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August 03, 2020 FORUM NEWS

Meet Your New ABA Forum on Construction Law Leaders!

Christopher M. Wise

The ABA Forum on Construction Law (the “Forum”) is an “up and out” leadership model.  The Forum cultivates its volunteer leaders from its fourteen Divisions focus on certain practice areas and the Young Lawyers Division (“YLD”).  The Divisions are led by Division Chairs and those Chairs supported by a Steering Committee plus many other volunteers. The Forum’s Governing Committee appoints the Division Chairs and Steering Committee members based upon the guidance and input of the outgoing Division Chairs.  Division Chairs serve a two-year term.   

The Forum has three officers: Chair, Immediate Past Chair, and Chair-Elect.  These officers run the business of the Forum with the input and approval of the Governing Committee.  A Chair-Elect will serve 1 year in each of the officer positions. 

Each fall, the Chair of the Forum assembles a nominating committee to elect the next round of Governing Committee Members (serve 3-year terms) and the Chair-Elect.  The nominating committee meets at the midwinter meeting in a confidential, often half-day nominating committee session to carefully review the candidates.  The Chair-Elect, who serves as chair of the nominating committee, publishes the nominees thereafter.  During the Annual Meeting, the new Forum leaders are elected into their positions, which officially take effect at the end of the summer for the ABA’s Bar Year.  This year, with the postponement of the Annual Meeting due to COVID-19, our leaders were elected virtually with an online election through a survey of members.

Our new incoming Forum leaders this year come from states all across the country, from in house counsel to private practices. They shared with Under Construction their reasoning for running for their position, what they hope to accomplish, and what their experience has been while working with the Forum. 

Chair Elect

Q: Why did you choose to run for the ABA Forum on Construction Law’s Chair Elect?

The Forum has provided me tremendous opportunities to grow professionally and to meet great lawyers of the highest quality and professionalism across the country. 

“I have entrusted many of my clients to Forum colleagues across the country and have never been disappointed with the service my clients have received.  Most importantly, I have become close friends with many of these lawyers and industry professionals.”

Q: What do you hope to accomplish as Chair Elect?

I would like to focus on investing in our membership.  First, I would like to focus on continuing to facilitate making the best construction lawyers through top-rate programming, publications and training.  The goal is to develop programming that will attract construction lawyers and other industry professionals to our meetings and distant learning programs.  Likewise, I would like to focus on continuing the Forum’s top-rate publishing to be the industry thought leader with relevant books and articles that will be a must-read for the industry.  Finally, as we are coming to terms with the impact of the coronavirus, there will need to be training on how to conduct, virtually, the practice of law in a changing environment.  This includes depositions, hearings, witness interviews etc.  Although some of this is temporarily mandatory in some jurisdictions, some aspect of this virtual world is here to stay.  Judges are indicating that they will continue virtual hearings for routine motions and non-evidentiary hearings even if not required to do so.  Clients and insurance adjusters most likely will require attorneys to justify why they need to take an in-person deposition or attend an in-person hearing when virtual attendance will work as well or almost as well.  We as construction practitioners must embrace this changing environment, become very adapt in using new technology, and be able to advise our clients accordingly.

Q: What was your first Forum meeting and what have you received from your Forum membership?

I believe my first Forum meeting was in Toronto many years ago.  I have received tremendous benefits from my Forum membership through the years.  I have grown professionally and have met and become friends with some truly remarkable people across the country.

Division Chairs

Q: Why did you choose to run for the ABA Forum on Construction Law’s Division 1 Chair?

R. Thomas Dunn: I have been an active member of Division 1 for nearly a decade. Our Division is great. We focus on litigation and dispute resolution. In my time with Division 1, I have worked on the Division 1 blog (The Dispute Resolver), served as Chair of the practicum subcommittee, planned and spoke at two practicums, spoke at a lunch meeting, and participated in numerous Division 1 planning retreats.  I was honored when I was nominated to serve as the Division 1 Chair this year.  Thankfully, I am following the lead of many other great Division 1 Chairs including Cassidy Rosenthal, Tony Lehman, Nick Holmes, Luis Prats, Buzz Tarlow, Cathy Shanks, and many more!   

