Looking for a construction lawyer for your California construction business? Whether it’s a payment issue or you’ve been accused of providing defective work, construction lawyers are necessary when you work in this industry. If you don’t already have one, finding a good one can seem like finding a needle in three haystacks. Bad attorneys can cost your company lots of money, so you want to make sure they are right for your company and your situation before you hire them.
If you don’t have a quality referral from a friend, family member, or a peer you trust, the internet can be a valuable resource. The only problem is everyone’s website says they are the best construction attorney around, and the review sites each list different attorneys and don’t seem to be much help. We’ve done the research and we’ll try to walk you through all the info to find the best construction lawyers in San Francisco, California.
Garret Murai – Construction Attorney & Thought Leader
Garret Murai is one of California’s thought-leaders in the construction law space. Garret chairs the Construction Practice Group at his Oakland-based firm, Wendel Rosen, LLP, and is an author and editor of the firm’s award-winning California Construction Law Blog (www.calconstructionlawblog.com) which provides an informative yet wry look at legal issues affecting the construction industry in California. We’ve linked to and referred to this blog a ton over the years because Garret, and the other authors, have been huge leaders in conversations about legal matters that impact contractors.
When it comes to needing an expert in your corner on a construction dispute or just consultation with construction law issues, Garret Murai is one of the finest in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Kate Warner: Construction Lawyer
Kate Warner has been practicing construction law since 1983. She is a member of WestCon, Northern California’s leading construction consultant’s trade organization, AGC (Associated General Contractors), the Marin Builders Exchange, and many other construction-related organizations.
Warner’s San Rafael firm provides services that include “address[ing] insurance coverage, funding issues and provid[ing] critical litigation input.” Her website talks about her work using “underused tools” of the construction bar to help bring solutions to her cases. Many of her reviews speak about her willingness to employ the least amount of time and money to get the resolution of an issue. Her clients feel that she is looking out for them both legally and financially.
She has helped several companies design their lien programs, so she has lots of experience with payment issues. Her website includes information on payment and lien laws and some sample forms for download, so you can avoid the expense of an attorney if that is all you are looking for.
As far as reviews go, she has a very positive presence on Avvo, with several client reviews and a few peer reviews from other attorneys. Most of the client reviews talk about her willingness to help them, even if it meant not using an attorney, as well as her thoroughness and ability to win cases.
Last & Faoro: Attorneys at Law
William (Bill) Last Jr has been a lawyer in California since 1978 and his San Mateo firm’s services include contract negotiation and preparation, payment issues, and other construction-related disputes. The firm’s website also mentions licensing issues and prevailing wage questions.
His sole area of practice is construction, and he is a member of several builders’ exchanges, AGC, Association of Builders and Contractors (ABC), and several legal associations. Last is also registered as a type A and B licensed contractor in California. His immersion in the industry makes him a good choice for any type of construction-related legal issue.
He has a favorable rating on both Avvo and Lawyers.com, based on his years of experience and his contributions to the construction legal field. He has won several awards, including the Super Lawyer award in construction from 2007-2019. Super Lawyer is a peer-reviewed award based on the experience of the attorney and ranks the best of the best in several industries.
Lang, Richert, and Patch
Mark Creede has been practicing law since 1987 and is a construction and commercial business attorney in Fresno. His areas of practice include construction defects, construction litigation, liens and payment issues, bid disputes, and general business law. He has been awarded the Super Lawyer designation from 2007-2018.
“Before practicing law, he was a construction engineer for six years, working for Johnson Controls, Inc., San Francisco Branch, specializing in mechanical, electrical, electronic, and digital control systems design and installation, project management, applications software, personnel training, and engineering department management,” according to the firm’s website.
It is nice to know he has real life experience of what it is like being a contractor. He is also currently a member of ASHRAE, AGC, and the American Institute of Architects (AIA).
Creede has been given 4.7 stars on Lawyers.com, with several peer reviews giving kudos for his ethics and ability to win tough cases. Avvo gives him a 10 based on his professional conduct and activity in the industry.
