When to Hire a Construction Attorney

Legal Article

When to Hire a Construction Attorney

Unfortunately, lawsuits have become a common occurrence within the construction industry. While your company may not need to consult a construction attorney before every construction project begins, there are a few instances where an experienced attorney can help you structure your projects, create contracts, and offer advice in an effort to avoid costly litigation. Antonoplos & Associates Washington DC construction attorneys 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. Below are a few situations that require the assistance of a construction attorney.

Do You Need a Construction Attorney for Lawsuits or Alternative Dispute Resolution

Whether you are being sued, suing someone else, or moving towards a form of alternative dispute resolution, fighting a legal battle by yourself is always a bad idea. Many construction businesses would rather not hire an attorney because of the initial cost. However, a construction litigation attorney will save you money in the long run by working to ensure that you do not lose a lawsuit—if one is brought against you—or go into court unprepared if you are suing someone else. Similar to lawsuits, if you are going into alternative dispute resolution—such as mediation or arbitration—a lawyer is necessary to guide you through the legal issues associated with this process and advocate your case on your behalf.

While going to court without an attorney is always a bad idea, if your construction company is not structured as a sole proprietorship, you cannot even go to court without legal representation.  Whether you are an LLC, an incorporated company, an LLP, or something else, any organizational structure must have representation in order to appear in court. This is also true for individuals operating their business as some other entity (like an LLC).

Do You Need a Construction Attorney for Small Claims Court?

Small claims court is faster, less expensive, and more efficient than traditional litigation. However, if you run a business that is not a sole proprietorship, an attorney must still represent you. Additionally, while small claims court involves smaller sums of money, an attorney is still useful and can help you either defend yourself or receive proper compensation.  

Should a Construction Attorney Create or Review Contracts?

Similar to litigation or alternative dispute resolution cases, certain companies do not need an attorney to review their contracts. As such, many parties in the construction industry focus on creating a construction contract that is simple and general. This allows them to use the contract for every job they do. Creating a contract that’s suitable for every project can keep costs low and allows a company to understand 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 areas, you 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.

Terminating a Contract

Whether the conditions on the job site make completing a project unrealistic or you have completed work outside the scope of the contract and want extra compensation, terminating a contract is something that should always be done under a lawyer’s supervision. Many contracts allow parties to terminate a project or seek a price escalation. However, proceeding down either of these routes without caution could result in liability. Thus, before you choose to exercise a contractual option to terminate or revise a current contract, it is imperative that you talk to a construction attorney. They can instruct you on how to go through this process and discuss any issues that may occur. Finally, a construction attorney could help you place provisions in a contract before you sign it. Additionally, they can give you advice on how to utilize these provisions if you ever needed to.

Final Thoughts

Contracts and litigation are the most obvious and common reasons why a company in the construction industry hires an attorney. However, there are many other situations where a construction attorney is useful. In addition to the situations discussed, here are a few other instances that typically require a construction attorney.

  • If you are starting a new project and need to make sure that you’re following local and federal building regulations
  • Construction Payment Disputes
  • Filing a mechanics lien or other lien and bond claims
  • Need to obtain government permission
  • Need to hold a town hearing
  • Claims that construction is defective
  • Need to adhere to new environmental regulations
  • Need a permit
  • Are having a dispute with your employer/employee
  • There is an injury on the job

Contact our DC Law Office for More Information

Finally, for more information about when to hire a construction attorney, contact us at 202-803-5676. You can also directly schedule a consultation with one of our skilled attorneys. Additionally, for general information regarding construction law, check out our blog.