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Career Story: Lawyer Specializing In Large Building Construction Contracts

Lawyer Specializing In Large Building Construction Contracts

Job Title: Construction Lawyer

Type of Company: I am a partner in the Boston office of a large law firm that is based in Chicago.

Education: BS, Civil Engineering •• JD, Law

Job Tasks: As a construction lawyer, I represent owners, contractors, subcontractors, suppliers, etc. in projects that involve the construction of commercial buildings, schools, dams, highways, pipelines, etc. Clients come to me when they need me to draft a contract or they've been given a contract to sign and need to understand the risks involved.

One such risk is tied to deadlines. Some contracts contain strict provisions that require the contractor to finish work on the project by a certain date. The contractor's failure to do so can make him liable to pay significant penalties, even if, as often happens, his failure to meet the deadline is not his fault. For example, sometimes the owner of a project agrees to supply the materials to build the project. This frequently happens on a pipeline project. But if the owner fails for some reason to furnish the contractor with the pipe he needs on time, the contractor can be delayed past deadline -- through no fault of his own. In contracts for these kinds of projects, it is important for the construction lawyer to review the wording ahead of time so that he can ferret these issues out and make sure that the risks and obligations for each party are clearly expressed.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of being a construction lawyer is helping a client who has been wronged and proving his or her case in court. Sometimes clients need to litigate in order to collect monies that are owed to them. On some occasions, the dispute involves a significant amount of money and the company may go bankrupt if it doesn't win. These kind of cases are very emotional and it feels great when I can achieve a positive result. Of course, we don't always win and on such occasions, it is a very sad ending.

Job Tips: Anyone wishing to pursue a career in construction law should begin that journey with a college degree in architecture, engineering or construction management. It is also very helpful if, after college, you obtain some work experience in a design and/or construction discipline before going to law school. Having that post-college experience will make you more valuable.

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