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Global Vantage: Interview with Lyndon Richards

December 2020
Lyndon Richards

New partner at our Dubai Office, Lyndon Richards, provides us with an interview and gives us an insight into his legal career and how he has progressed through the years.

Why did you choose law?

I was born and raised in South Wales. Like most teenagers, I wrestled with which career path to follow. I settled on the law after a discussion with a friend who was a partner in a small firm. I was inspired by the fervour, with which he spoke about the law and by learning how it affects most aspects of our lives.

I completed my degree in Law and Psychology, the Law Society Finals at Chester Law School and I started as a trainee solicitor with Beale & Company in September 1991.

Why did you choose Beale & Co?

The answer is simple, their enthusiasm for the law was infectious. They portrayed a hard working environment but with a family like atmosphere. I am pleased to say, this was the case then and, is still the case today.

Beale & Co is a specialist firm so it is a great environment to hone your legal skills but it also gave me the added advantage of developing a deep sector knowledge. This is incredibly satisfying as a lawyer but also means we are able to provide a first rate service to our clients. Being a specialist firm it tends to attract talented lawyers who are passionate about construction and insurance.

Give us a synopsis of your career to date?

As a trainee at Beale & Co, from the outset, I was involved in a number of high profile cases including litigation on the Lloyd’s Building in London and Health and a Safety prosecution on the Severn Bridge. The learning curve was steep but it was an incredibly supportive environment.

Throughout my career I have moved in and out of private practice for a variety of different reasons. In 1994, I went in-house, working for a national contractor where I handled non-contentious and contentious matters, including employment, property, insurance and company secretarial matters.

I moved back to private practice and worked in the City on domestic as well as international disputes. These included a dispute concerning Chek Lap Kok Airport in Hong Kong.

I re-joined Beale & Company in 1999, and became a partner in 2002. It was around the time that the “Construction Act” was enacted. It was a great time to be involved in Adjudications as lawyers were continually challenging decisions, which rapidly developed the law.

With the introduction of the Civil Procedure Rules and the focus on Alternative Dispute Resolution, I became involved in a number of Mediations.

I qualified as a Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR) Mediator in 2013. This has been a very useful addition to my skills, enabling me to act as a Mediator and on behalf of clients in Mediations.

I have always wanted to work abroad so when the role of Middle East and North Africa Legal Director for WS Atkins & Partners in Dubai in 2014 came up, I took it. When I joined Atkins I was immediately struck by the size of the projects and the tight programmes that were involved.

Every week, I reviewed contracts for mega infrastructure projects in the UAE such as the extension of Al Maktoum Airport, major roads for the Road Transport Authority, high tower constructions and new metro systems in Qatar and Riyadh.

The role was very varied and I was actively involved in the purchase of a consulting engineering practice in Kenya and Tanzania.

I moved to AECOM, which was very similar, where I was involved in some of the giga projects taking place in KSA, including NEOM. It is difficult to visualise but the “site” is almost as big as Belgium.

As Beales has expanded in the Middle East, the opportunity arose to return to the fold once more. I am delighted to be back. I believe my understanding of our clients’ needs and my knowledge of the local region will be put to the test, once more.

What inspires you and what is your most memorable case or project?

I have been fortunate enough to work with some truly inspirational work colleagues and clients. I consider myself lucky to have worked on ‘both sides of the fence’ and in many ways I think that has made me a better lawyer as I really understand the business and the pressures my clients are under.

The challenges one faces as an in-house counsel are vast and varied, budgets are tight and your role and remit can change overnight as projects start in new jurisdictions. Days are spent managing risks, compliance issues, changing regulations and budgets, alongside managing external counsel and supporting your team. It requires a cool head and lots of juggling.

Some of my most memorable cases include, representing Thames Water in a matter involving a burst water main in Central London, Skandia Property v Thames Water. The case went to the Court of Appeal and it reinforced my faith in the judicial system as even though Thames was liable for the burst main, the Court rightly limited damages.

I have worked on some amazing projects in the Middle East. The Mars Al Seef was a memorable project, it spans around 1.5 km along the Creek waterfront of Dubai and is part of Sheik Mohammed’s vision of developing the waterfront in Dubai. I negotiated the contract for Atkins and visited the site at inception and various stages of development.

No matter what side of the desk you are sitting on there are challenges. The Law is like a living animal, it evolves and changes all the time. That’s what makes it interesting.

What do you do in your spare time?

Sport has dominated my life from an early age especially football, rugby and athletics. These days, I play golf most weekends and I like to scuba dive as well as ski. I recently acquired a motorcycle licence so I enjoy riding Harley Davidsons with my wife, there are some spectacular landscapes here in Dubai.

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