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How many lawyers does it take to handle a $680 million U.S. government contract to rebuild Iraq? For Bechtel Group, Inc., just one. That’s because the San Francisco�based company is well versed in managing massive contracts, says GC Richard Burt. “Our business is doing large engineering and construction projects, [and] our legal department is very much equipped to do these things,” Burt maintains. In fact, the attorney handling the Iraq contract isn’t even particularly high-ranking: Douglas Price is a senior counsel at Bechtel National, Inc., the division that landed the job. One of the nation’s largest engineering and construction companies, the privately held Bechtel conglomerate regularly works on high-profile projects, from the Alaskan oil pipeline to the Chunnel between Great Britain and France. In April the company received a coveted contract from the U.S. Agency for International Development to repair and rebuild Iraq’s power plants and water and sewer systems. As part of the job, Bechtel may later go on to build schools, hospitals, government offices, and other infrastructure. Though the deal was subject to a ton of media coverage, Bechtel’s lawyers say it’s a relatively run-of-the-mill legal assignment. In federal contracts, the terms are generally set by the government [see "D.C. Dollars: Strings Attached]. Price is one of 54 attorneys at the parent company and its subsidiaries. Four are assigned to government contracts, seven work on investments, and the rest handle engineering and construction projects, according to Bechtel National GC Sandra Ogden. An additional 20-odd lawyers work in separate divisions that manage projects for the federal government, Ogden says. These include cleanup jobs at former weapons production sites, and the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste disposal project in Nevada. Thelen Reid & Priest has long been Bechtel’s chief outside counsel, but the Iraq contract won’t immediately generate more work for the firm. GC Burt says that Bechtel typcially calls in Thelen for labor issues or general corporate work. Ogden adds that the company sometimes taps Thelen for help with government contracts if the in-house team is too busy. So if any other firms hope to advise Bechtel on its bonanza, the message is clear: Don’t call us, we’ll call you.

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