Christopher G. Hill | Construction Law Musings | April 24, 2019
It’s been a while since I discussed the role that I believe a construction lawyer should serve. Back in 2013, I discussed how those of us that practice construction law are seen as “necessary evils.” I was thinking over the weekend about certain clients and matters (as I often do, particularly in the shower) and came to the conclusion that the best role for me as a Virginia construction attorney is that of counselor and sounding board for my clients. Sure I come from a litigation background, enjoy working with other construction lawyers here in the Commonwealth, and often the first contact that I have with clients is when there is a problem, but I enjoy my practice, and I believe clients are more satisfied with their interactions with me when I try and provide a more cost effective and pragmatic solution than that which litigation or arbitration provides.
The six years of solo construction practice since 2013 (yes, I’m close to the 9 year mark with my practice) has only served to cement the fact that construction professionals need and want the “counselor” portion of “attorney and counselor at law.” Working as a sort of “in house counsel” to various construction companies, as opposed to simply dealing with the litigation, allows me to better understand their businesses and assist them in avoiding problems through contract review, discussions of situations that come up short of claims, and general risk management. I also get to know these mostly small business owners on a more personal level (sometimes even resulting in a fishing trip or two).
Finally, and likely most importantly, proactive consulting with an attorney saves my clients money in the long run. Frankly, I make more money on a per matter basis if I am litigating for a client. However, that construction client cannot and should not be budgeting for litigation when running its business. It is my job as a construction attorney to do my best to help them avoid litigation and keep projects running smoothly. A few hours of my time helping to avoid possibly hundreds of hours in litigation time is the most efficient way to help my clients. Of course, it helps that I generally like those I work with so helping them is easy.
In short, I take my counseling role (along with my other roles as a lawyer) very seriously. I firmly believe that I best assist my clients in this role because it helps me give pragmatic, cost effective advice that hopefully assists them in a better run, more profitable, and less risky business.