Q: What do you hope to accomplish as Division 1 Chair?

I am looking to expand the blog.  Catherine Delorey is serving as The Dispute Resolver’s Editor in Chief. She has formed a new editorial team and I am confident that she and her team will do a fabulous job of providing excellent content to Division 1 members. I want to provide as many opportunities for those who are interested in getting involved in a Division. If you send me an email ([email protected]) and tell me what you are interested in doing, I will do my best to set you up. We will also continue to plan the practicums at each national meeting with the Young Lawyers Division and the Leadership Circle. I am looking forward to meeting with our great Steering Committee and other D1 members at our planning retreat at the Fall Meeting. Big Thanks to our Steering Committee Members: Kelsey Funes, Scott Griffith, Joe Imperiale, Katie Kohm, Jason Rodgers-Da Cruz, Rob Ruesch, Cassidy Rosenthal, and Catherine Delorey.

Q: What was your first Forum meeting and what have you received from your Forum membership?

My first Forum meeting was the Fall 2007 meeting in Newport, Rhode Island.  Because the meeting was local for me, I drove to and from the meeting each day.  I attended all of the CLE programs and the welcome reception but did not participate in division activities.  I did not get the true “Forum experience” at that meeting.  In 2009, I attended the Annual Meeting in New Orleans.  At that meeting, I attended the first time attendee reception and young lawyers dinner.  I met such great friends and professional contacts at that meeting. 

“The Forum has given me enormous professional contacts throughout the country.  It has given me the best continuing education on construction law topics. The Forum has also enabled me and my family to travel to wonderful places for meetings and planning retreats.”

Beyond the CLE, I have a blast.  Never could I imagine doing a parade down Bourbon Street by police escort with a bunch of construction lawyers. 

Q: Why did you choose to run for the ABA Forum on Construction Law’s Division 3 Chair?

Joelle Jefcoat: I was recruited by our fantastic Chair, Karen Erger (and I thank her for her faith in me).

Q: What do you hope to accomplish as Division 3 Chair?

I hope to keep D3’s incredible legacy of leadership going.

“I love the camaraderie among our members and the incredible brain-power of our division. I’ve met some of the smartest people I know through membership in Division 3, and I am grateful for their friendships.”

I hope to encourage more members to participate and spread the word of the value that membership in D3 brings.

Q: What was your first Forum meeting and what have you received from your Forum membership?

My first Forum meeting was in Dana Point, CA. I’ve had occasions to present at Forum meetings, give and coordinate Hot Topics, write for Under Construction, contribute to the Construction Contracts Book, and give Forum Webinars. I’ve made close friends, deepened my expertise in construction law, connected with other in-house lawyers, identified excellent outside counsel and experts around the US, and even found two incredible Forum lawyers to join Perkins and Will’s in-house team. Joining the Forum has been priceless.

Q: Why did you choose to run for the ABA Forum on Construction Law’s Division 4 Chair?

Joel Heard: I was initially attracted to Division 4 because its focus aligned well with the “front-end” nature of my construction law practice. Over the years, as I became more actively involved in Division 4, from participating in our calls and events, and later joining the Steering Committee, I came to realize how much satisfaction I was getting, personally and professionally, from Division 4. Being grateful for all the benefits that Division 4 has provided to me and inspired by the great things Division 4 outgoing Chair, Tracy James, has accomplished, I felt that it was important for me to run for Division 4 Chair as the next step in my involvement.  

Q: What do you hope to accomplish as Division 4 Chair?

