I am honored to write as your Chair-Elect for the ABA Forum on Construction Law. I am so glad that you are here. This organization is “the place” to be as a construction lawyer – as the Forum offers the best continuing legal education, thought leadership, and network of construction lawyers.
In the event we have not yet met, please allow a brief introduction. I am the founder of a small construction law firm in Minneapolis, MN, that focuses on serving design and construction professionals. I have been a member of the Forum since 2001 and have been giving my time to the Forum in some form of leadership since 2004. I was raised in a construction family and am the daughter of a carpenter. As a young child with a healthy level of intellectual curiosity, I pleaded with my father to allow me into his workshop. I wanted to understand how his tools worked, how what he built fit together, how to read a plan, etc. My father was a wise and patient man who taught me early about negotiation. You see, the terms for admission to the carpenter’s workshop were as follows: “You have to stand still, don’t talk, and don’t touch anything.” A tall order for a young child, but I was thrilled with the opportunity and met those terms over and over again throughout my youth.
Now, if you think about it, a person can learn an awful lot when one stands still, does not talk, and does not touch anything. Observing and listening are great teachers. What did I learn? How to read and plan and be careful with my work, as I watched my father handle his tools and projects with precision and care. The importance of attending to the detail of each step in a project. “Measure twice before you cut once, Kristine.” Humility, as different trades have different and important skills to contribute to a successful project. How to wait for an outcome. “This is a patient person’s job,” he’d say. How quality matters. How one’s integrity of workmanship is one’s measure that should be protected at all costs.
Those lessons formed me and are still part of me today, whether I am in the office, on the work site, in court, or serving the Forum. I am an observer, a listener, and a learner. At the Forum, my learning at the substantive programs has made me a better construction lawyer. In observing many excellent, selfless Forum leaders, I have learned that leadership is not about advancing one’s own agenda, but rather about serving the best interests of the Forum and creating opportunity for others. Yes, a leader must have the innate character and skills to be selected to serve and lead this great organization. But as a leader – whether of the whole Forum or any of its parts – a leader has an obligation to the Forum, to colleagues, and to the greater legal community to work with integrity and courage, and continue creating opportunities for others to grow and learn and lead.
In observing society and the greater legal community in recent times, I have noted a decline in civility and professionalism, which can often be accompanied by intolerance and a lack of inclusiveness. These conditions are pervasive and can lead to a lack of respect for others, bullying, and harassment. As lawyers, we are called to respect the law and all persons. We are called to be the leaders in our respective communities for respectful, civil dialogue and problem-solving. The ABA just published in September 2018 its Business Conduct Standards, which provides a great resource/reminder for all of us as we practice and serve. You may find these standards online at https://www.americanbar.org/about_the_aba/aba-business-conduct-standards.html. Please join me in this conversation over the next three years, as we work toward restoring civility in the practice of construction law and the civic arena.
In closing, I look forward to getting to know YOU during my three years of service and leadership in the Forum. I am here to listen to you and to work with you toward the great Forum Mission of “Building the Best Construction Lawyers.”