JCT Interviews…Karyn Watt

In the JCT Interviews… series we shine the spotlight on some of the key people who are involved with or give their time to support JCT, showing the diverse range of disciplines across the construction industry that our members represent and the collaborative work that contributes to the development of our contracts. We look at how our interviewees contribute to JCT specifically and gain their views on the wider industry and JCT’s role within it.

Karyn Watt

member, JCT Council and JCT Drafting Sub-Committee
vice chair, SBCC and chair, SBCC Drafting Sub-Committee
Current job title and company/position: head of construction, Anderson Strathern LLP

Karyn Watt has over 30 years’ construction industry experience and is accredited by the Law Society of Scotland as a specialist in Construction Law. She is a member of Construction Scotland Industry Leadership Group which plays a crucial role in shaping and delivering Scotland’s economic ambitions. She is a Director of BE:ST (formerly Construction Scotland Innovation Centre). Karyn is New York bar qualified and is a qualified mediator.

Karyn is vice chair of the Board, a member of the Consultative Committee and chair of the Drafting Sub-Committee of the Scottish Building Contracts Committee (SBCC) – the body that adapts appropriate contracts drafted by JCT to bring them in line with Scottish Law. She leads major projects on behalf of both local authorities and the private sector, involving complex strategic procurement and project issues.

In recognition of her contribution to the industry, Karyn was awarded an Honorary Fellowship of the RIAS in 2013. She is chair of the board of Woman in Property (Scotland).

JCT: Karyn, how did you first come to be involved with JCT? Why do you think it is important to be involved?

KW: I first got involved in about 1988 when I was the in-house head of legal for Solaglas. I was asked to attend a meeting of FAS (which then became NSCC and now Build UK) and the rest, as they say, is history. When I moved back to Scotland at the end of the 80s I was honoured to be asked to be the Scottish legal adviser, which meant I got to join the Scottish Building Contracts Committee (SBCC). I soon got involved on the drafting side, as well as being a Board member. I think it is important to be involved as JCT reflects the views of the construction industry and current practice.

JCT: Are there any specific projects, areas of interest or activities that you are looking forward to working on or being involved with as a JCT Council member?

KW: I am very much looking forward to being involved in the review and drafting of the next generation set of contracts, and “kilting” them to reflect Scots Law.

JCT: Do you have any personal career highlights?

KW: I have been fortunate enough in my career to have advised on everything from small domestic projects through to iconic projects of national importance. Probably my earliest tricky bit of drafting was around the Channel Tunnel project as a fresh faced enthusiastic in-house lawyer (now I am showing my age!). These days I regularly advise on major developments and infrastructure projects. As a lawyer, for me one of the great joys is to actually visit something you have been involved in, and think that all those hours of negotiating have been worth it when you see a magnificent building or piece of engineering.

JCT: What are you most proud of about the construction industry as a whole and where do you think it most needs to improve?

KW: I think its resilience. The last couple of years have been extremely challenging, with the impact of Covid, Brexit, Ukraine and Grenfell setting challenges that other industries would have struggled to meet. The construction industry has found innovative ways to deal with what has been thrown at it, and it embraces new technologies and ideas. It adapts.

JCT: What do you see as the main challenges for the construction industry over the next five years?

KW: We are all aware of the skills shortages and the need to ‘future proof’ our buildings. We are looking at a downturn in the economy and higher interest rates, and all of this will impact on margins.

JCT: Does JCT have a wider role to play in the industry beyond producing contracts?

KW: I think the key additional role is in education. The fact that JCT (and SBCC) keeps the market up to date by offering drafting, guidance around current issues, fascinating articles and regular lectures is of great benefit to those involved in the sector.