Ledcor was originally established in Canada and moved into the United States roughly 35 years ago. Was there any need for US counsel prior to you joining the company in 2006?
Tom Lofaro: Ledcor is definitely much larger and much more prominent in Canada because that’s where our roots are, but we’ve been in the United States for a while now. At our core, we’re a construction company, but we have become diversified across North America in a multitude of different business units: commercial building, mining, industrial, pipeline, infrastructure, transportation, and real estate investment. To match this, our legal group is made up of seven lawyers, and I am the only counsel in the United States. The Canadian counsel covered most of the issues prior to my hire in 2006, both internally and through a network of external counsel in the United States.
Ledcor is a diverse company, and you have a diverse background. Is this what attracted you to being an in-house counsel for the firm?
TL: I always wanted to get into a corporate-counsel role. I had litigation, transactional, construction, and business experience, so when I joined, I considered myself as having an eclectic background. I think it was a background that fit what Ledcor was looking for because the company needed a generalist in the United States to be able to cover a lot of ground. It also needed someone with business experience, and that obviously goes hand-in-hand with being general counsel. I also had the transactional experience. It was one of those things—right place, right time. You hear it happening all the time but never to you, but it really was the right place and the right time, both for me and for Ledcor.
How important is this generalist approach to working with a diversified construction company such as Ledcor?
TL: I think it’s valuable, but I think I also know where my strengths are, and I certainly know where my weaknesses are. I have one client—Ledcor—and if I’m not comfortable with the subject matter at issue, I generally go out and seek more experienced external counsel. I have a very wide network of external counsel that I rely on, and I mean that more geographically than numerically. There are a small number of firms I rely upon that assist Ledcor in specific geographic regions or with jurisdictional law or specific subject matter.
Ledcor at a Glance
United States HQ
San Diego, CA
Construction, communications, forestry, pipeline planning, and environmental, infrastructural, and real estate work
Did Ledcor’s diversity help it weather the economic downturn in the United States?
TL: One of our largest business units in the United States is the commercial building group, and our group was mainly a private contractor dealing with private developers. Most of that business dried up when the economy broke down. We had to reinvest and reinvent ourselves, and that’s where the diversification of Ledcor really came to bear. We were able to sit down and ask, “What do we do now with this change in landscape?” We are still doing private work now, but we’ve also gone out and done new things such as public work in the educational sector. We’re finding new niches in this marketplace. Our Orange County office is doing a lot of food-processing and manufacturing work, for example. Ledcor didn’t run from the United States. The last four years have certainly been an interesting ride.
Because you joined in 2006, it seems clear that you didn’t just sit by as these strategic conversations took place. You were providing counsel and strategy. What was that like?
TL: As a legal department, we never want to be viewed as a check-the-box department. If that’s all we do, we’re not providing value. I’m constantly in communication with the presidents of our business units, and we talk about what’s going on—what they’re chasing, new areas they want to explore. I’m not just providing a legal opinion, but I’m also offering my own opinion of those decisions based on my experience. As with any lawyer, I’m concentrating on all areas, but my interests are focused on the front end and being involved in new opportunities, and when these opportunities come up, our goal is always to protect the shareholders and set the project teams and business units up for success. ABQ