Name: Sheena Sood
Job title: Senior Partner
Company name: Beale & co
• What does the company do and what areas does it specialise in?
Beale & Co is an International Construction and Insurance Law Specialist. We have been providing specialist legal advice to the construction, engineering and infrastructure sector for over 50 years and are recognised leaders in the legal directories. Our lawyers understand and advise on all aspects of the construction process from beginning to end, drafting standard conditions of contract and bespoke contracts, providing assistance with tenders and contract reviews, giving practical advice on issues that arise during the life of a project, and dispute avoidance and resolution advice should things go wrong. Working with construction professionals and their insurers we offer cost-effective advice focused on finding solutions to difficult problems. Our lawyers have advised construction professionals on some of the most prestigious projects both at home and abroad including the Battersea Power Station, HS2, Crossrail, or the M25 in the UK; wind farm and motorway projects in Ireland; the Metro 2020 in Dubai, Abu Dhabi International Airport, Bangkok Airport and the Sual Power Station in the Philippines.
• Where is Beale & Co located?
We have offices in London, Bristol, Dublin and Dubai.
• How many people does the company employ?
We have over 90 lawyers working across the four offices and employ over 160 staff in total.
• How long have you worked at Beale & Co?
After completing my law degree with Brunel University I started my training contract (called articles in those days!) with Beale & Co in 1990, qualifying in 1992. I have stayed at the firm since qualification and so have been working at Beale & Co for over 30 years now.
• What is your career background, and what enticed you to work for Beale & Co?
My law degree at Brunel University was a thin sandwich LLB course and involved working in industry for 3 summers out of the 4 years of the course. The first industry experience I gained was working within the legal department of the London Borough of Hounslow for 6 months. Working with its dedicated lawyers on child protection issues was eye opening. I then sought to obtain experience in a private practice law firm which I discovered was difficult, especially with no links to the legal industry. I wrote letters to a number of different firms requesting work experience placements. Of the letters I wrote, two law firms responded, one of which was Beale & Co which then offered me a placement. During this placement and subsequent placements with them, I worked closely with Antony Smith on contentious construction work, gaining great experience. This is where I gained an avid interest in the construction industry. I particularly enjoyed helping clients to get disputes solved and the ‘highs and lows’ of litigation. Mainly the highs! The skills required go beyond pure legal knowledge.
• What is your current role within Beale & Co and what does a typical day entail?
I am the Senior Partner of Beale & Co. My role involves advising clients on a diverse range of professional negligence claims and contractual disputes, advising engineers, architects, contractors, health and safety professionals and surveyors. I work across all sectors of the construction industry and really enjoy getting to grips with the different issues of importance.
Another significant part of my role involves working alongside colleagues in the leadership team in leading the strategy and direction of the firm and management of various issues internally. I have an external facing role representing the firm with a significant part of my time spent on business development. I also contribute regularly to trade press including authoring articles and thought leadership pieces for Building magazine and Infrastructure Intelligence.
As a partner led firm I am closely involved with all of my cases and a typical day will involve work on client matters, liaison with team members working on those cases, business development and internal management and administration.
• What are the company’s core values?
At Beale & Co, we are interested in doing a good job, well. For us that involves thinking holistically about people, having the highest standards, and achieving the best possible sustainable outcomes for all. Our values drive every aspect of what we do as a business, from how we treat our clients and colleagues to how we treat the community and the environment around us. Our core values are:
People matter – one team, one firm.
We believe in a ‘one team, one firm’ approach which prioritises respect for people and their contributions. We foster an inclusive environment where we can be authentic with each other and our clients. Above all we value each other’s mental and physical health and well-being. We have a strong ethos and commitment to collaboration and teamwork founded on listening and action.
Straight and honourable dealing
We value and operate with openness in all our dealings. We aim for the highest possible standards of integrity and fairness as an employer and provider of legal services.
Best possible outcomes
We value hard work, innovation and sustainability. We continually seek to be the best we possibly can be for our people, our clients and our community.
• Are there any projects or achievements which Beale & Co are particularly proud to have been a part of?
I’m proud to say that, in recent years, Beale & Co has advised on numerous high-profile projects and disputes in the UK and internationally including signature buildings in the City of London, Baku sports stadium in Azerbaijan, HS2, Crossrail, Dubai 2020 to name a few.
