At a Glance
Engineering, consulting, and construction management for energy, environmental, and infrastructure projects
What is the overall role of your department in what TRC does?
Martin Dodd: A lot of the work we do is driven by big construction and development projects. Commonly, we’re on a team with a construction or demolition contractor, and we work closely with other project participants, including architects, engineers, and a variety of subcontractors. There is a heightened role for lawyers on these types of jobs, where the contractual documents are often complex and the projects have longer durations. There’s a reason it’s called the “contracting” business.
When do you and your legal staff get involved?
MD: We spend a lot of time working with clients, including on the front end when we are selling our services for a new project. In the proposal stage, we help clients understand the legal and regulatory issues that will be involved. And while many of the clients we work with have their own legal staff, they hire our consultants for the expertise and horsepower needed to get permitting for projects.
What happens once the project is underway?
MD: Lawyers get involved up front in clarifying everyone’s roles and responsibilities, but we’re also seeing an ongoing need for counsel in the actual project-management process, in the continual interpretation of scope items, [in] administering change orders, [in] preventing claims, and [in] dealing with regulatory agencies. In fact, at project meetings, especially on large urban projects, everybody brings their lawyer, and it’s not uncommon for half the people in the room to be members of the legal profession.
Half the room?
MD: That may seem expensive, and I know it sounds oxymoronic, but this is an area where lawyers can actually be helpful. It’s important, however, to use counsel that understand your business and the technical construction issues and who have a pragmatic business perspective to see beyond the legal side of things and help pave the way to the ultimate objective of getting the project built.
Some of the projects you work on are very public and probably affect where people live as well as how their tax dollars are spent. Does legal have to play a role in public hearings, and does it get contentious?
MD: Some of our work can involve public hearings, particularly with environmental projects where there is a good deal of citizen interest. Sometimes it can get a little contentious, but for the most part people are very civil as their legitimate concerns are debated.
We hear so much about the need to address our nation’s infrastructure, and yet there is a serious lack of public funding available. What do you see in that regard?
MD: We do a lot of work for state departments of transportation related to inspection, building, or rebuilding of roads and bridges. Just drive around and you’ll see the need to fix our infrastructure, and as a country we definitely have to find solutions where there is a shortage of money. From our business perspective, the long-term infrastructure market is strong. The real challenge is in [figuring out] what needs to get done with the available resources.
Speaking of the long term, TRC is growing. Tell us about your involvement there.
MD: Our objective is to take a balanced approach to profitable growth, both through organic growth and acquisition. We have done three acquisitions in the last 12 months. It’s important to be focused on integration right from the outset, both culturally and operationally. This is especially important for a public company like TRC in light of the Sarbanes Oxley Act, which requires consistent documentation and testing of internal controls and procedures. Acquisitions are part of the real fun for an in-house lawyer, [who serves] as the focal point of documenting the deal and welcoming the acquired firm to the family. ABQ