Aside from helping to facilitate rich learning and networking opportunities for our Division 4 members, I’m looking forward to getting to know our members better and working with the Steering and Working Committees of the Division to build on the excellent work Tracy James has done as prior Chair. Over the last couple years, the mandate of Division 4 was broadened to include construction technology as well as project delivery. With that expansion, our recent focus has naturally been more heavily weighted to the technology side. With the impact that construction technology continues to have on project delivery and contract structures, I see a tremendous value in exploring both of these areas in further depth, including the impacts that each of them is having on the other. An equally important objective will be doing so in a way that we can enjoy each other’s company and have fun!     

Q: What was your first Forum meeting and what have you received from your Forum membership?

My first Forum meeting was in my own backyard, Toronto, in 2005.

“Through my participation in the Forum, I have been able to develop relationships with many construction lawyers and consultants based not only throughout the U.S., but internationally as well.”

The programs, publications and resources have contributed tremendously to my professional development and the programs have given me, and sometimes my family, the opportunity to explore numerous diverse and interesting North American locations.  

Q: Why did you choose to run for the ABA Forum on Construction Law’s Division 7 Chair?

Barry Michael Clark, Jr.: My extensive involvement with Division 7 has extended back nearly a decade.  Having witnessed the Chairs who preceded me, I think that I can continue on Division 7’s excellence and source as a valuable resource for Forum members interested in Insurance, Surety and Lien-Law.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish as Division 7 Chair?

I hope to maintain and grow the actively involved membership of the Division.  I also intend to maintain and increase communication within the Division, while fostering and growing understanding of the ever-evolving tools the American Bar Association provides to foster that communication.

Q: What was your first Forum meeting and what have you received from your Forum membership?

My first Forum meeting was Fall, 2010 (I believe) it was at the Loews Hotel in Miami Beach, which is about one mile from my house.  While I thoroughly enjoyed the meeting, I attended the program, and then dutifully returned home immediately thereafter to be with my wife and child.  I simply did not understand all the Forum had to offer. 

“Since then, along with the excellent programming and education, I have come to develop some truly great friendships, forged both through, and after, a days’ programming.”

Q: Why did you choose to run for the ABA Forum on Construction Law’s Division 9 Chair?

Jeremy Brummond: Short answer: because it’s the best Division in the Forum.  Long answer:  Many of my clients are subcontractors and suppliers. 

“I chose to become involved in Division 9 to stay educated about the issues unique to those clients’ businesses.  Through my work with Division 9 over the years, including my time on the steering committee, I’ve met so many wonderful people, including prior chairs who encouraged me to take a leadership role.”

Ultimately, I chose to pursue chair because I want to continue the good work of my predecessors, including advancing education on issues unique to the specialty trade contractors and suppliers and broadening social connections with good counsel in the U.S. and beyond.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish as Division 9 Chair?

My primary goal is to increase active participation in Division 9 by younger lawyers through personal recruiting of lawyers outside the normal Forum circles and sponsorship by Division 9 veterans. 

Q: What was your first Forum meeting and what have you received from your Forum membership?

My first Forum meeting was the annual meeting in San Diego in 2006 (I still use the backpack we got at that meeting).  My first few meetings I was “only” getting education from the Forum, but in 2007, at the meeting in Puerto Rico, I started to discover the true value of the Forum when I met some Forum lawyers (including former Division 9 chair Dan Goldberg) while hanging out by the pool with my wife and eldest daughter.  From then on, I received so much from my Forum membership because I was actively making new friendships and connections with great people from all over the country.   

Q: Why did you choose to run for the ABA Forum on Construction Law’s Division 11 Chair?

 Erin K Cannon-Wells: Though I have dabbled in a few other divisions, ever since I became in house, Division 11 has been my home. I was interested in becoming Division 11 Chair because I have benefitted a great deal from the unique perspectives that members of Division 11 have, and I wanted to have a greater role in giving back to the Division that has given me so much.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish as Division 11 Chair?

As Division 11 Chair, I’d like to increase engagement.  On several occasions, I’ve met other in house counsel at in person meetings only to find out that I had exchanged emails with that same person as part of my practice.  I am hoping that monthly calls, hot topics, and publications will prompt some of those less active D11 members to make their presence known.

