Caitlin Westgarth

BCom 2001, LLB 2003

Caitlin Westgarth is Legal Counsel with Shell Development (Australia) Pty Ltd. She graduated from the University of Sydney with a BCom ‘00 and an LLB (Hons 1) ’02.

Caitlin originally wanted to be a dentist because she enjoyed maths, physics and chemistry. But after not achieving the necessary GAMSAT result for dentistry, her life took a very different path. She enrolled instead in a combined commerce/law degree at the University of Sydney and has not looked back since. ‘To be honest, it may have been a blessing in disguise,’ she smiles.

During her degree, Caitlin developed a passion for environmental law. Her first job was as a judge’s associate at the
NSW Land and Environment Court, from where she moved on to environmental litigation work at Mallesons Stephen Jaques and then to environmental and planning transactional and advisory work at Denton Wilde Sapte in London.

In 2007, she made the pivotal decision to return to Australia and settle in Perth at the height of the mining boom. She gained a position in the busy energy and resources department of Allens Arthur Robinson, where she began her incarnation as a resources and energy law specialist and was subsequently made a senior associate.

Later came an opportunity to step into her current role on the in-house legal team of Shell Development (Australia) - a job she has an obvious passion for, saying that it is ‘top notch work that every lawyer in a law firm would like to get their hands on.’

A constant challenge, she says, is providing advice on issues as diverse as joint ventures, contract law, competition law, mergers and acquisitions, administrative law and property law, all with resources that are not, on the whole, as extensive as those of private practice.

An ever-present issue in her day-to-day work at Shell is employee safety. ‘Petroleum activities are dangerous and no one can afford to be complacent,’ she says. ‘I’ve heard a number of CEOs of petroleum and also mining companies say that their greatest fear is being called to say there has been a fatality on one of their projects.’

Indeed, she considers it a responsibility of petroleum company employees, including the in-house legal team, to ask questions constantly, take an active role in making sure activities are conducted safely, and push for high operating standards to be rigorously adopted and implemented.

Caitlin believes deeply that she and her colleagues in the resources and energy sector have a responsibility to both understand their companies’ impact on the environment and to minimise that impact as much as possible through best practice strategies.

‘Although some people may find it hard to believe that people who work in the petroleum industry care about the environment, there are a lot of us out there with that philosophy.’

The views expressed in this article are the views of Caitlin Westgarth only and do not represent the views of Shell Development (Australia) Pty Ltd.