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With the explosion of new technologies in construction, changes to contract documents, and the growing challenge posed by an ever-increasing number of state and federal laws and regulations, contractors need expert legal advice more than ever to manage risk and protect profits.

Law firms specializing in construction have the unique industry experience essential to guide their clients through a complex maze of compliance and contracts to ensure the health of the construction enterprise.

For this inaugural ranking, CE reached out to hundreds of law firms throughout the United States with a dedicated construction practice to find out who the leaders are, and what legal issues are keeping them busy. Contract dispute resolution was the most heavily practiced area of construction law, with more than 99% of firms involved. Achieving a speedy and efficient outcome when disputes arise is a top priority for construction firms looking to prevent project delays and avoid expensive litigation.

“A significant concern that’s always front and center in the client’s mind is the pace and cost of resolving disputes,” says Bob Chambers, partner at Smith, Currie & Hancock. “We address this by looking at multiple opportunities as they progress through alternative dispute resolution efforts or other legal procedures.”

With proper representation, a construction firm can usually get to an equitable solution quickly. “Pre-litigation, during litigation, even post-litigation or during an appeal, an opportunity may arise to get something settled, and the earlier, the better,” Chambers says.

Burke Robinson, partner and co-founder at Long & Robinson, notes, “The trend at our firm in recent years has been to litigate contract disputes and prevent language in contracts that limits dispute resolution to arbitration.” With written discovery, depositions, subpoenas, and live evidence given at scheduled hearings, arbitration often requires the same demands of a lawyer as litigation.

Law firms that manage contract administration are increasingly in high demand. Contractors are turning to lawyers for assistance in accessing the real-time impact of job changes, delays and cost overruns in order to keep projects on track and avoid potential claims.

Contract documents that enforce payment are a growing concern. “We address that on the front end by negotiating and drafting essential and enforceable contract language,” Burke says. “We also protect and enforce our client’s mechanic’s lien and surety bond rights. And where appropriate, we’ve become very specialized in identifying and taking advantage of all available insurance coverage to address a particular loss.”

Joshua Quinter, senior construction counsel at Offit Kurman, agrees. “The most common issue our clients have is getting paid for their work. While there is capital to build projects, cash fl ow remains tight for many owners and contractors. We deal with this in how we structure our clients’ contracts, encouraging them to actively manage their A/R, and not wait to take action if they aren’t getting paid.”

Law firms are also paying attention to the industry-wide labor shortage. “Clients are experiencing one of the strongest construction markets we’ve ever seen in the United States—with a workforce that is depleting as quickly as technology is progressing,” notes Steven M. Charney, chairman of Peckar and Abramson.

As contractors reach out to a less experienced workforce, there is a corresponding increase in risk for project delays, quality issues and safety concerns. “There is pending legislation on apprenticeship ratios, training and other issues that will impact the market,” Quinter notes. “Failing to manage safety in situations where people could get injured can end up being a big deal.”

Businesses that retain counselors experienced in the unique aspects of construction law are more likely to come out ahead when a contract dispute arises. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. e legal ramifications of a poorly worded contract, failing to keep track of new employment and safety laws, and many other risks can easily be avoided with a capable construction law firm in the contractor’s corner.

Click to view the Top 50 Construction Law Firms™ rankings. 


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