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Vol. 2001- | January, 2001

Emerging Legal Specialty

Construction law, as an emerging legal specialty, has come of age. Too long unrecognized as a significant and distinct area of substantive law, it is, in many jurisdictions, finally being accorded national and international recognition as a true legal specialty. Numerous case law decisions, texts, periodicals, reports and news articles address construction disasters, building and building product failures, legal decisions, mechanics’ liens, cost overruns, construction claims and disputes, construction contracts, construction management, bonds and insurance, in both public and private sectors of the construction industry. The issues and controversies involving construction law in daily business are becoming even more complex as the costs of materials, labor and financing escalate.

Construction law encompasses a broad body of laws and technology, whether building demolition, new design, improvements or maintenance, all related to land. In the simplest of terms, Construction Law provides the lawful, ordered standards for improvements to real property for man, his animals and possessions. The areas of law involved are closely interrelated with the traditionally recognized bodies of the law of contracts, torts, real property, agency, corporation, partnership, labor, tax, conflicts, evidence and international law. And, it may well involve many other areas of the law, depending upon the facts of any given case or controversy.

The history and development of the construction industry and the evolution of applicable, interpretive laws, has resulted in a flood of new case law and significant decisions. Some of these involve taxes, finance, insurance, environment and real property as well as labor and energy. This legal evolution has paralleled innovative developments in construction practices, methods, equipment, products, management, building regulations, building codes, land planning and land use.

The laws of each specialty are varied and intricate, representing a subtle outgrowth of the highly complex relationships in building projects, which now affect almost every traditional area of substantive law, legal practice, and procedure.

The unique problems of the building business and process distinguish Construction Law from the general practice of law, in which practice is often limited to one or more areas of the law. As a result, construction law practitioners have, because of their highly specialized education, training, experience, and skills, come into greater demand and utility. These legal practitioners “understand and speak the language” of building and construction, necessary to serve and counsel, as advocates, in representing the unique requirements of construction industry clients.

Author: J. NORMAN STARK is an Attorney-at-Law, a Registered Architect, (AIA, NCARB) Registered Landscape Architect, Interior Designer, Planner and Senior Appraiser (ASA), admitted to practice law before the Bar of Ohio, the US District Courts, Ohio and Illinois (Central Dist.), the US Court of Appeals, and the United States Supreme Court. He has had experience in business, Construction, Real Property, Litigation and Construction-Legal Project and Crisis Management.