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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