In multimillion- (and sometimes billion-) dollar infrastructure projects, complications are a given, risks are considerable, and tensions can run high. Jeffrey Rosenstein reminds himself and his team that legal must be part of the solution, a collaborator to the business, and more than a drop-box for review of legal documents.
Rosenstein serves as executive vice president and general counsel for AECOM in the Americas, which includes the firm’s Canada, US West, US East, and Latin America regions. AECOM performs planning, design, engineering, and program and construction management services for public- and private-sector clients across the globe. This includes the transportation, buildings, water, new energy, and environment sectors.
Rosenstein and his team of legal professionals are focused on minimizing unnecessary and unreasonable risk on AECOM’s complex infrastructure projects across the Americas. In particular, he is proud of the guidance provided by his team to the firm’s disaster recovery and response efforts. For example, at the start of the pandemic, they delivered critical legal support to help the company stand up emergency alternative healthcare facilities. Rosenstein also regularly supplies strategic guidance on AECOM’s multifaceted design-build pursuits in both the transportation and water spaces.
“It can be challenging to balance the business side and the legal side, but we like to think of ourselves as part of the solution, a partner to the business,” explains Rosenstein. “Our goal is to protect the company while, at the same time, not being an obstacle to growth. I think our team does an especially good job of that. We provide timely, ethical, high-quality advice and we keep track of the big picture.”
AECOM’s legal groups are organized by region; Rosenstein oversees the Americas with sixty staff, as well as the federal business services unit with an additional seventy-five staff dedicated to compliance with US government contracting requirements. With support of AECOM’s business objectives his central priority, he’s especially proud of the team-driven culture he’s helped cultivate, where respectful collaboration is key.
“Everyone has a voice, and I listen to everybody,” he says. “Given the complexities of the legal landscape, one person can’t possibly know everything, so we rely on specialists in a variety of fields. They know how to best support the business.”
“Jeff is unique in that he goes beyond just understanding the legal aspects of a contract in his role,” explains Beverley Stinson, chief executive of AECOM’s global water business. “He’s extremely instrumental in managing and balancing risk and reward. He’s a very significant adviser to the business.”
Rosenstein had legal ambitions as early as undergrad, and briefly explored opportunities in politics and government. He’s worked in architecture, engineering, and construction since 1992, with a role as an intern at Patton Boggs in Washington, DC, first piquing his interest in the field. While there, he assisted on a construction case regarding a cogeneration power plant, which set him up for a long, colorful career in the industry. The work still appeals to him because the issues and impacts are so demonstrable.
“Jeff’s depth of experience with both design and construction law is a great asset in managing AECOM’s contracts and risk profile,” says John J. Cardoni, EVP and enterprise risk committee chairperson at AECOM. “His practical perspective from both sides of many of the issues we encounter is particularly valuable as the industry evolves to more design-build delivery projects.”
“These projects have tangible impacts on our society,” Rosenstein says. “Transportation hubs, water and wastewater management, disaster relief, and projects addressing vital environmental concerns—our projects are quite meaningful to people’s lives, and that’s the most significant and exciting thing about working for a company like AECOM.”
“I’ve worked closely with Jeff on AECOM’s most significant legal matters, including the recent JFK Airport redevelopment deals at Terminals 1 and 6,” adds Daniel Faust, chief executive of AECOM’s US East & Latin America region. “He has a unique ability to develop strategies that navigate complex legal and financial risks. Jeff’s advice and counsel have been critical to AECOM’s success over the past five years. He is a true partner to me and my colleagues.”
Rosenstein’s father, an engineer, jokingly counseled him to avoid a career in engineering. Looking back, he considers his father his first career mentor and continues to follow his example in his treatment of others. “No matter who he was dealing with, he always treated everyone with fairness and respect,” Rosenstein says.
For emerging professionals, he recommends identifying a mentor early—someone invested in your success who can provide opportunities and identify goals along the way. Rosenstein was fortunate to have an excellent industry mentor early in his career. Following that model, he keeps his own door open to young attorneys and gives them as much work and wisdom as they desire.
“The most important thing I learned from my mentor was to always stay calm,” he recalls. Since complications inevitably arise, lawyers must be strategic in their thinking and should always be prepared to search for creative solutions. He adds, “Lawyers should be the voice of reason when things aren’t necessarily going the way everyone would like.”
Another part of Rosenstein’s impact on AECOM’s legal approach has been in equity, diversity, and inclusion (ED&I). In early 2021, AECOM’s chief legal officer, David Gan, implemented a strategic direction to hiring within the department: each slate of candidates for an open role must include a woman and a member of an underrepresented minority group. A diverse interview panel is also involved in the selection of a candidate. This is one element of the company’s broader ED&I strategy; not only is it a priority within the legal department, but AECOM is focused on driving ED&I across its operations and in partnership with its clients.
“Within legal, we’re doing everything we can to support AECOM’s ED&I efforts overall, including seeking out National Association of Minority and Women-Owned Law Firms to represent us,” Rosenstein says. “It makes sense to bring different voices to the team and to hire firms with different perspectives. It’s important to the company, it’s important to me, it’s the right thing to do, and it’s just good business.”
Ultimately, Rosenstein advises, it’s crucial that industry leaders continue to grow, evolve, and remain open to new ways of doing things without discounting the possibility that proven approaches may often work best. The industry and legal issues are complex, and with changes coming at a rapid pace, he stresses the importance of embracing uncertainty, being flexible and nimble, and focusing on actions that will move the needle.
By championing fairness, openness, and collaboration, leaders create teams that succeed. “I want my team to consider me an advocate,” he says, “and to view our department as a space for them to do their best work.”
“Congratulations to Jeffrey Rosenstein for his professional accomplishments and leadership within the legal profession. With a shared belief that infrastructure creates opportunity for everyone, Cozen O’Connor stands ready to support the current and future needs of AECOM Americas.”
–Larry Prosen, Construction Litigation and Government Contracts Attorney