On Merit Alone

Amira Love on managing Chevron’s North America upstream litigation and achieving success

Amira Love is a firm believer in meritocracy. As the youngest of four, Love says she quickly learned that not shying away from opportunity and being vocal were essential in making her opinions heard. By leveraging her confidence and willingness to grow, Love has banked litigation experiences so varied that her past case memos might read as a mashup of three different lawyers.

Earlier this year, Love was named the first woman managing counsel for Chevron’s North America upstream litigation management unit. Prior to Chevron, she garnered experience on both the plaintiff and defendant sides of high-stakes litigation matters at a litigation boutique. In short, anyone finding Love on the other end of a bargaining table may do better to leave the room.

Amira Love, Managing Counsel, Upstream
Litigation Management Unit, Chevron Photo by Julie Soefer Photography

Love has truly climbed the ladder of experience at Chevron and demonstrated not only legal capability but also a capacity for development and evolution in her legal roles. Her penchant for ingenuity was present upon her first interview at Chevron. When her future supervisor told her flat out that they were looking for someone with more years of legal experience, Love was convinced she was sunk. But she’s a fighter and always looking to win, so she reframed the scope of the question.

“I explained that I had billed three thousand hours per year, every year at a litigation boutique,” Love says. “And while I was sure they were interviewing candidates with more ‘years’ of experience, I had worked just as many hours and likely had more practical litigation experience.” The job was hers.

Love immediately fell in love with her new in-house role at Chevron. “The company and its people are great, the law department is first in class, and the outside counsel are some of the best in the world,” she says. Love quickly developed a reputation as a lawyer who liked to be challenged and could think and move fast, aggressively, and strategically. “I had a different background than most people who traditionally go in-house,” Love says. “And I think that gave me an edge.” 

Love’s background includes first clerking for the Honorable Carolyn Dineen King on the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and then working at litigation boutique Susman Godfrey, where, Love says, she was thrown into the deep end. In clerking for King, Love says she learned a deep appreciation for the judge’s no-nonsense and apolitical mentorship. “She was very particular and a stickler for detail,” Love says. “The clerkship taught me what it means to be a good attorney and a powerful advocate.”

Litigation at Susman Godfrey provided a multitude of opportunities because it involved work on both the plaintiff and defense sides on a wide variety of commercial matters. Love says she developed the ability to properly evaluate cases at the beginning. “It’s all business in a firm, and you can’t pick a loser case on contingency,” Love says. “You have to know how to properly risk a case, evaluate your chances of winning, and plot the path to get there. It’s actually what in-house litigators do every day.” Love says being trained as a plaintiff’s lawyer also taught her how to be more proactive and strategic on the defense side.

After scoring early success at Chevron, Love had the opportunity to work on the litigation team for two high-profile cases. The first was Big Foot, Chevron’s $4 billion investment in one of the largest oil fields in the Gulf of Mexico. Big Foot’s hull is an extended tension-leg platform, and during the 2015 installation, nine tendons sank, stalling production until 2018. Love was the legal advisor to the team tasked to determine the root cause of the tendons’ falling. The team included extremely skilled engineers, and Love was ultimately bestowed with an “honorary degree” by others on the team for the amount of civil and mechanical engineering knowledge she accumulated during the project. The team’s work and Love’s advice to the business were critical in favorably resolving the matter.

On the back of that success, Love worked on Chevron’s challenge of the Measure Z initiative, which sought to ban underground injection and new well development in Monterey County, California, where Chevron operates its San Ardo field. Love led the team through the trial, where Chevon prevailed.

Love now manages a team of ten who handle litigation and investigative matters impacting Chevron North America Exploration and Production and certain corporate service companies. The lawyer says her team’s success is now her success, and a large part of her job is helping them reach their potential. As a manager, Love focuses on getting the work done well, providing immediate feedback, and streamlining processes and workflows to be more efficient.

Love’s own success is important to her because of how hard her parents worked on her behalf. Love’s German American mother was a schoolteacher, and her Lebanese immigrant father was an engineer; their self-started export company was a beneficiary of Love’s early accounting work. As a seven-year-old rechecking the company books with her siblings, Love discovered a $5,000 accounting error. “I just remember being paraded around the house,” Love says. “I just really want to make them proud of me, even today.”

Now with two boys of her own, Love says she’s trying to raise her boys the same way that her parents raised her, with character front and center. “I want them to work hard and strive to make their parents proud,” Love says. And while they may not be spotting any four-figure accounting errors, it’s likely that Love’s sons have realized the futility of arguing with their mom.