Q: What was your first Forum meeting and what have you received from your Forum membership?

I absolutely love telling this story.  My first Forum meeting was at Atlantis in the Bahamas!  I had recently joined the construction group at what is now Saul Ewing Arnstein Lehr.  The three partners in the group were members of the Forum and all spoke so highly of it (and their upcoming plans to attend the Mid-Winter meeting).  I looked into the Forum, wondered how I was just now finding out about it, and next thing I knew, I (with my mother in tow) was joining the rest of the team in the Bahamas.  It was an amazing meeting (though the weather had an impact on attendance) and I haven’t looked back since. 

“The Forum has become a place that really feeds my ‘legal soul’ and where I know I belong.  I went to law school to become a construction lawyer.  However, when I began as a first year associate, construction lawyers were few and far between and telling people about my desire to become a construction lawyer was like telling them I was from another planet.  The Forum allowed me to network with and learn from other attorneys interested and passionate about the same area of law.”

It also provides me with the training and knowledge that has helped me improve my skills and practice.

Q: Why did you choose to run for the ABA Forum on Construction Law’s Division 13 Chair?

Paul Varela: I have been involved with the Forum for a very long time and was part of the original steering committee for Division 13.  It has been a great fit for my practice and I was able to co-chair a program as part of the Division’s recommendation for a public construction meeting. I want to help the committee to continue to produce good work and become a powerful networking opportunity for people with common construction law practices. 

Q: What do you hope to accomplish as Division 13 Chair?

When COVID-19 first hit, my partner Ken Kupchak started to send COVID-19 –related emails from the College of Construction Lawyers exchange – thoughtful, timely, informative emails from people who were figuring out how things would work, legally, as each new virus-laden shoe dropped.  The atmosphere quickly went from worries about international supply chains to absences and worries about sick workers, to dealing with project shutdowns and economic collapse.  It was so helpful to have a resource to use as a jumping off point for research and to be able to discuss issues with clients with the learned heads of the College weighing in.  (Tom, I read your series of online articles too – they were excellent).  Division 13 already produces a great newsletter, has good group cohesion, and has generated speakers and program co-chairs and others who are genuinely interested in the Forum and willing to chip in their time and effort.  My goal would be to keep up the great work of my predecessors, but I also want to enable a Division 13 exchange where people could pose questions and thoughts about public construction issues they have run into, so that the vast knowledge of the group could become another reason to join both the Division and another selling point for the Forum. 

Q: What was your first Forum meeting and what have you received from your Forum membership?

My first Forum meeting was in Las Vegas, years go.  At the time I had no idea of what the Forum was about, much less how much I would eventually come to appreciate it.  Before this new opportunity to serve as chair of Division 13, I have written articles for the Construction Lawyer, served as associate editor of the “Hard Hat Case Notes” for a couple of years, served on the steering committee for Division 1, spoken at four national meetings, served on the initial steering committee for Division 13, and co-chaired the midwinter meeting 2019, in Los Angeles (which seems like a decade ago). 

“Membership in the Forum has yielded the best CLE I have ever had, the toughest preparation for any speaking opportunity I have ever had, client referrals, referrals for clients, expert witness referrals, opportunities to write chapters for national books, experience working with fantastic lawyers both on Forum matters and in cases, and, most importantly, wonderful friends.” 

It has, without a doubt, been the best and most impactful thing I have ever done for my practice as a construction lawyer in Hawaii, and I am happy and anxious to both pass on the opportunities of the Forum to others in my firm, as well as to continue to make the Forum such a positive experience for other “newbies” like me who have no idea what the Forum can offer, but are willing to work a little to find out. 

Q: Why did you choose to run for the ABA Forum on Construction Law’s YLD Chair?

Luke LaRocca: I really enjoyed the group of attorneys in the division and after having spent several years working in various different roles, wanted to take on a leadership role.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish as YLD Chair?