The firm is active in the community with each lawyer required to perform so many hours of pro bono work each year to help those who need it most. The company’s dedication to giving back separates them from other firms.
Ernest Brown & Company
Ernest Brown is a mediator, arbitrator, and construction attorney in San Francisco with over 30 years of experience. He has served as project counsel on some very large infrastructure projects, helping to draft contracts, settle claims, and manage the legal turmoil that is involved with these types of large projects.
The firm’s website states, he has been “endorsed as one of the top five construction lawyers in California, according to Chambers & Partners, the premier independent ranking publication for lawyers across the globe.”
His first career was as a civil engineer, so he also has real-world experience. He has worked as an attorney on projects such as the Central Arizona Project Pipeline failure and Southern California Edison Powerplant Disaster and won claims ranging from $250,000 to $250 million.
Brown focuses on alternative dispute resolution. He would be a good contact to make when you’ve reached out to the other party and need help to resolve an issue without going to court or pursuing litigation.
Brown’s firm has a positive review on Yelp, with no real presence on Avvo or Lawyers.com. If you are in construction defect litigation and need someone to act as a neutral party, or you have a project large enough to warrant having an attorney, Brown seems to be a good choice.
Tour-Sarkissian Law Offices
Christine Tour-Sarkissian is a real estate and construction attorney in San Francisco who has been practicing law in California since 1985. She is a member of the Real Property, Trusts, and Estates section and the Family Law section of both the American Bar Association and the State Bar of California. She also teaches real estate law at Golden Gate University School of Law, is a licensed real estate agent, and co-owns a commercial and residential real estate company.
The firm’s website says she is experienced “in the purchase and sale of residential and commercial properties, in the drafting and negotiating of commercial mortgage loans representing borrowers and lenders, in construction contracts and litigation, foreclosures, and loan workouts.” Her added experience in real estate could be beneficial if your case involves such a transaction.
Tour-Sarkissian has several peer reviews online at Lawyers.com, and they compliment her on her ethics and ability to take apart cases. She has also been selected as a Super Lawyer from 2014-2019.
Do you need a construction attorney?
Maybe you don’t, it depends on what services you are looking for. Before spending money on a consultation you may not need, join the thousands of construction professionals who post questions on the Levelset Payment Help Center every month. It’s free to post your question, and it will be answered by a construction attorney in your area usually in one to two days.
If you have been served with a lawsuit, you will definitely want to consult with an attorney. It isn’t wise to skimp on things once a suit has been filed. Make sure to look at more than just price when selecting an attorney, as hiring a bad one can be more expensive in the long run than spending more upfront on a good one.
If you need a contract reviewed or written, it is probably best to engage an attorney, but you shouldn’t need to spend a whole lot of money. Many attorneys have a boilerplate contract they can send you that is good in your state.
If you are struggling with a payment issue, there are alternatives other than hiring a lawyer or going straight to court. You can send a Notice of Intent to Lien or record a mechanic’s lien, both of which are very powerful steps to get paid that don’t require the help of an attorney. Non-attorney lien services are usually a good place to start when facing a payment issue, as they typically cost less than an attorney and their solutions are just as effective. Many lawyers will refer their clients to a lien filing service first, because a mechanics lien, if prepared and filed correctly, makes it easier for them to enforce or foreclose on the lien should payment not be received.
At Levelset we stress trying to work things out before hiring lawyers or filing a lien. Most attorneys will counsel you to try to work things out first, then come to them if negotiations stall or the other party is non-responsive.
When it comes to payment issues, the best remedy is to avoid these kinds of issues altogether with increased communication and collaboration between parties exchanging payment. Levelset can offer payment help by allowing you to be seen by those issuing payment, exchanging the necessary paperwork, and talking things out if an issue comes up. With these strategies, you should be able to avoid the need for a construction attorney for payment issues.
If you still need help figuring out what to look for in a construction attorney, download our free guide – How to Find a Construction Lawyer.