Thoughts on construction law from Christopher G. Hill, Virginia construction lawyer, LEED AP, mediator, and member of the Virginia Legal Elite in Construction Law

The Construction Lawyer as Problem Solver

Solution for a Killer Sudoku Puzzle, solution ...
Solution for a Killer Sudoku Puzzle, solution made with the Killer Sudoku Solver (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As a construction attorney here in Virginia I “wear many hats.” Counselor, mediator, adviser, risk manager, litigator, and others depending upon the situation. I take each and every one of these roles seriously and at times take on more than one depending on a client’s situation. One “role” that I try to keep in mind every day when I come to work is that of problem solver.

In response to the various attacks on an attorney’s role in the construction world, I have written that your friendly neighborhood construction lawyer can and should be part of the solution, and not part of the problem. A big part of this in my mind is the need to focus on the fact that any construction dispute is a problem to be solved, preferably earlier rather than later. By the time that a construction matter reaches my desk, the parties to that dispute have likely reached some sort of impasse in need of an efficient solution.

By viewing the dispute more as a problem to be solved rather than a battle to be won (though sometimes a battle is what is necessary to break the impasse), a construction attorney can generally be part of a business decision that, in this zero sum world of construction, is the best path to resolution. Often a dialogue, whether in the more “formal” setting of mediation or simply by phone or at a job site, can lead to the parties reaching a solution that they hadn’t seen before. As I see it, facilitating a solution rather than charging off to “war,” (read “litigation or arbitration”) leads to more satisfied clients who feel that they’ve been a part of shaping the solution rather than having it imposed upon them.

Remember, litigation is expensive and far from a good way to make money. Resolving, or preferably avoiding, a dispute early and outside of litigation is often the best way to minimize the damage and keep more money than you would have by litigating or arbitrating. A good construction attorney can and should help you reach such a solution.

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