I am honored once again to have Christopher G. Hill, LEED AP to post again. He is a Virginia Supreme Court certified mediator, construction lawyer and owner of the Richmond, VA firm, The Law Office of Christopher G. Hill, PC. Chris authors the Construction Law Musings blog where he discusses legal and policy issues relevant to construction professionals. His practice concentrates on mechanic’s liens, contract review and consulting, occupational safety issues (VOSH and OSHA), and risk management for construction professionals.
Thanks to Sean for letting me guest post at his great blog once again. I am often asked what kind of law I practice. When I say I’m a construction lawyer, I often get a quizzical look. When most people think “lawyer,” they tend to think civil litigation, bankruptcy, business advisor, and maybe even tax attorney. Why? Because construction law does not really enter into the consciousness. Law schools, for the most part, don’t teach a course in “construction law” and most JD candidates (me included) don’t head to law school hoping to spend time dealing with construction projects.
So, what do I answer? Generally, a bit of all of the above. I describe myself as someone who generally represents and counsels construction professionals in both litigation and risk management. In other words, I do my best to keep contractors, subcontractors, and suppliers out of trouble and when that doesn’t work, I try and deal with the trouble as efficiently and cost effectively as possible.
Despite my advice to talk to me early rather than late, my first contact with most of my clients is when something goes wrong on a job and they either don’t get paid or need to deal with a lawsuit. Thus my civil litigation experience. However, where I prefer to assist my clients is in the area of business advice and risk management. In short, I endeavor to help my clients avoid litigation and make more money through well drafted contracts and better business practices that keep trouble at bay.
This last part of the equation, the “counselor” in “Attorney and Counselor at Law,” is why you should call a construction attorney long before trouble darkens your construction project. Litigation and claims are expensive. They are much more expensive and costly to your bottom line (both in time diverted from your business and in direct attorney costs and fees) than some early consultation on your contract and advice on how to respond to legal risks created by lien waiver forms and general construction business issues. Construction attorneys like me spend their days trying to anticipate and/or deal with legal issues relating to construction. We tend to be able to see some issues coming and can help you avoid these issues before it gets truly expensive.
In short, find an attorney that knows the construction landscape and use him or her as a resource and advisor. If you do this, you may just dodge a bullet or two and save some money in the long term.