This week I get to say I am honored to have a guest piece from Christopher G. Hill. For many regular readers he needs no introduction but in case you don’t know, he is a LEED AP, 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.
For many new contractors they generally have three main issues that seemingly always pop up; pricing, finding reliable trade partners (sub-contractors), and some sort of legal issue. The last item is one main reason that I always recommend contractors already have a lawyer that they have talked to and has reviewed their contracts. Ahh but how does one go about choosing much less finding a lawyer that knows their business? Hmm good question as any good contractor knows it isn’t always about the price – So with no further ado, Mr. Hill…
Thanks to Sean for letting me guest post at his great blog once again. I love the new look.
When Sean asked me for what I’m sure will look like a fairly self-serving post (I am a construction attorney and construction mediator after all) I had to think for a while about how to make this post look more like what I hope it will be, good advice for choosing and working with a construction attorney, and less like what it could easily become, an advertisement for my law firm. So, I tried to put myself in a client’s shoes and look at it from that direction. What did I come up with? Well read on to find out.
Look for a Problem Solver:
First and foremost, as a client you likely thought of calling a lawyer for the first time when you had a problem. Your problem is a big one in your eyes, whether it’s an issue with a subcontractor not performing or an issue of performing your contracted work and not being paid. You are at the end of your rope and want to get the problem solved so you call your neighborhood construction attorney for advice and counsel. Your lawyer should have the ability to look at your problem and find a solution, whether litigation, lien or otherwise, that will get you to that solution as efficiently as possible.
Look for Someone Proactive:
I have written often on the need for your attorney to be part of your business plan and a counselor in your quest to run an efficient and profitable construction business. One way to do that is through early consultation with a lawyer that can and will be willing to review your contracts, anticipate issues and advise you on the best course of action. In short, despite the reputation that we attorneys sometimes have in the world at large, with early consultation, an attorney can and should be part of your business plan. No one this side of huge corporations should have to budget for litigation and the expense of litigation. Having a proactive attorney can help you avoid that headache and expense.
Form a Relationship:
Your construction attorney should be a partner with your business. I’ve been doing this for a while, and my best and most satisfied clients are those that I have a relationship with. These clients are the ones that call with a quick question early on in order to avoid a larger issue later because they acted without the answer. They are also the ones that I see at AGC and other events and with whom I interact outside of the lawyer-client relationship. The more I understand the business and personality of my clients, the better I can represent them and help them grow their business. The more comfortable you are with your attorney, the better you will feel with his or her advice.
Of course you can also look at fees, fee structure, availability, size of firm, etc. but all of these types of things have been written about by those that look at lawyers more generally and a Google search will bring up much of these articles for you to read.
As a client these are the things I’d look for in a construction attorney. I spend my time as a lawyer trying to check each of these “boxes” when working with my clients and your lawyer should do so as well.
Once again I would love to thank Chris for his advice and time he took to put this together. I would also highly recommend you check out his site as he has available some great pieces and checklists available to help keep you out of trouble – granted many are written based on Virginia law and their state run OSHA department (VOSHA), but many still apply across the country. With that if you have any questions or comments, Chris & I would be glad to hear and answer them below.