Nordstrand Black - January 2020







From Construction to the Law

For most of my life, if you had told me I was going to be an attorney, I wouldn’t have believed you. In fact, from the time I was in junior high, I thought I knew the exact path my life was going to take — as the son and grandson of two masonry contractors, my future seemed all but set. But, while I didn’t realize it at the time, as I took up the family trade, I was laying a solid foundation for a career in the law. Contractors occasionally play a role in legal cases, especially those concerning premises liability. A professional opinion on whether a staircase is up to code, or whether a handrail was necessary or adequate, can make all the difference in determining who’s at fault for a bad fall. However, I didn’t think much of this legal work until I met my wife, Renee. Renee and I met in 1999, and as our relationship grew, so did my interest in the law. Specifically, I saw the amount of good a personal injury lawyer can do for a person in need. In the past, I’d thought of insurance companies as being neutral, fair arbiters of injury cases. But, as I paid attention to the cases Renee worked, I saw just how often these large companies tried to get out of paying claims fairly. I saw this time and time again, when insurance adjusters and defense attorneys argued that dangerous conditions were safe, when it was

obvious to me and the experts Renee consulted on the case that there were code violations. That’s when I realized I had a unique perspective that could help people facing these and other injury claims. I decided to take the plunge and headed to law school in 2008. While being an expert advisor on premises liability cases was my most direct exposure to the legal world, I soon found that contracting had other skills that prepared me to become an attorney. The ability to negotiate, for example, is extremely important in both professions — whether you’re trying to hold a supplier to their end of the bargain, or reach a settlement that reflects the gravity of a client’s injuries, the underlying principles are the same. It also helped that I’d run my own contracting business for the past 25 years. I was far more prepared to jump into such a high stakes job than I may have been had I gone straight from college into law school. I knew what it meant to work hard for the people relying on me and had learned the personal accountability to follow through on that responsibility. But more than anything, my decades in construction have given me the perspective of the average person. I often tell people: “Being a lawyer isn’t hard; being a laborer is.” Having worked with my hands since I was a

teenager, I know what it’s like to get by on the sweat of your brow and just how much a serious injury can set you back in those circumstances. I’m proud to be in a position now where I can help hardworking people stand up to the likes of large insurance companies. So, while making the leap from construction to law may seem like a wide gap to clear at first glance, the two lines of work have proved very complementary. I love waking up every morning knowing I get to help people in need. I may not have imagined I’d be an attorney one day, but now that I am, I can’t imagine doing anything else.

On behalf of our whole firm, have a happy and healthy new year,

– – Doug Black

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