Chapter 8 - Construction Law

This is a first love. Contractors and materials suppliers typically know each other and tend to remain in their respective trades for life. Many also have employees.

It is doubtful that law school taught anyone about mechanic's liens; yet, this is a staple in construction law. In some jurisdictions, and maybe all of them, be sure to know the difference between mechanic's liens and payment bonds since some projects - especially government projects - cannot be liened in the traditional sense.

Construction is a hot-bed for litigation. Downward wage pressures have led contractors to sub-contract work out to some of the lowliest people on the planet. It is a dispute waiting to erupt. On the flip-side, some project owners can find fault in everything. Invariably, they are going to hold back one or more draws and refuse payment. Another dispute waiting to happen. On a side-angle, you have the contractors who have been stretched thin on profit margin and have incurred cost overruns. Not only that, they have unreasonable project owners finding fault everywhere and refusing to pay. As a result, subcontractors go unpaid. They need help getting paid, too.

It is much like the "perfect storm" for litigators. The only twist is - and this is a good twist - this area of law relies heavily on mechanic's lien laws. Most lawyers never bother to spend the time it takes to prepare and litigate mechanic's liens correctly. It can be confusing if you are not dedicated to figuring it out, but once you do, it is easy. It does not take a lot of time to figure it out, either. As a fourth angle, sometimes legal malpractice cases pop up in your favor because some attorney took on, and bungled, a mechanic's lien. You can get a legal malpractice case out of this and be the shark who eats other sharks.

If you pursue this area, know the mechanic's lien laws very well. It will pay…. and pay regularly. In addition, many of the clients have employees. Another reason not to have an office is because when you meet your business client at the client's office, you see the employees and they see you. They will ask you to do legal odds and ends for them, too. Some of this "incidental" business can turn into nice chunks here and there.

In summary, construction law is great for lawyers. Guaranteed repeat business is practically a given, and you can frequently get some incidental business from employees. Even the business owners will use you for other things - whether it involves buying a piece of land, a new home, a will, etc. But to get in this door, it is essential that you firmly grasp mechanic's lien law.


© 2015, Jeff M