months for nothing, as a loss leader.”
“So, if you ask me to do more of your West African deepwater stuff, you will have to offer it to them on the same terms?”
“Only if they are higher than you on the list. Of course I have to take a view whether they are capable of doing it.”
“You are quite right.” I said, “I must refuse your kind offer. But please give me a call if the Angola PSCs come up.”
“OK,” he said, and we rang off.