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Title: Assistant General Counsel – Litigation, Human Resources and Health, Environmental & Safety Law Location: Houston Age: 40 Diplomacy in Action “I am never without an opinion,” Marathon Oil Corp.’s Sylvia J. Kerrigan says. Typically, “opinionated” is a derogatory term reserved for those who spout off about anything and everything, without the benefit of actual knowledge. With Kerrigan, the situation is quite different, her colleagues say. “Her opinions are always well-founded. I have never seen Sylvia have to retract an opinion,” says Greg Dykes, Marathon Oil’s business unit leader for the southern United States, adding that her litigation judgment is equally sound. He says they started working together when Kerrigan was assigned the Gulf of Mexico territory, which included a host of old cases filed in Louisiana. She quickly cleared the deck, usually in favor of the company. Now that Kerrigan manages the litigation section, she keeps the bottom line at the top of her mind. “We’re going through a process-improvement upgrade right now. It’s a two-year initiative where we’re looking at a number of different ways to handle and manage litigation more efficiently and effectively,” Kerrigan says. Her department restructured some mature, repetitive dockets on a flat-fee basis, resulting in regular savings in six figures. The litigation section is also working on early case assessment, e-billing, and improved management and tracking systems. And she has chosen one firm to manage discovery for the company’s asbestos docket. Kerrigan also wants to update how Marathon purchases outside legal services. She is on the advisory council of the National Association of Minority and Women Owned Law Firms and is putting the association’s goals into action at Marathon. “We do have internal targets and stretch goals for using minority- or women-owned businesses. I think it’s important to give everybody a fair opportunity to succeed,” she says. Kerrigan was offered the litigation-section position while she was on sabbatical, serving on the world arbitral stage for the United Nations’ Security Council/Compensation Commission following the Persian Gulf War. During her 2000-2001 tenure as team leader for valuing loss claims from energy companies, she participated in the biggest arbitral award to any energy company at the time, $15.9 billion to Kuwait Petroleum Corp. The diplomacy that served her well in the Middle East is not lost on her colleagues. Fellow assistant general counsel Bud Bossley remembers an ugly get-to-know-you meeting with an unhappy client, early in Kerrigan’s Marathon tenure. “He was just not pleased at all with the services that we were giving him,” Bossley recalls. He even apologized to Kerrigan afterward, but rather than take offense, she took action. Kerrigan “really turned that situation around. Within a matter of six months, that same fellow was telling me that things were going great,” Bossley says.

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