Paul Wright was born and raised in upstate New York. He graduated second in his class at Georgetown University’s School of Business Administration in 1966 and received his JD from Georgetown’s Law Center in 1969. Upon graduation, Paul commenced his practice in the energy field by becoming a trial attorney on the staff of the Federal Power Commission (now FERC). During this time, he also served as a 1st Lieutenant in the Army Reserve. On January 1, 1973, he began his career in Exxon Corporation’s Law Department in Houston, Texas.
During his 37 years at ExxonMobil, Paul gained a wealth of legal experience in virtually all aspects of the company’s upstream operations. This experience included handling administrative hearings before FERC and the Department of Interior, drafting all kinds of agreements and, later, managing and participating in a docket of several hundred lawsuits. He also gained considerable experience managing and participating in significant litigation affecting the company’s downstream, chemical, and shipping activities, including cases related to the VALDEZ accident, a series of lawsuits involving patents on motor lubricating oil additives, and cases involving Exxon’s merger with Mobil.
During the last 15 years of Paul’s career with ExxonMobil, he was responsible for the coordination of international disputes. During this period of time, he acted as lead counsel in several of the company’s largest cases, including an arbitration before an ICC Court tribunal in Europe (which was then the largest case ever submitted to the ICC), a case involving a significant claim for damages arising out of the construction of a floating production and storage vessel in the North Sea, and cases alleging serious human rights abuses in Indonesia and South Africa.
Paul thoroughly enjoys working with other lawyers and sharing his experiences and lessons learned in litigation and other forms of dispute resolution with his clients. Over his career at ExxonMobil, he held several managerial positions in its Law Department at several locations. At all times, he preferred to roll up his sleeves and dig into the very core of the matters assigned to him and/or the lawyers reporting to him. He maintains membership in four state bar associations and has found time to be actively involved in bar association activities in the locations where he has served. While in Louisiana, he was one of the founders of the New Orleans Pro Bono Project and was later elected as the second President of the Louisiana Bar Foundation in 1990. More recently, he served as President of the Houston International Arbitration Club and maintains an active association with leading members of the international arbitration community.
Forty-two years of legal practice can teach one a lot about the Rule of Law and how it works as an indispensable tool within a civilized society. Every U.S. citizen justifiably builds up a set of reasonable expectations as to how certain conduct might be allowed, rewarded, or, in some cases, punished under the laws applicable to all of us. This societal overlay is founded in our Constitution and more specifically defined in the federal and state laws and regulations that have developed over time. It can be easy for us to take our freedom and privileges for granted until such time as we seek to do business in less developed nations where the Rule of Law as we know it is far less developed or even non-existent in many critical respects. As business and trade become more global each year, we become increasingly aware not only of the benefits that we have built up in our own society, but how important it is to learn and understand the systems of law that govern business in other nations into which we seek to expand.
Lawyers play a critical role in properly setting their clients’ expectations by reference to the laws and judicial processes that will actually apply to disputes that may unexpectedly arise in places that are unfamiliar to them. One of the more rewarding aspects of my career spanning over 37 years with ExxonMobil was a deep immersion into the laws and judicial processes of several countries with legal systems quite different from our own. Texas law simply has no application in Stavanger, Norway, much less in Jakarta, Indonesia. While local foreign counsel may need to be consulted, the U.S. clients’ business interests are greatly advanced by having their own trusted U.S. counsel fully up to speed and at their side as they enter into major overseas transactions. An experienced lawyer with a healthy knowledge of and respect for international law can play a major role in helping his or her clients anticipate every form of potential dispute that might arise during the life of an international project as well as giving critical advice on such things as choice of law and the selection of a workable dispute resolution mechanism. Such advice gives clients a firmer basis to set reasonable business expectations while providing considerable assurance that they will not be left hanging out to hometown cooking when a dispute arises.
I have always enjoyed the practice of law and the opportunity to expand my horizons as that practice becomes increasingly global in nature. Of greater importance is my desire to share this knowledge and experience as a team player with our clients to best protect their interests and insure their success.