I would like to continue build what those Chairs before me started in the Young Lawyers Division as well as to increase participation and membership in the Division and opportunities for Division Members to participate in the larger Forum as a whole.  In addition, I am looking forward to working to continue to allow the Division to be a great resource for our Young Lawyers to pass along ideas, seek advice, and network with peers.

Q: What was your first Forum meeting and what have you received from your Forum membership?

My first Forum Meeting was the Annual Meeting in Boca Raton, Florida in April 2015. 

“As far as my Forum membership is concerned, I have gained a great resource for my day to day practice through both education and networking.  More importantly, I have made lasting friendships with peers from across the ​country.”

Governing  Committee Members

Q: Why did you choose to run for the ABA Forum on Construction Law’s Governing Committee?

Over the last decade, I have had the privilege of numerous Forum leadership, writing and speaking opportunities. The positive feedback I have personally received from Forum members about their mentors and the instrumental role they played in helping them pursue and advance their career motivates me to push this initiative further.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish as a Governing Committee member?

During the ACE Mentor Program sessions, I, along with other mentors, discuss and expose students to construction-related professions of architecture, contracting, engineering and the law applicable to each. The ACE Mentor Program is a great way for construction lawyers to volunteer their time, connect with other local professionals and give back to the community. I intend to continue promoting the ACE Mentor Program and to generate increased interest in the Forum as a member of the Forum’s Governing Committee.

Additionally, I will continue to promote the Forum’s Young Lawyers Division. I have been a part of the Forum’s Young Lawyers Division and I have seen it grow from a casual gathering of young lawyers to a well-organized and energetic group, with monthly calls and great speaking, writing and networking opportunities at each of the Forum’s meetings. These opportunities allow young lawyers to make connections, develop relationships and grow not only within the Forum but also within their respective firms.

“I would introduce the concept of “Speed Networking” events for young lawyers. The plan would be to have young lawyers and first time attendees network for 3-5 minutes with each other and with Forum leadership. This allows Forum attendees to meet and chat with others quickly and then continue to develop.”

Finally, as a member of the Governing Committee, and as part of my duties to promote the next generation, it will be critical to pair young lawyers with established Forum members to encourage the Forum’s tradition of mentoring the next generation of construction lawyers. I plan to continue the tradition of encouraging the involvement in the Forum of the next generation of construction lawyers in my firm, my community and nationwide. I am committed to continuing to help young lawyers navigate the Forum through writing and speaking opportunities.

Q: What was your first Forum meeting and what have you received from your Forum membership?

The first Forum meeting I attended was the 2010 Fall Meeting in Miami. I truly believe the Forum is comprised of leading attorneys practicing construction law at the highest level. Through its programs and publications, the Forum provides state-of-the-art education to construction lawyers.

Q: Why did you choose to run for the ABA Forum on Construction Law’s Governing Committee?

I chose to run to be a Governing Committee member because the Forum has given me so much in terms of personal and professional relationships and in terms of training and education that I wanted to keep giving back through giving of my time to help keep moving the Forum forward.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish as a Governing Committee member?

This is a tough question, because nothing the Governing Committee does is an individual effort. This means, to me, that a major part of my participation on the Governing Committee is to support and promote those programs and initiatives that we as a group determine are the initiatives that are worthy of our time.

“One thing that is very important to me personally is being available as a mentor, friend, and/or sounding board for others within the Forum – whether the issue is substantively legal or is a Forum matter. I believe strongly in the power of diversity and diverse viewpoints – that those of us who are in leadership or are in a position of authority or prosperity have a responsibility to help those who need a helping hand.”

So, if there is one thing for me to accomplish personally, it is to continue to push our organization in the direction of inclusion and mentoring. This is why the Division 1 practicums meant so much to me when I was the division chair – it was a way for younger lawyers to get something additional out of the meeting both in terms of training and in terms of a smaller group of people to meet, to get to know, and to engage with. Once you’re drawn in like that, it makes it easier to come to the next meeting.

