Growing up the son of a South Texas rancher and educator, William Turcotte learned about facing tough times, long days of manual labor and the importance of a great education.
Turcotte needed those principles the past two years as the general counsel at Noble Corporation. In a matter of months, he led the offshore drilling contractor in and out of bankruptcy, eliminating $3.4 billion in bond debt. Only weeks after emerging from Chapter 11, Noble acquired Pacific Drilling. In November 2021, Turcotte and Noble were at it again, closing a $3.13 billion all-stock merger with Maersk Drilling.
Recently Mark Curriden, founder of The Texas Lawbook asked Turcotte about the influences on his life, as well as what he looks for and expects from outside counsel.
For Mark Curriden’s full profile of William Turcotte Click Here.
Texas Lawbook: What are one or two life-impacting experiences you’ve had?
William Turcotte: I lost my father when I was a sophomore in college. Frankly, I wasn’t prepared for something like that, and did not handle it well initially. Ultimately, however, my family, friends, upbringing and the relationship I had with my father helped me get oriented. It made a lasting impression on me in so many fundamental ways, some of which I didn’t appreciate until fairly recently.
Lawbook: Prior to 2020 and Covid, what were one or two of your biggest successes at Noble?
Turcotte: While we did two separate redomiciliations, a major acquisition and worked our way through the Panalpina/Nigeria FCPA investigation that involved a number of oil and gas companies, I think my biggest success was building a successful legal and compliance department from scratch. Noble was a large, international, public company but had no legal department when I joined. It was a little nerve-racking, especially as we had just announced a redomiciliation to Switzerland. However, we were able to build a great group that had wonderful working relationships with each other as well as throughout the organization. We had to largely do it again when we spun off a large part of our business in 2014.
Lawbook: What do you look for in hiring outside counsel?
Turcotte: We manage risk. No organization can simply avoid it. Many attorneys find potential problems, which is great. However, we then have to decide how to address those issues. I need a top lawyer, but one that can work as a partner and identify strongly with Noble and the situation we are in.
Lawbook: Do you have pet peeves regarding outside counsel?
Turcotte: Over-staffing and not getting to the point.
Lawbook: What does outside counsel need to know about you?
Turcotte: I expect to get things done but feel comfortable that we are appropriately managing risk. We need proactive and creative attorneys who understand Noble and feel a sense of responsibility for the company.
Lawbook: How important is diversity in your hiring of outside counsel and how important is it that corporate clients hold their firms to specific diversity standards and fire them if they do not meet those standards?
Turcotte: It’s absolutely important, but frankly we all have to do a better job when it comes to diversity. I do believe most firms put a tremendous amount of effort into improving diversity, and that’s where it should start. It is a process, so while we are corporations that can hold firms accountable, we should also be realistic as to what progress needs to look like. We need to do our own part as well.