each supervised by a highly experienced deputy general counsel in Houston: litigation; exploration and
production; and refining, marketing and trade.
Following a recent Louisiana oil refinery accident,
which resulted in one death, the ConocoPhillips’ legal
department staff and outside counsel mobilized to
help with the investigation, to determine the envi-
expertise or when in-house resources run short.
Kelly relies on Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz for
strategic transactions and on Chicago-based Kirkland
& Ellis and Washington-based Williams & Connolly
for complex commercial litigation.
When things go awry, you can sit down and talk to
people. Everything stems from that.”
ronmental consequences and to deal with litigation
issues. “Anytime something like that happens, the law
department is right there with the first responders.”
Relatively new to the company, Kelly is still getting
to know her legal team and the “huge number” of
transactions it produces—joint ventures with other
oil companies, negotiated concessions with overseas
governments and project finance, to name a few.
She noted that, while strategic, “company-changing”
transactions are handled at the corporate headquarters, many of the company’s smaller deals are
handled in the field offices. Lawyers work in far-flung
locations, including Singapore; Moscow; Aberdeen,
Scotland; and Perth, Australia.
In allocating resources, Kelly’s philosophy is to
have in-house lawyers work on projects that require
“a really intimate understanding” of the petroleum
business. She uses outside counsel for wider
litigation work she uses Zelle Hofmann and Houston-
based Beirne, Maynard & Parsons.
Managing high-volume, widespread and complex
operations requires good relationships, Kelly said.
“When things go awry, you can sit down and talk
to people. Everything stems from that,” she said.
She found learning the oil business challenging,
because it’s very different from the food industry in
which she’d worked previously. “Certainly, there are
times when I think it would be fabulous to have been
here for 20 years and really deeply understand all
the issues that a lot of people here do,” she said.
But her outsider’s perspective sometimes comes
in handy. While negotiating a joint venture, some
ConocoPhillips people found the other side’s behavior frustrating. Kelly was in a position to explain to
Kelly has been “very involved” in negotiations with
Venezuelan officials over assets the government
seized earlier this year after nationalizing the country’s
oil and gas industry. ConocoPhillips is seeking the fair
market value of what Venezuela took, Kelly said.
Kelly has been monitoring moves by U.S. courts to
hold multinational companies responsible for actions
taken by foreign governments with which they do
business. For example, the U.S. Court of Appeals
for the 9th Circuit recently ruled that Chevron could
be held liable for the Nigerian military’s lethal attack
on protesters at the company’s oil facilities there.
Born in Kansas City, Mo., Kelly holds a bachelor’s
degree from Grinnell College and a law degree from
Yale Law School. She and her husband, John, have
two children: Jack and Kate.
A BOOK AND MOVIE
The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, by Sogyal
Rinpoche, and The Bourne Ultimatum.
An earlier version of this profile appeared in The
National Law Journal on Nov. 5, 2007.