Q: What was your first Forum meeting and what have you received from your Forum membership?

My first Forum meeting was in Newport, Rhode Island, for the Fall 2007 meeting. We went sailing on America’s Cup-class yachts on the Friday afternoon after the meeting ended, and it was the most fun I think I have ever had at a meeting.

As to what I have received: there is the obvious: the top-notch training and education and the excellent publications, of course. The trips to the great cities and resorts are a nice side benefit too. The best thing I’ve received, though, are the friendships with so many excellent people and top-quality lawyers across the country. It’s knowing that in nearly every city, there is someone I can call up and ask about being local counsel or if they can handle a case in their locality for me, or about potential arbitrators, or about where to stay or eat when I’m in that city for some reason, or if they have a spare conference room to use for a deposition.

Q: Why did you choose to run for the ABA Forum on Construction Law’s Governing Committee?

The Forum has been an integral part of my life for nearly the past 10 years. 

“It molded me into the construction attorney I have become and has given more to me than I could ever have imagined in terms of a knowledge base, referral network, expert connections, friendships, and client referrals.” 

I chose to run for GC Membership so I could give back some of what has been given to me by continuing to grow and expand the Forum to others, particularly its young and diverse membership.   

Q: What do you hope to accomplish as a Governing Committee member?

I want to increase young lawyer participation and diversity membership and help grow the Forum by promoting its business case.  My initial focus will be on the business case for the Forum. I know there are more success stories like mine, and I believe they need to be shared. Those that have met me know I am passionate about the Forum, because it exudes from me and I actively try to bring others into the fold to give them the same great experience I have had.

Q: What was your first Forum meeting and what have you received from your Forum membership?

I received a Scholarship to the 2011 Mid-Winter Meeting in Arizona and attended my first Forum meeting shortly thereafter. The Forum’s focus on “Programs, Publications and People” and its mission to develop the best construction lawyers is apropos. I would not be half the lawyer I am today without the Forum. The relationships I have made in the Forum are invaluable. Not just because of the friendships, but because I have contacts all over the country and internationally that allow me to get my clients the assistance they need anywhere, be it legal representation, or the best expert in a given field. And the knowledge base I have gained from the Programs and Publications (including my participation in them) is unparalleled.

Q: Why did you choose to run for the ABA Forum on Construction Law’s Governing Committee?

The energy and commitment of Forum members and its leadership motivated me to submit my interest.  Since entering the construction industry as Nabholz’ first in house counsel, the forum has provided me with premier educational programs, professional network, and peer support to help me gain knowledge and abilities as a construction lawyer. It is the best experience I’ve ever had with any professional organization.  Forum membership represents the highest level of industry legal expertise, and its reputation is a direct result of the   personal and professional contributions of its members.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish as a Governing Committee member?

My hope is to contribute to assuring the Forum maintains its presence as the most respected professional association of construction lawyers in the United States and abroad. 

“Female enrollment in law schools is decreasing, construction and design entities continue to merge and grow beyond traditional boundaries, and industry participants are tightening their budgets and struggling to locate skilled talent for its workforce.  Forum members are in a unique position to guide our firms, companies and clients through these challenges.” 

We should strive to maintain and grow member diversity and provide forward-looking training programs and resources for our members to assist them in adapting to and driving change.

Q: What was your first Forum meeting and what have you received from your Forum membership?

I believe my first Forum meeting was in 2006 after joining Nabholz in the summer of 2005.  I recall attending the Division 11 In-House Counsel meeting and loving the group.  One distinct memory is Susan Fisher Stevens, in-house with Sprint at the time, approaching me right when I walked in the door.  I felt so welcome, and this feeling never changed. The question about what I have received from my forum membership is difficult to answer because the list would be very long, but at the top is definitely relationships.  Second on the list is the exposure to a level of legal expertise in the construction industry that you can’t find anywhere else.

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Christopher M. Wise

Wise Law LLC, Louisville, KY, Division 1 (Litigation and Dispute Resolution)