Blair Rawls – Associate General Counsel at Jacobs
Creating a more connected and sustainable world, both in public and private sectors, may hinge on one factor above all: massive technological upgrades.
So says Blair Rawls, associate general counsel at Jacobs, a company involved in everything from business intelligence to infrastructure, cybersecurity and space exploration. In recent years, the company has invested heavily in data-driven software to help extend the life of the facilities it builds for clients.
Rawls has helped the company shift to digital solutions, and his legal team has supported that transition by broadening the company’s internal education around intellectual property, among other tasks. The team has also supported expansion into new business areas and integrated legal operations with those of the strategic leadership team.
Based in Dallas, Texas, Jacobs operates in more than 40 countries around the world. Among its offerings, Jacobs develops commercial and public sector projects, including manufacturing facilities and data centers. It also offers professional consulting services. The company designs and engineers everything from electric vehicle plants to major transit networks and water and wastewater infrastructure.
Digital space redesign
Now, in addition to providing clients manual sketches for projects, Jacobs uses cutting-edge software programs and specific data points—for instance, the size and age of an existing facility and the attendant life cycle costs—to estimate project costs. The goal, Rawls says, is to streamline the project-development process from concept to construction while helping clients save money.
For Rawls and his team, the creation of any new technology, however, requires plenty of work on the intellectual-property front: licenses, joint development agreements, and so on.
His department launched a “global IP roundtable” to help train Jacobs employees on the importance and nuances of IP law, including how to better protect Jacobs’ IP in its contracts. Featuring members from North America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East, the roundtable meets bi-weekly.
“What is being delivered to the client today is different than five or 10 years ago,” says Rawls. “The goal of the roundtable is to share updates and collaborate. We see it as an opportunity to help one another with IP questions—as colleagues—in those respective regions.”
The business of water
Jacobs’ commitment to innovation has been especially important in an area that governments around the world are beginning to pay close attention to: the need for more clean water.
With the acquisition of engineering firm CH2M in late 2017, Jacobs invested further in growing its water practice—part of a broader portfolio transformation toward growing civil infrastructure markets and climate response opportunities.
According to Rawls, environmental mitigation has always been important for Jacobs, and that’s particularly true with the company’s water-related initiatives. To that end, it now offers water-treatment solutions for a variety of facilities, including software that helps clients manage sections of their wastewater-treatment systems through predictive analytics.
Jacobs was recently appointed by PUB, Singapore’s National Water Agency, to provide professional engineering services for the development of a new treatment facility that can turn greasy waste, food waste and wastewater into “biogas” that can be used to cool and power the plant.
In addition to his usual IP work, Rawls also supports Jacobs’ business development teams, negotiates contracts, and manages a portfolio of litigation within his business unit, working with e-discovery vendors such as KL Discovery.
In the 25 years since Rawls joined Jacobs, the company has grown from less than 15,000 employees to 55,000. As part of that, he’s helped expand legal operations from just contracts and non-disclosure agreements to protecting IP rights.
“The challenge has been the education of colleagues on how everyone can be better versed on intellectual property rights,” Rawls says.
After graduating from Clemson University with a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering, he earned his J.D. from Regent University Law School. Prior to joining the company’s legal department, he spent five years as an engineer at Jacobs, and a combined six years at two other engineering and construction firms.
In an age when in-house attorneys tend to move from role to role (and industry to industry), Rawls has preferred to “grow where he is.” With recent acquisitions putting Jacob’s market capitalization at $16 billion, he knows there will be opportunities to grow even further.
“With our new strategy and growing markets around the globe, Jacobs offers not only its legal team but all of its employees a chance to experience significant and challenging opportunities to grow their own careers.”
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