• How important is sustainability within the company?
Sustainability is hugely important to us. Sustainable business has at its heart the understanding that the success of a business relies intrinsically on doing what is best for the environment, clients, employees, communities and all other stakeholders. Writing this during the Covid-19 pandemic I am struck by how true this is.
Companies around the world are facing growing pressure to become more socially and environmentally responsible. As a firm, we believe that we should do more than simply acknowledge the importance of doing the right thing but also strive to deliver value to everyone connected directly or indirectly to our business.
Our strategy for delivering sustainable business is based on ‘Four Pillars’ which form the foundation of our approach to being a responsible business.
Our ‘Four Pillars’ are:
Community: We recognise that the way we deal with our stakeholder clients, employees and suppliers has a huge impact on the communities in which we operate and goes far wider than the simple delivery of legal services.
Employees: Our people are our most valuable asset and we are committed to nurturing a working environment that our people can say they are both proud of, and can relate to.
Environment: Any sustainable future needs to consider environmental impact
Marketplace: We run our business with integrity and we are proud of that. We are committed to sustainable and socially responsible business practise, and we expect the same standards from all those we work with.
While we are a relatively small firm of approximately 160 staff in total, we aim to instil a culture of sustainable business in all of our Partners and employees to be a force for good, focusing on these four key pillars; Community, Employees, Environment, and Marketplace.
We are evolving as a firm, just as our four pillars are evolving, and there is more that we want to do. We are reviewing whether or not we might sign up to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and we look forward to sharing our progress in the future.
• How does Beale & Co support graduates and early career professionals who are entering the industry?
We aim to take on up to seven trainee solicitors across our offices each year, providing them with the first-class legal experience and business skills they will need to succeed as a lawyer. Trainees work alongside our partners in the fields of construction (UK and international), insurance and corporate/commercial. From the start of the training programme we give them a hands-on role and they are a real part of the team providing the quality service upon which we have built our reputation. We value our trainees and their contribution and give them opportunities to build relationships with clients and take responsibility for their own matters. We offer our trainees and newly qualified solicitors an extensive programme of internal training and CPD on a number of topics both legal and commercial to assist with their career development.
Not only do we provide training to our own staff but we believe in the importance of providing training to our clients and regularly run CPD events to assist with development of legal knowledge and risk management capabilities within their legal teams.
• How has COVID- 19 affected the day to day running of the company? How have staff adapted?
As a firm we have responded very well to the changes brought on by the pandemic. Fortunately, we trialled remote working across the firm a week before lockdown so the transfer to working from home for us was fairly smooth and we are pleased to say that we have suffered few if any adverse reactions to the new circumstances. Staff have adapted well to the new way of working. We have rolled out software across the firm to enable colleagues to communicate and collaborate via online meetings which has been vital to maintaining our productivity during the pandemic.
What became apparent to everyone at the start of the first lockdown was the potential impact on the mental wellbeing of staff in all forms of business. Not only have people needed to adapt to a new way of working but they have also needed to adapt to a new way of living which in some cases has left people at danger of feeling isolated and anxious. In order to promote the importance of mental health and mental wellbeing internally we have developed a number of initiatives, classes and workshops through our ‘Wellness Teams’ across each of our offices. Our aim is to encourage openness, team bonding, creativity, the development of new skills, physical health and hobbies. Examples of these include social coffee mornings, Spanish classes, yoga sessions, book clubs, cookery and art classes and magic and comedy nights.
• Why do you feel the AGS is important to the industry?
Trade associations such as the AGS are vital for the improvement of quality, health and safety, environmental practices and technical standards. Through networking, training and education and the provision of industry expertise to policy makers the AGS strives to improve the profile and standards of the geotechnical and geoenvironmental engineering industry.
• What are Beale & Co’s future ambitions?
To maintain our specialist focus, to maintain our independence, to continue to develop high quality lawyers to undertake high quality works for its clients.
Beale and Co were Diamond sponsors of the AGS’ Loss Prevention webinar series; Commercial Risks and How to Manage Them; Basic Contractual Risk Mitigation and Limited Particular Liabilities.