Legal Business

Balfour Beatty

  • General counsel and chief corporate officer: Chris Vaughan.
  • Team headcount: 51 lawyers.

It would be fair to say the legal team at international infrastructure group Balfour Beatty has had a tumultuous year with three profit warnings, a chief executive exit and merger talks with rival construction group Carillion. In addition, the team dealt with the sale of its large engineering consulting business Parsons Brinckerhoff to WSP Global in the US in a deal worth £753m.

‘We’ve had a busier year corporately than I can ever remember,’ admits general counsel (GC) and corporate officer Chris Vaughan. ‘It’s been massively intense and we’re still standing, we’re still fighting. In terms of corporate activity we’ve pretty much had it all. It has been a year in which the legal function has been very prominent.’

For Vaughan, a key element of his team’s success is getting quality people properly embedded in the business, as well as proactively managing risk. The legal team also features a number of senior lawyers – notably including head of group legal Keely Hibbitt and David Mercer, GC construction services UK.

And Vaughan’s team, one of a handful credited with spearheading the sole adviser mandate structure with Pinsent Masons, also expects the same from external counsel. According to Vaughan, having Pinsents as a sole adviser has not only engaged the law firm across the business, but has significantly cut costs and added value through other improvements in service.

‘I admire the team at Balfour Beatty, mainly because they trailblazed the arrangement that we then put in place with Pinsents,’ comments Kirin Kalsi, UK head of legal at E.ON. ‘It has changed and is still changing the way we think about external counsel for advice.’