What Do Construction Attorneys Do?

Legal Article

What Do Construction Attorneys Do?

A Washington DC construction attorney can help construction company owners, contractors, subcontractors, material suppliers, architects, and designers with a wide range of services before, during, and after a construction project. At the most basic level, a construction attorney will assist clients by reviewing contracts, budgets, and scheduling projects—this last part is especially crucial as if you overlap projects or do not include clauses protecting yourself for starting a job late, you could face costly litigation. Finally, the one common reason why you should hire a construction attorney is that they will be able to work preventatively throughout the construction process so that you can avoid litigation, alternative dispute resolution—such as mediation and arbitration—and other costly legal conflicts.

Antonoplos & Associates group of construction attorneys are here to help guide you through any legal issues that may occur during a construction project. Our attorneys most commonly assist clients with drafting construction-related contracts, providing legal representation, providing ‘front-end’ advice, submitting construction claims, and ensuring that your business gets paid for all the work you perform through contractual language and when necessary, mechanics liens.

Drafting Contracts

For many parties in the construction industry, focusing on creating a good construction contract is seen as a distraction that keeps them away from their focus on current projects or finding new clients to work with. As such, many construction focused companies create a simple and general contract that they can use for each job. Creating a contract that is suitable for every project can keep costs low and allows a company to become familiar with the contract. However, using a general contract can lead to costly litigation. Furthermore, this practice opens the door for other parties to take advantage of missing provisions.

One way to avoid potential legal issues while still keeping legal costs low is to decide what types of construction projects your business most commonly partakes in. After narrowing down practice areas, hire a lawyer who can draft project-specific contracts. The benefit is that these contracts only need minor tweaks from project to project. For example, if you are a construction company that most commonly works on residential real estate projects, you could hire a lawyer to create separate contracts for you to use when you are building a property, remolding an existing property, or simply offering your advice on how to utilize undeveloped land. While creating specific contracts is important to ensure that you are safe from legal liability, there are a few things that every construction contract should cover.

These standard provisions include:

  • Start and End Dates of Work
  • Payment Schedules
  • Scope of Work
  • Dispute Resolution
  • Permits
  • Change Orders
  • Termination Agreements

Finally, if there are competing provisions in a contract, a construction attorney can help establish an “order of precedence clause”. This clause allows you to rank the provisions in a contract. Thus, if provisions conflict, you and the other party in an agreement will be able to understand which portion of the document to follow. A standard order of precedence clause will start with any change orders, the agreement, special conditions, general conditions, specifications, drawings, then list any other materials that form the contract documents. In cases where inconsistencies in a contract cannot be quickly resolved, Antonoplos & Associates construction attorney can provide legal representation for your business.

Provide Legal Representation

While the goal of a good construction attorney is to create agreements and include provisions in contracts that prevent litigation, in cases where court proceedings or alternative dispute resolution are not avoidable, having a construction attorney on your side is important to the success of your case. Increasingly, construction contracts have clauses that require nonbinding or binding alternative dispute resolution such as mediation or arbitration to resolve disputes between the parties. At Antonoplos & Associates, we have experience representing both plaintiffs and defendants in arbitration and mediation proceedings. Furthermore, our construction law attorneys are often instrumental in negotiating creative settlement solutions between the parties that are favorable to our clients. For more information on how our DC construction attorneys can help you, check out our construction litigation practice.

Providing Advice

Construction attorneys are valuable assets not just at the end of your project when you are facing potential litigation. However, our construction attorney can assist you by offering front end advice. Front end advice refers to valuable advice given by a lawyer at the time of setting up a new project. Front end advice is especially useful in construction law. For example, if you understand what type of issues may appear in your specific project, you can actively work to prevent any conflicts from arising, saving you time, money, and stress. Furthermore, a good construction attorney will be able to take their knowledge of this sector and if any problems do occur, they can adjust accordingly in order to prevent those issues from growing into actual litigation. Antonoplos & Associates group of construction attorneys routinely offer front end advice in the following areas:

  • how best to structure a project
  • which type(s) of contract are likely to be most suitable
  • amending and finalizing the form of contract
  • reviewing contracts and identifying key risk areas
  • working to lower the chance that a legal issue occurs from key risk areas
  • advising on, and negotiating, the terms of letters of intent, letters of appointment and early works engagements; 
  • advising on ancillary project documents, such as third party access deeds and tripartite financing agreements; and
  • negotiating, drafting and advising on contract amendments

Construction Claims

A construction attorney can submit a claim for added compensation if a project took longer than anticipated. However, the construction company, contractor, subcontractor, or other entity must not be at fault for this added time. Furthermore, our attorneys have routinely represented the claimant throughout construction claim dispute resolution procedures or negotiations. In many cases, a construction claim will arise when a company is seeking extra compensation for unforeseen circumstances. These circumstances include unanticipated job site conditions, defects in designs, as well as delays, disruptions, or any interferences in work. Finally, Antonoplos & Associates construction attorneys will ensure all claims conform with any contractual obligations or state-specific legal requirements. If you are the one that is looking to break or extend a contract force majeure is a viable option. To learn more about force majeure, check out our article that outlines this provision and its common uses.

Compensation Issues

A construction attorney will ensure a contractor receives the full payment promised. This covers a myriad of costs including labor, equipment, and materials. Furthermore, our attorneys will place these provisions in the original contract. Finally, we aim to ensure that any additional costs incurred will be covered in the contract’s terms.

In the event that you completed a project and have not been paid or only compensated for a portion of the labor and materials used for the job, our attorneys will help you file a mechanics lien. A mechanic’s lien is a security interest in the title of real or personal property. It is placed by those who supplied the materials or provided the labor to improve the property. A “mechanic lien” is not necessarily the modern interpretation of someone who repairs machinery. Instead, it describes a company that provides labor or materials for the improvement of a property. Thus, the tool is called a Mechanic’s Lien. This particular remedy is typically used by contractors and subcontractors. They use it as a defense against the nonpayment or the imperfection of tender for a construction contract.

Final Thoughts

A construction attorney does many things to ensure that your business can focus on the projects and continue running smoothly. One misconception is that construction attorneys and real estate attorneys are the same. While they work on similar cases, the area of law that they practice is fundamentally different. Many businesses consider hiring one attorney for both real estate and construction legal issues to save money. In order to receive knowledgeable legal representation, you must ensure that your attorney has experience in both real estate and construction law. If the attorney you hire does not have knowledge about both practice areas, you should hire a separate attorney.

Peter Antonoplos has been consistently ranked as one of the best construction and real estate attorneys in Washington DC by venerable companies such as LevelSet, Avvo, and Expertise. Peter has over 20 years of experience in both the construction and real estate industries. As such, he is one of the few attorneys in Washington DC that can handle all of your legal needs.

Contact our Law Office for More Information

For more information on what do construction attorneys do, contact us at 202-803-5676. You can also directly schedule a consultation with one of our skilled attorneys. For more information on our construction law practice, check out our blog.