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Lawyers and in-house counsel can be strategic partners for AEC firms when consulted at the right junctures. Leveraging in-house legal counsel
L awyers aren’t always leveraged correctly in the AEC industry. According to Amber Hardwick, in-house general counsel and corporate secretary for OAC Services, Inc., “Lawyers and in-house counsel can be strategic partners when consulted at the right junctures.” Hardwick is one of Washington State’s notable construction attorneys, having chaired Washington Bar’s Construction Law Section in 2019-2020. She has remained active in the construction law community and spent 10 years as a litigation and transactional attorney, representing architects, engineers, and construction professionals.
There is a misconception that lawyers should only be involved in “legal” matters. What constitutes “legal” matters is subject to interpretation and, unfortunately, sometimes legal consultation is initiated too late to avoid conflict. AEC professionals often approach challenges without consulting their trusted legal advisors on the misguided basis that an issue “hasn’t reached the level” requiring legal input or in the interest of saving on costs. This approach risks losing focus on the big picture. Hardwick says, “Lawyers are trained in critical thinking. Critical thinking is driven by questions, not by answers. This means that lawyers, if leveraged at the right time, can prompt project teams to ask the
right questions to entirely avoid or mitigate claims and disputes.” Here are the top advantages to clients and firms utilizing in-house counsel: ■ ■ Providing clients with a competitive edge. Firms with in-house legal departments have an edge. “The main difference between in-house and outside counsel is that outside counsel looks at specific questions or items, providing targeted responses, without necessarily ever seeing the big picture,” Hardwick says. “When you have in-house counsel, that legal expertise
See CALLUM ROXBOROUGH, page 10
THE ZWEIG LETTER APRIL 11, 2022, ISSUE 1436
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