With extensive international experience in private practice and in-house Stefan is now Commercial and Legal Director, Company Secretary and the Chief Risk Officer at EnQuest PLC. He is also a non-executive director of The Offshore Pollution Liabilitity Association Limited. Stefan has worked in London, Paris, Dubai, Singapore, Jakarta and Hong Kong and been involved in energy related projects and transactions across all continents. He has expertise in M&A, project development, debt and equity finance, disputes and governance and risk management.
His previous positions include being global General Counsel at BG Group plc (an Executive Committee role and when appointed reputedly the youngest general counsel in the FTSE 100) and, as a partner in Fulbright & Jaworski LLC, leading the top-ranked Asia-Pacific energy practice of the largest Texan law firm.
OPL: Have you always wanted to be a lawyer?
Stefan: No. I became a lawyer because I studied law at University. I thought of it as a useful grounding and then grew into it later on.
OPL: Why did you move from private practice to in-house?
Stefan: I wanted to be more of a generalist than a specialist. I enjoy working across a broad range of issues and a move in house offered me the opportunity to continue to diversify my skillset.
OPL: What does your current legal team look like?
Stefan: EnQuest has a lean Legal team of under ten lawyers based in Aberdeen, London and Kuala Lumpur. The team coordinates closely with the Commercial team and we have separate resources to cover Company Secretariat and Risk Management.
OPL: How much legal work do you handle in house vs outsourcing to law firms?
Stefan: It depends what is going on. Outside counsel will support the in-house function where the additional resourcing is appropriate. This may be on litigation, complex financing work, material M&A or where specialist advice is required.
OPL: What attributes do you look for when assigning outside counsel?
Stefan: The most important attribute is excellence. Finding a good level of technical competence is, happily, not difficult. So the most important differentiators for me are lawyers who understand what is needed to meet the business imperative and deliver a user friendly product quickly (and cost effectively of course!).
OPL: Are there any particular individuals or law firms you have really enjoyed working with over the years?
Stefan: Both Huw Thomas at Ashurst and Brandon Nolan at Pinsent Masons are excellent at what they do. They both deliver succinct clear and commercial legal support, quickly understanding what is needed.
OPL: What is your secret to running a productive in-house legal team?
Stefan: It is entirely about the right people. That involves hiring, development and culture. Having a team of lawyers around you who are first rate proactive contributors will bring respect for the function and frees the GC to focus on his or her priorities. Once the right people are in place don’t micromanage them. Instead focus on ensuring that the right sort of things are escalated in the right way for the GC and other business leaders to engage with them most effectively.
OPL: What types of challenges do you anticipate facing over the coming months?
Stefan: I expect the answer most general counsel will give is Brexit. However, this isn’t a huge factor for us at the moment. The most important factor in our business tends to be oil price movements.
OPL: What has been a highlight in your career as a lawyer?
Stefan: I have most enjoyed the occasions where situations involving legal argument have been leveraged into significant commercial opportunities and business growth. . I also really love to have news of accomplishments of lawyers from my teams (whether at BG, Fulbright or EnQuest) after they (or I ) have moved on.
OPL: What is the most rewarding thing about your role?
Stefan: Being across everything. As a General Counsel I get to sit across almost all the key matters effecting the business. I love the breadth of work I am able to get involved with as it keeps me motivated and engaged.
OPL: What advice would you give to a young lawyer starting out in their career?
Stefan: Run! However, if you are committed to a career in the law the most important thing is to get a good grounding and quality experience early on in a field you enjoy as this will set you up for success later on.
OPL: What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Stefan: I have 3 children and my eldest is just about to start studying law! My free time is taken up with domestic and family duties which I do love really. There isn’t much spare time for golf or other activities these days.