Construction Law

Tower cranes are back on skylines as the construction industry emerges from challenging times. This emergence is sector-driven and success often depends on consolidation, innovation and a renewed dedication to productivity.  Careful attention must be placed on evaluation of new risks.  More than ever, owners, contractors and design professionals need counsel who understand their challenges.  At Much Shelist, we know our clients’ businesses and we understand the risks they can face.  We care deeply about our clients, and we admire their dedication to design and construction.  A successful project matters a great deal to our clients and the communities they serve – and we share our clients’ passion for building.

Much Shelist’s Construction Group is known for its depth in construction law. Our knowledge and experience have made us a “go to” firm for many local, regional and national construction and real estate professionals and other firms involved in the complex construction process. Our clients include Fortune 500 companies and ENR-listed contractors and design professionals, as well as middle market industry players.  Whatever their size, our clients obtain the depth of knowledge of a construction law boutique coupled with the range and resources of a full service firm.  In fact, we are one of the few Chicago law firms with experienced construction law attorneys who also have substantial, hands-on training in the architectural and engineering professions. Our success is built upon the effectiveness of lawyers who truly understand the construction industry, who do not charge the hourly rates of "Big Law" and we believe deeply in developing long-term relationships with clients. 

Our construction law attorneys are experienced in transactions and legal disputes involving the myriad of building systems, structures, types, project delivery methods, and materials.  We are engaged in a wide range of sectors including manufacturing, institutional, heavy civil, infrastructure, power, energy, marine, commercial, residential, industrial, health care, government and schools. We are equally comfortable relating to the workers and superintendents in the field, project managers and C-suite executives. As a result, we offer a compelling and unique blend of legal knowledge, practical industry experience and an ability to "speak the language" of the construction industry.

An Effective Business Resource

Our clients can count on us as effective business advisors. In fact, our greatest value may be our understanding of our clients’ businesses and their long-term growth strategies.  We help owners, developers, contractors, design professionals, suppliers and building product manufacturers manage the expectations and the risks that can emerge at every phase of a project.  We are well-versed in the legal implications of design, construction, project delivery, project management and regulatory issues. We negotiate agreements that will help achieve objectives; identify and manage risk; communicate clearly with vendors, consultants and contractors throughout the construction project; and, when necessary, resolve disputes through negotiation or litigation. 

Today’s solutions require a broad-based legal toolkit. Our construction attorneys draw upon the resources of other Much Shelist practice groups, including Business & Finance, Policyholders’ Insurance Coverage, Labor & Employment, Intellectual Property, and Creditors' Rights, Insolvency & Business Bankruptcy whenever client needs require expanded capabilities.

Construction Contracts

Our attorneys are creative and efficient contract drafters. We are experienced in all manner of construction and design contracts and delivery systems, and our clients routinely come to us to assist in the negotiation and preparation of a wide range of design and construction agreements, including standard design-bid-build, owner representative, construction management (both "at-risk" and "not at-risk"), design-build, multiple-prime, Engineering Procurement and Construction (“EPC”) and Integrated Project Delivery (“IPD”). We have drafted contracts for all manner of vertical, civil, energy, process plant and manufacturing and industrial projects. We have also drafted suites of master construction and design contract forms for some of America’s most prominent companies, as well as middle market owners, contractors and design professionals.  We have also drafted and negotiated joint venture and teaming agreements for both public and private projects. 

Our involvement in the contracting process extends beyond drafting and negotiating agreements. The construction group’s lawyers have also been involved in updating various American Institute of Architects (“AIA”) forms, including updates to the AIA’s design-build agreements.

Construction Disputes

While the construction group’s attorneys are skilled at resolving construction-related disputes before they escalate to litigation, our lawyers are also experienced trial and alternative dispute resolution lawyers. This combination, coupled with our practical experience, allows us to quickly analyze the strengths and weaknesses of a case in order to foster the early resolution of disputes.  This also enables us to take disputes to successful conclusions when settlements cannot be achieved. Our goal is to help clients resolve conflicts while protecting their financial interests and business objectives, whether in court or through alternative dispute resolution options, including mediation and arbitration. Once the client has made the decision to arbitrate or litigate though, we bring the same zeal to win whether the claim is for six figures or nine figures. 

