If there’s one thing that David Morris is certain of, it’s that communication is critical to performing his duties. “The number one thing that I’ve learned over the years is to communicate early and often, particularly when it comes to bad news,” says Morris.
As the global head of litigation and associate general counsel for Weatherford, one of the world’s leading oil field service companies, Morris finds that communicating thorny news can sometimes come with the territory. But he says that is one of his most important responsibilities: to get in front of any issues and act quickly and objectively to find a solution.
“I like working with my internal clients on big picture issues and making the difficult decisions,” he says. “When there is risk or potential exposure, you have to communicate that immediately, and you can’t sugarcoat anything. Also, it is so important to learn the personalities of the executives and other decision-makers to know how they want to receive information.”
Morris continues, “As much as it’s my job to navigate the company through litigation, I find it to be just as important to avoid it, if possible. Many times, there’s a dispute because the principals have dug in their heels. I find it is helpful to take that emotion out and search for business solutions to resolve the dispute.”
He adds that managing internal communication is crucial to avoiding risk down the line, whether he’s handling an incident in the field or a commercial matter where many people need to be in the loop.
“Sometimes people start making assumptions about our potential exposure or liability before they know all of the facts, or before they have thoroughly reviewed the relevant contract. It is also possible that there are aspects of the law that they are not familiar with. In those instances, it is not helpful to make those types of assumptions or make statements in writing that just aren’t true and can open us up to exposure later,” he says.
“Getting involved early, I’m able to assist with proper communications, provide a quick analysis of our risk, and work with our internal clients to develop a strategy to move forward,” Morris notes. “Obviously, it is also important to invoke the attorney-client privilege or work-product privilege for our communications as quickly as possible so that we can talk openly about all aspects of the matter without creating evidence for a trial or arbitration.”
“As much as it’s my job to navigate the company through litigation, I find it to be just as important to avoid it, if possible.”
Morris’s background as a trial lawyer and partner at Bracewell in Houston also prepared him for Weatherford by giving him an in-depth primer on commercial litigation. “They had a good practice of getting young attorneys involved with real experience,” Morris explains. “From the start, I was in meeting with clients and was involved with every aspect of the litigation process, including taking part in many trials and arbitrations. That early experience taught me the type of information clients want to hear and the arguments that judges and juries want to hear.”
However, transitioning from a large law firm to serving as senior counsel for a large oil field service company had its challenges. “When I went in-house, I realized quickly that there was a lot to learn about the oil and gas industry, as well as about working in a large organization. It also took some time to learn the best approach to managing outside counsel. There are a lot of different styles, and there were a lot of people who didn’t do things the way I liked,” he recalls. “I spent time observing the outside counsel we were using and then making decisions about maybe moving on from some of those folks and tightening up our roster.”
In addition, Morris immediately needed to learn to be deliberate when working cross-departmentally, particularly with finance. “I started off fairly early working with finance to prepare for potential litigation exposure so that they could book liabilities, and we’ve had a great relationship ever since,” he says, adding that it took time to appreciate all the information finance needed and why it was so important to them.
“Learning just through our communication and experience helped a great deal, so now I can anticipate what information other departments will need, and I can get it to them very quickly,” he continues. “I’ve increased the communication between litigation and other groups because I understand how important it is. Over the years, I believe my colleagues have become more comfortable with the information we’re providing and know that it’s accurate and complete.”
Heim, Payne & Chorush has worked with David on several high stakes patent cases and trials. His support has always been remarkable. Even in the most pressured situations, David is a steady hand and valuable strategist.