Construction Lawyer – What Does He or She Do?

The construction industry is no stranger to legal “punch ups” and the person you want to see when that happens is your expert construction lawyer. But what exactly do they do?

Skills of the expert construction lawyer

A construction lawyer is a trained and experienced legal professional who understands the issues you face in the construction industry.

Whether you are an employer of construction skills, a head contractor, subcontractor, supplier or consultant to the industry, your experienced construction lawyer can help you with most of your legal challenges, or at least highlight to you any legal issues that you should be aware of that are outside their scope of expertise and direct you to a colleague who can help you.

Quality construction lawyers are generally experts in two main areas when it comes to construction matters:

1. “front end” work, which includes:

  • contract drafting and negotiation
  • general advice on structuring your business entities for asset protection
  • advice on suitable business documents and contract administration systems and procedures for minimizing your exposure to legal claims… and more

2. “back end” work, which includes:

  • advice regarding options for resolving disputes
  • general advice regarding issues that may arise during contract works execution
  • litigation expertise
  • expertise in assisting with applying alternative dispute resolution methods negotiating resolutions to disputes and seeking alternative solutions for commercial parties so they can proceed with a project without delay… and more

When should you engage a construction lawyer?

Well I’m sure you know the answer to this question already but so few construction professionals heed this advice. You should speak to your expert lawyer at the earliest possible time.

Why? Because when you get them to assist you in the early phase of your project or business you can avoid many more potential problems. Too often I see people draft their own inadequate contracts or sign up to draconian contracts prepared by other parties which include personal guarantees, and then when things move into a dispute phase they are already up the proverbial creek without a means of propulsion… if you know what I mean.

If you wait until you have already run aground (entered into a dispute) to try and change the course of your ship (your business and livelihood), it may well be too late. You see, the cost of engaging a construction lawyer at the start of your project will be about 10% of the cost of just one dispute (in the life of your project) going to court. So consider the math when next time the opportunity presents itself.

The cost of learning from your own mistakes over years of construction industry experience can be a costly one and, in some cases, more than you may have to pay for it. Even then, if you happen to know all the laws at a particular point in time (which is most unlikely), the laws are constantly changing and you’ll never be sure if you know when and how they have changed. The construction lawyer’s job, however, is to know what is about to change before it happens and they will share that invaluable advice with you to prepare you for that change.

The good construction companies with bigger budgets do tend to diligently seek out expert construction legal advice but even they skip this step on some projects… and on further occasion, they live to regret it. If you’re a small to medium sized operator in the construction industry, you cannot afford to take that risk, particularly on larger projects that tie up much of your cash flow.