Malika Herring knows no one can find success or overcome challenges entirely by themselves. Over the course of her career, she has received support and found inspiration from people she has met along her path. That willingness—and eagerness—to nurture and develop relationships has helped enable Herring’s success as senior litigation counsel at BP. She hopes to continue to give back and help institutionalize a giving and people-first culture.
A journalism major at the University of Houston, Herring enrolled in the Loyola University New Orleans School of Law in 1998. At Loyola, Herring says, she became very involved in campus life and developed close bonds with many different people, “as many people do in school,” Herring points out. “But one day several years postgraduation, while I was working in private practice, I ran into one of my classmates, who let me know about an available in-house position with his employer, Walmart, in Bentonville, Arkansas. He also endorsed me internally for the role.
After I gained the position, I received an incredible learning experience and an opportunity to meet some amazing people,” Herring says. But more than that, years later, “it really gave me the experience above other candidates when I applied to BP in Houston. Additional relationships proved helpful, as I was able to call several people I knew at BP to discuss the posted position and learn about the company culture beforehand. I am forever thankful for my classmate and the people I have met and worked with along the way who have contributed to my success. Those experiences reinforced for me how important it is to develop relationships and to be a resource for others. It makes a difference, and I make efforts to do that when appropriate.”
Today, as senior litigation counsel at BP, Herring still relies on the power of relationships to help manage the oil and gas corporation’s immense portfolio of work. “I have a bit of a volume practice; I handle hundreds of cases at any given time,” Herring explains. “I also manage litigation across eighteen to twenty-three different states, so I partner with our internal business clients and with many law firms who help us defend the company in both commercial and tort matters.
“Between those external partnerships and our amazing people working internally,” she continues, “we have strategic coverage of litigation and risks to address and resolve any issues the company faces. I depend on those relationships to achieve success for the company.”
“Malika’s strategic leadership of her virtual legal team provides effective and efficient management of litigation for BP nationwide,” says Cathie Pyune McEldowney of Maron Marvel Bradley Anderson & Tardy, a law firm that serves BP as national coordinating and local counsel in matters throughout the US. “She’s intelligent, thoughtful, and a subject matter expert. We’re honored to support her.”
With external and internal teams alike, Herring strives to be a team player and foster relationships. She has been both mentor and mentee in formal, internal BP mentoring programs as well as in more informal settings. “That’s something that is part of my fiber,” she reflects. “I try to find opportunities to be a resource for others, to give time to those seeking it, and sincerely thank people for their help. I am truly a recipient of those gifts from others.”
A Focus on Sustainability
The world is seeing an ever-increasing need for energy so that people and communities everywhere are able to function and thrive. BP knows that that energy must be sourced and delivered by people as responsibly as possible:
$500 million invested in low-carbon activities every year
Zero net growth in operational emissions achieved in 2018
5,000+ employees trained on human performance to help prevent errors
$12.5 million donated to global humanitarian relief activities
67 percent of the freshwater used in BP operations is returned to the environment
Herring has had a lot to thank her colleagues for throughout her eleven years at BP, she says. Even in the most challenging times, such as the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill, the people of BP work closely together to learn from their challenges to help build a better future.
“I am fortunate to have worked for BP both before and after the Deepwater Horizon event,” Herring remarks. “As a result, I have become intimately familiar with both the business of BP and other people working in the industry. This experience has primed me to further understand the power of people. BP is an organization that really does put people and safety first.
“Of course, the company and the industry as a whole have changed and evolved over the years,” she adds. “In the legal department, we’ve been able to provide guidance and information based on a real understanding of our company’s experiences. Many of us, including myself, lived those experiences alongside the business.”
That type of informed advice and counseling makes a real difference to the organization, Herring notes, and having that kind of impact and working with great people are just a couple of the things she loves most about working at BP.
According to Herring, the company as a whole is dedicated to making a positive impact on the world, whether through its sustainability efforts or its various diversity and inclusion initiatives.
“Diversity and inclusion are very important to BP for myriad reasons,” Herring says. “We are a global business, and it’s important that the differences we see in the world around us are reflected in our workplace as well as within our suppliers.”
She notes, “Diversity and inclusion are also a core belief of the company, and one of my passions as well.” As the current Americas chair of the BP Legal Ethics and Compliance Diversity and Inclusion Committee, she works with twelve to fifteen other passionate BP employees who have made a commitment to recruiting and retaining top diverse talent.
Herring is also a member of the legal department’s external counsel management committee, which helps BP’s legal department manage and evaluate its relationships with outside legal partners.
“That committee, among other things, obtains the diversity and inclusion data of our external law firms so that we can review and discuss that information,” Herring explains. “For the past few years, we have recognized the external law firms who are really showing up and making strides in diversity and inclusion and honored them through an award program. However, there is so much more work to do in this area, and we remain positive and committed.”
Through her participation in such committees, Herring ensures that she is fostering relationships with individuals and firms that are not only efficient but also devoted to upholding BP’s values. “Everyone at BP, myself included, wants to do our part to add value and to help the company and its partners mirror the communities in which we serve,” Herring emphasizes. “People and relationships have made a difference professionally and personally.”
Miller Nash Graham & Dunn LLP:
“Malika is an exceptionally skilled and driven attorney who leads a dynamic team at BP. We’re pleased to recognize Malika for her invaluable contributions!”
–Trajan Perez, Partner