Chevron senior counsel Siva Barnwell Adams worked mornings, nights and weekends in 2020 as the top lawyer representing the energy giant in its $13 billion acquisition of Noble Energy, which was the largest oil and gas transaction during the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic. Her inspiration to give it her all came 37 years earlier, when she was working part-time at Arby’s and faced an angry Clear Lake High School track coach. “Today, when I think of giving 100%, I think of her.”
Today, a lot of her colleagues think of Siva Adams when reflecting on the idea of giving 100%.
Mark Curriden, founder of The Lawbook asked her about what it takes these days to be an in-house lawyer, and what it takes for a law firm to work for Chevron.
Texas Lawbook: You have been in-house for 20 years. How has the role of the in-house lawyer changed?
Siva Barnwell Adams: Back when I started at Texaco, I think we often thought of our jobs as policing the business: Not only ensuring that the company’s actions complied with the law, but also making sure that all risks were minimized. As a result, clients sometimes saw us as a stop sign for the business. Over time, the in-house role has evolved to become more of a business partner, working with our clients to achieve the business objectives within the regulatory and legal frameworks and ensuring that decisions are within the company’s risk tolerance.
Lawbook: What do you look for in hiring outside counsel?
Adams: Assuming skill and expertise are somewhat equal, I am looking for counsel that comes to the table armed with knowledge about Chevron and our industry and that listens to understand what is important to me and to my clients. I am looking for counsel that abides Chevron’s outside counsel guidelines, wants to build a long-term partnership and doesn’t view the engagement as a mere revenue stream. And finally, I am looking for someone that I enjoy working with and can trust.
Lawbook: Do you have pet peeves regarding outside counsel?
Adams: I do have some. Outside counsel should keep in mind that we are working to serve our business clients. You should strive to not make that task more challenging for us. In that vein, if I call you about a potential deal, don’t hype your capabilities. It leads to overpromising and underdelivering, which can undermine our credibility with our client. Also, if you tell me that you will deliver work product by a certain date, you should actually deliver work product by that date. And finally, don’t tout your firm’s commitment to diversity, then staff your team with non-diverse lawyers. These should be no-brainers.
For Mark Curriden’s full profile of Siva Barnwell Adams Click Here.
Lawbook: What does outside counsel need to know about you?
Adams: I appreciate people who get to the point and are brief about it. My eyes start to glaze when there is a lot of unnecessary talking or churning. But I do enjoy a good story.
Lawbook: How important is diversity in your hiring of outside counsel? Have you ever fired a law firm for its lack of diversity or would you under what conditions?
Adams: Chevron is a global energy company with diverse employees and customers all over the word. If you attend a client meeting at Chevron, it’s highly probable that you will encounter a diverse group of professionals. If you show up with non-diverse teams, it appears tone-deaf. Also, diverse teams tend to make better strategic recommendations, especially on international deals. So yes, diversity is an important factor when I select outside counsel. However, I have never fired a law firm for its lack of diversity. Instead, we reward firms for their demonstrated commitment to diversity through our annual diversity awards program.
Lawbook: What are one or two life-impacting experiences you’ve had?
Adams: Getting married and having children have been my biggest life-impacting moments. My husband (who is also a lawyer) and I married later in life. Sharing every day of our lives was a huge adjustment after we had both been so focused on our careers. Soon after we got married, we had our daughter, Olivia. Nothing can humble you emotionally, physically and spiritually quite like a newborn. She needed and deserved the best parts of us, unquestionably. It was a pretty big wake up call for us, and we had to shift our thinking and put our careers into perspective. And then after our adorable son, Ed, came along, we had to admit that those two completely owned us. And while our careers are still very important to us, we have two little people that are our forever trump card.