This article is the first in a series featuring members of the Forum on Construction Law (FCL). When the concept of this series was forming, certain obvious questions came to mind to ask any successful construction attorney, such as: What values form the foundation of your practice? And what lessons did you learn along the way that you would share with attorneys who are new to the construction industry? The attorneys featured in this series have devoted a significant amount of time to the FCL and have made a strong commitment to helping other construction attorneys.
The attorney featured in this article is the current Chair of the FCL, Kristine Kubes. Kristine has built a successful law firm, Kubes Law Office, PLLC, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. As a counselor, litigator and mediator representing architects, engineers, contractors and sureties, she is a highly respected construction attorney amongst her colleagues and clients. She has presented and written extensively over the years on various construction topics and is the co-editor of the popular FCL publication, “Infrastructure from the Ground Up.”
Kristine has been practicing in the construction industry for more than 20 years, and when asked what keeps her interested, she replied that it is the unique quality of the cases and clients that challenge her, as well as the focus on relationships between people and their environments. “I love being part of that dialogue, helping people hear one another and move through their challenges to successful completion of a project or resolution of disputes.” She added that the technical and/or forensic elements of construction projects pique her innate curiosity and remind her of spending time in her father’s workshop growing up. Her father was a carpenter and her parents had their own contracting company.
In describing her style, Kristine believes that she is “diplomatic and compassionate” with a strong belief in relying upon the objective facts of any case. Although, she acknowledges, “it’s not always black and white.” Kristine is committed to giving her clients a fair and honest assessment of their situation and to being candid about the weaknesses of their situation. She says, “I learned years ago that responding to a situation with ‘yes, and…’ may open up more options to resolution than ‘no, but…’.” It is a combination of honest communication and thorough preparation that form the foundation of her workstyle.
When asked about practice tips she might offer to attorneys new to the construction industry, Kristine offered three pieces of advice: (1) “Listen carefully to your clients . . . The better you understand what they do and how, how they run their business, etc., the better you will be able to see the risks they face and help them manage those risks proactively as they move ahead.” (2) “Be true to your values. One size does not fit all when it comes to handling oneself under pressure, in adversity, in court.” (3) “Be patient with yourself while you develop your own way of being as a professional and do not let anyone pressure you to give up your values or ethics.”
Kristine acknowledges that the FCL has been an important part of her involvement in the construction industry for over 20 years. She credits the education she has received from FCL programming for making her a better attorney and giving her the opportunity to build relationships with attorneys from all over the country and the world. These relationships have translated into resources for her and her clients, for which she is very grateful. She notes, “Forum members are some of the smartest and kindest, most generous lawyers a person could meet.” The FCL has also given her a chance to give back to the profession and the industry that has been her passion for so long. She has highly valued the opportunity to be “a mentor to many emerging construction lawyers over the years. The opportunity to invest in people is the best gift I can receive.”
If you run into Kristine at a national meeting or special event, be sure to ask her about her practice and the FCL programs she is developing. I guarantee that you will not run out of things to talk about, but as a fallback, you can always ask her about those Minnesota winters.