We routinely represent clients in the types of disputes that are common to the industry, such as delay, disruption and other scheduling disputes, terminations, scope and extra work claims, design and construction defect claims, and mechanics lien and fee disputes. We are also experienced in condominium and commercial lease disputes whose resolution often requires a background in construction, insurance coverage, condominium, landlord tenant and forcible detainer laws. Throughout  our careers, we have successfully resolved disputes involving a wide array of building types and project systems, ranging from super tall structures to tunnels, museums and theaters to government buildings, traditional utilities to alternative energy plants, industrial plants to manufacturing facilities, multi-tenant residences to school and university buildings, and from award-winning designs to modular construction. Our knowledge of various building and design systems can be the key to successful client results.   

Our attorneys have deep experience working with a broad array of technical consultants. We frequently assist clients in the selection of expert witnesses.  And whether prepping our own experts for trial or confronting opposing experts during examinations, we speak the expert’s language.          

Our attorneys are also experienced with disputes related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and Fair Housing Amendments Act (“FHAA”) requirements, as well as state and local accessibility laws.

Construction Industry Insurance, Title Insurance and Surety Bonds

Our attorneys assist in the development of insurance and indemnity requirements during the initial stage of the construction process, which provides our clients with an important risk management tool. We have deep transactional and claims experience with the full range of insurance policies used in the construction industry including CGL, worker’s compensation, professional liability, wrap up (OCIP and CCIP), builder’s risk, owner’s protective, subcontractor default, project specific, green building and technology risk. We are experienced in drafting and negotiating insurance coverage provisions in construction and design contracts that properly allocate risk thereby providing our clients with appropriate protections. We also work closely with clients’ brokers and internal risk management personnel at the beginning of a project, during contract negotiations and when insurers reserve rights or deny claims. We are also well-versed in claims strategies and frequently work with clients’ insurance carriers to resolve disputes.  When the situation warrants we use every tool at our disposal to compel insurers to make good on their insurance coverage obligations    

Title insurance defense work is another significant part of the group's practice.  In this highly technical and sophisticated area of real estate litigation, our attorneys have handled substantial coverage, lien and priority claims involving most major title insurance companies.  We also counsel clients in connection with suretyship and bonding matters. Our attorneys are well versed in drafting and negotiating bond requirements in contracts and provide counsel when a client either needs to make a claim on a bond or a claim is made against the client’s bond.

Construction Licensing & Regulatory Matters

A construction professional’s license is a very valuable asset. Our attorneys advise clients on a wide range of architectural, engineering and contractor licensing matters.  We help clients understand licensing requirements and assist in obtaining and protecting their licenses. We advise clients on the impacts of licensing requirements on acquisitions and reorganizations and assist in determining licensing requirements during due diligence contracting and transactional matters.

We work with our firm’s professional malpractice attorneys to respond to regulatory inquiries and investigations. We have experience before both state regulatory boards and professional association ethics boards and have successfully defended professional malpractice claims at trial, arbitration and administrative law hearings.

Construction Industry Mergers & Acquisitions 

In this time of industry consolidation, our group is strategically positioned to assist our clients   who wish to enter, exit or increase their position in the industry. In fact, our construction group’s lawyers bring their deep industry knowledge to provide due diligence support for construction industry mergers, acquisition and reorganizations.  One of the group’s partners has led due diligence efforts for one of the largest contractors in the world.  Additionally, our corporate lawyers can provide general legal counseling on a wide variety of day-to-day matters as well as corporate and structuring matters. Our lawyers also draft and negotiate joint venture and teaming agreements, and our private equity and venture capital lawyers also advise on construction industry investments. 

Real Estate Development & Construction Lending

Many construction industry players are taking positions in real estate developments and projects. Drawing on the significant experience and capabilities of Much Shelist’s real estate attorneys, we can provide practical legal advice on sophisticated real estate transactions. We represent developers in construction transactions, and contractors and design professionals in their dealings with developers and in their own investments. We also represent borrowers and lenders in construction loan and project finance matters.  We negotiate lender requests for estoppel letters and consents from contractors and design professionals; and we advise clients in the negotiation and enforcement/defense of parental and investor project guarantees. 

