A college philosophy professor recently commented that the longevity of a professional football player in the NFL is six years. His point was that during that brief time, the player will have experienced the most gratification that will ever be realized throughout his entire lifetime. For some, the comparison maybe a difficult concept to grasp but when we consider our own career as construction lawyers the possibilities for growth and achievement are infinite in the Forum. This is where we learn cutting edge developments, exchange ideas and build fellowship. It is a springboard for achieving great things personally and professionally.
Several years ago, as Chair of Division 12, I along with several of my Steering Committee Members were invited to AIA Headquarters in Washington, DC, to discuss proposed changes to the AIA A201(2007). For a construction lawyer, it is the equivalent of receiving an invitation to the White House. Here we were in the thick of industry leaders that actually wanted to hear what Division 12 representatives thought about these provisions. We debated, complained about terms, argued equity and practicality. It was exhilarating to engage with architects, engineers and lawyers about the mutual waiver of consequential damages, unrealistic insurance provisions and whether the Independent Decision Maker would ever gain real popularity.
As you may have guessed, not much of what we proposed was adopted, but this experience for a construction lawyer was thrilling. Looking back, the AIA invitation was extended only because of our affiliation with the Forum. But, this type of experience is not unique to Forum members.
In formulating its strategic plan under our Chair, Terry Brookie, our Forum is focused and relentless to provide opportunities in construction law to build the "Best Construction Lawyer". We achieve this objective by sponsoring the highest quality construction programs, webinars and through our scholarly publications. At the Division level, our close affiliation with members is like having your own construction law department to personally guide you through difficult construction law challenges, exchange form agreements, talk case strategy and learn legal nuiances of developing construction law. Where else can you freely discuss your personal case load with other experienced lawyers without any lingering obligation or fear that any weakness will be exposed to your opposition.
Jim O'Connor, a past Forum Chair, recently said that he had an appreciation for the Forum because its members "worry about the construction industry". This is what we do for our members and the construction bar as a whole. It is this concept that makes our programs relevant and why Stephen A. Hess, our Editor of "The Construction Lawyer" carefully selects articles of interest. We need to stay current and understand what mischief may be brewing in the industry that may impact the rights of our clients. How will the economic loss rule impact the ability of construction participants to earn a living? Will newly proposed legislation wipe out the accountability of those that build our homes or jeopardize the safety of our bridges and roadways?
"The Construction Lawyer" has consistently raised challenging questions of construction law interpretation as well as the reality of our practice, such as schedule manipulation, consequential damages, forum shopping and delay claims. The Forum is the cornerstone of learning not only about trends in the law but the ethics of who we are as construction lawyers and our obligation to society as a whole to practice with integrity and professionalism. These concepts represent an essential part of this organization. The Forum and its leadership safeguards our profession. Toward this end, just read Andy Ness' May, 2013 article in the ENR entitled “Bash All the Lawyers? Not So Fast” that served as a rebuttal to a critic of our construction law practice. As Andy points out, “By training and experience, a good construction lawyer brings unique skills to a construction project that can meaningfully contribute to project success. And that is precisely what most of us find most rewarding about our job just like other professionals in the construction industry”. To make a difference we must improve the quality of our lawyering skills through education and training that only the Forum offers.
Through the guidance of our Governing Committee Member Wendy Venoit and Doug Jerimiah of Division 3, we have begun an outreach program to law students to make them aware of the opportunities in construction law. The first begins this month at University of Connecticut Law School where construction law will take center stage. The Forum thrives on innovation and this is another first step in making our mark.
Our distance learning subcommittee under the watchful eye of Kristine Kubes sponsors blockbuster programs, for example, “Client Intake for Construction Defect Cases” and “Tips and Tricks for Depositing Cost and Scheduling Experts” — stuff you need to know. Dan Goldberg, Chair of Division 9, keeps our focus on community service and fund raising for a local food bank at each of our National Meetings.
Exciting things are happening. This is your chance to blow the roof off your construction career and become engaged in construction law at a high level. For those of you on the fence, get involved with the Forum. Being a member is great, but we welcome you to dig in and experience everything there is to offer. Volunteer to speak, write and work hard to turn around the critics of our construction profession.
As Cat Stevens once wrote "Just say you will....don't say you can't". This is your Forum — be part of the experience and make yourself along with your colleagues “Better Construction Lawyers”.