Hiring a construction lawyer is much like hiring a contractor: you need to hire the right one. If you hire the wrong lawyer, you may not recover what you are entitled to recover. Unlike a personal injury case, or a contract dispute, if you have a construction issue, you need a specialist lawyer. You need a construction lawyer. In addition, you need a specialist lawyer with particular talents.
First, your lawyer must know the construction industry. While most lawyers say they can handle a construction dispute, few are really knowledgeable in construction matters. The lawyer must know the details of foundations, walls, roofs, concrete, steel erection, or whatever construction defect or issue you are dealing with. The lawyer need not be a general contractor or engineer, but he or she must have significant and specific experience with construction matters.
Second, the lawyer needs to have presentation competency – they need to be able to communicate clearly. If the lawyer cannot communicate your problem to the judge, jury, arbitrator or mediator, the facts and issues will never be understood, and you will not see the results you want. Many lawyers are great with the technical issues. They know engineering; they know site work; they know structural components. But they cannot communicate with the layman. When they are done talking, if you did not understand a word they said, a judge or a jury certainly will not understand them.
Third, and finally, the lawyer needs to be willing to prepare your case. Nothing beats being prepared. The lawyer must be willing to learn your case. Every case is unique – especially when it comes to construction. The lawyer needs to be willing to spend the time to learn your case. Judges and juries repeatedly say that cases are won and lost based on the facts presented. In other words, the lawyer’s opening statement and closing argument are really just window dressing. It is the facts, however, that are critical. If the lawyer does not take the time to learn the facts, you will not win your case. Facts are the “nails” that hold the case together. As the proverb goes: “For want of a nail, the shoe was lost; for want of a shoe, the horse was lost; for want of a horse, the soldier was lost; for want of a solder, the battle was lost; for want of a battle, the war was lost – all for the want of a nail.”
Your selection of a lawyer to handle your construction dispute will be the single most important factor in whether you recover your damages, or fail miserably. Choose wisely, or you may lose the war.