Environmental Alternative Energy & Green Building

Our construction lawyers are experienced in drafting environmental provisions in contracts and advising clients regarding construction law matters in projects involving environmental abatement and retrofits and conversions required by environmental laws.  We consult with our environmental lawyers regarding regulatory issues that arise in construction and design projects, including but not limited to site investigation, risk assessment, site remediation, managing contaminated media, construction and maintenance of engineered barriers, evaluation of internal environmental issues such as asbestos or vapor intrusion.

Alternative energy projects are characterized by innovative technology and laudable goals. They also present special legal and business challenges. We assist clients with transactions and claims in alternative energy plant projects ranging from solar and wind energy to biofuels. Our lawyers are also experienced with the trends and legal requirements of sustainability and green building construction. We draft contracts for high-performance and green building projects, and advise clients regarding compliance with green building codes and designations.

Construction Industry Bankruptcies & Workouts

When construction and design projects become financially distressed, we work closely with our firm’s bankruptcy attorneys.  Through this collaboration, we protect our clients’ interests in bankruptcy proceedings, receiverships, out-of-court workouts, reorganizations, restructurings and assignments for the benefit of creditors either during construction projects or during construction litigation or arbitration. We assist clients in assessing the numerous alternatives available to them to avoid the need for insolvency-related actions thereby allowing the project to move toward completion with minimized impact. We also counsel clients on ways to deal with their customer’s shaky financial condition. Over the years we have developed a broad network of local and national contacts, including lenders, turnaround specialists, valuation experts, and other advisors to whom we can turn as specific needs and opportunities arise.

Labor & Employment Issues in Construction

Our construction law attorneys are experienced in drafting labor and employment-related provisions in construction and design contracts. Our group works closely with our labor & employment lawyers to provide the full range of employment-related services.

On the labor side, our lawyers have experience with double-breasting, multiemployer withdrawal liability issues under Taft Hartley plans, collective bargaining agreements, project labor agreements, prevailing wage matters, OSHA, labor unrest during construction projects, such as secondary picketing and boycotts, labor arbitration, and unfair labor practice claims.  

On the employment side, we counsel clients on hiring, firing and disciplinary decisions, drafting of employee handbooks, interpretation of wage and hour laws, EEOC compliance, ERISA and other benefits matters, FMLA leave or disability/accommodations, ADA matters, employer issues in business transactions, executive compensation matters, workplace harassment and training programs,  and Executive Order 11246 and the affirmative action obligations of a government contractor.

Intellectual Property Protection in Construction 

Our construction law attorneys are well-versed on the growing intellectual property needs of our clients. Along with our firm’s intellectual property lawyers, we counsel clients who develop, license and commercialize new processes and technologies that often form the basis for constructing process and manufacturing plants. We help clients secure and protect their ownership of intellectual property assets developed for use as construction and design technology. We negotiate intellectual property provisions in industry contracts and draft and negotiate licensing and transfer of ownership agreements. We advise on e-commerce and intellectual property considerations for project communications and information sharing technologies. We also counsel clients on issues that arise in connection with the termination of project participants who have intellectual property rights or obligations. 

Emerging Trends & Technology

Our lawyers pride themselves on staying up to date on legal issues associated with emerging trends and innovations. We provide counseling and are thought leaders on topic such as modular construction, building information modeling, integrated project delivery, technology risk and the development of new technologies to make the design and construction process more productive.

Industry Leadership & Recognition

We further demonstrate our commitment to clients and their needs through our leadership roles in legal and construction industry organizations. Our attorneys are members of the American College of Construction Lawyers, Society of Illinois Construction Attorneys (and its senior leadership), the American Bar Association's Forum on the Construction Industry (and its steering committee for the Design Division), the Chicago Bar Association (and its Construction Law & Mechanics Lien subcommittee) and the Illinois State Bar Association's Section on Construction Law. We have also served on the committees that drafted comprehensive revisions to the Illinois Mechanics Lien Act. We serve on government and school boards and committees. We are also regular panelists and presenters at seminars and conferences, guest lecturers at law and business schools, and are frequent contributors to legal and construction industry journals and blogs. Additionally, one of our lawyers is the general counsel for a large construction industry trade organization.

Our attorneys are recognized by industry and legal peers for their knowledge of construction law and their skill as litigators in both state and federal courts. Our lawyers are listed in Chambers, Legal 500, Leading Lawyers, Best Lawyers, Super Lawyers, Who’s Who, and have received the highest rating by Martindale-Hubbell.