Law firms are everywhere in greater Los Angeles. Finding a good one can feel like a daunting task. But for contractors or property owners, finding a “good lawyer” isn’t enough. When you’re involved in a property claim or payment dispute in southern California, you want a lawyer who understands the construction industry and all of the California regulations that apply. You don’t just need a good lawyer. You need the best construction lawyer in Orange County you can find.
In most states (including California), you generally don’t need a lawyer for certain activities like filing mechanics liens or performing collections actions. However, there are some jobs only a qualified lawyer can handle. Two issues that construction lawyers commonly deal with are are workmanship issues (i.e. the quality of work) and payment disputes (e.g. enforcing a mechanics lien, or foreclosing on a property). If you are still trying to decide whether you need one, read more about what construction lawyers actually do.
Across the country, the growing list of guidelines, codes, and regulations makes construction law more complicated. “Part-time” construction lawyers or lawyers who practice law in other areas besides construction might not have the focus, experience, and resources you’re looking for. That’s why the law firms on this list are committed to construction law.
Do you have a legal question about payment issues? Post your question in our Expert Center and get an answer from construction law experts that practice around the country (including California).
The best construction law firms in Orange County
This list will help anyone involved in construction in Orange County – property owners, contractors, material and equipment suppliers – to find a local law firm that understands their industry and has the proven experience to get results.
The law firms on this list were selected using several factors:
- The number of attorneys that focus on construction law
- Length of time in the field
- Awards and honors received
- Client reviews and feedback
This list is alphabetical; it’s not ordered according to rank.
Jones Day is a law firm in Irvine, CA with a reputation for being tough, aggressive, thorough, and professional. Ranked nationally as a Tier 1 Law Firm for Construction Law by US News & World Report in their “Best Law Firms 2020” ranking, this group of attorneys understands the construction industry. They are deeply involved in the needs, issues, and pitfalls which come with each and every stage of a complex construction project.
BTI Consulting Group awarded Jones Day their “Most Recommended” rating in its annual survey, “The Firms Top Legal Decision Makers Recommend Above All Others.” This is the eighteenth year in a row that Jones Day has received this highly-respected honor. BTI also ranked Jones Day as #1 in its Client Service A-Team report for the past three years. Jones Day secured the “Best of the Best” designation in all of the 17 activities that BTI says produce the best client service.
Daniel McMillan, a partner at Jones Day, is a specialist in construction law and sits on the American Bar Association Forum on Construction Law.
In addition to their work with clients, Jones Day’s lawyers are also involved in Orange County’s business, legal, and social community. They provide pro bono work on a range of matters and issues for a variety of clients. The firm’s attorneys also serve in both leadership and volunteer positions for a number of local civic, and cultural organizations.
Law 360 ranked K&L Gates as one of the top 20 law firms on the planet in 2019. This firm has the credentials and ability to take on any issue or action in construction law. Their offices in Orange County make them one of a small group of high-quality construction law firms located just outside of downtown Los Angeles.
Named the “Best Firm to Handle the Construction Project of the Future” by Above the Law, this law firm knows every step of the construction process. They work on cases from concept to financing, from contracting to completion, and final sign-off. According to Above the Law, “The firm’s lawyers specialize in niche areas like integrating technology and IP into construction projects and incorporating clean energy and green initiatives.” This group goes deep into the following areas of construction law:
- Contract Negotiation & Project Support
- Dispute Resolution
- Government Contracting
- Public-Private Partnerships (P3)
- Project Finance & Infrastructure Funds
K&L Gates is one of the leading construction law firms working in Southern California – and around the globe. They’re not just a Tier 1 Law Firm for the Los Angeles area; they’re also rated as a National Tier 1 Law Firm by US News & World Report.
Timothy L. Pierce is a Managing Partner in the Orange County office. Mr. Pierce has received many awards and much attention from the legal community for successfully representing clients in complex construction legal actions and issues.
The construction law firm of Pepper Hamilton has been serving the needs of clients since 1890. Nobody else – even on this list – has that kind of longevity in the field of law. With 425 attorneys in 11 offices across the country, their Construction Practice Group ranks nationally according to Chambers USA, U.S. News / Best Lawyers, and others. This is one of the largest and most sophisticated groups of construction law attorneys in the country.
Pepper Hamilton’s case law history includes construction projects in the following sectors:
- Infrastructure projects
- Manufacturing & Processing plants
- Commercial Offices
- Hotels & Resorts
- Residential buildings
The office in Orange County handles a variety of construction law concerns. Their attorneys lead several construction-related industry and bar association groups. They also provide leadership or speakers at many of the largest construction industry conferences and trade shows, including the Construction Super Conference.
Ted R. Gropman is a Partner in the Construction Practice Group of the firm. He has been listed in The Best Lawyers in America for construction law every year since 2010. According to his website bio, Ted has won a number of large construction cases, including one he argued in front of the California Supreme Court over “the unenforceability of a pay if paid clause in a subcontract.”
Marion T. Hack is another Partner in the Construction Practice Group at Pepper Hamilton. According to her website profile, she focuses on “bidding disputes, contract negotiations and drafting, scheduling and delay issues, mechanics lien and claims resolution” at local and national levels.
Along with their other extracurricular activities, their attorneys also serve as arbitrators for the American Arbitration Association (AAA) and the International Chamber of Commerce. They have even authored leading legal texts on construction law. They publish a blog reviewing and analyzing trends in construction law and litigation.
Rutan & Tucker
Rutan & Tucker is the smallest construction law firm on this list. Don’t let that fool you; they’re still one of the most admired law firms in Orange County. The awards and recognition the firm has received backs up their work ethic and their focus on construction client needs.
With two offices in California, one in Costa Mesa and the other in Palo Alto, Rutan & Tucker rank as a Tier 1 Law Firm for Construction Litigation in Orange County, according US News & World Report’s Best Lawyers/Law Firms.
Rutan & Tucker have 18 lawyers in their Costa Mesa office recognized as Best Lawyers by US News & World Report. Their attorneys have also received honors from Am Law 200 and Chambers & Partners USA 2019. The attorneys practice construction law in the following areas:
- Project Contracts & Development
- Public Projects
- Builders / Subcontractors
- Equipment & Materials Suppliers
- Construction Lending
- Title Insurance
Since 1955, Rutan & Tucker has been providing excellent counsel to construction companies, both large and small. They assist their clients with everything from preparing bid documents to litigation and dispute resolution.
Steven A. Nichols, a partner in the Costa Mesa office, is expert in construction law and litigation. Steven has worked on construction cases both large and small, including infrastructure projects, transit and highway projects, power plant construction, and many others.
Rutan & Tucker clients get the best of both worlds:. They’re a law firm with longevity in the field and top-rated legal counsel in construction law.
Watt Tieder is a construction law firm that is listed by US News & World Report as a National and Regional Tier 1 Law Firm in Construction and Construction Litigation and also a founding member of the Global Construction & Infrastructure Legal Alliance (GcilA). This international network of law firms was created to provide clients with legal advice and support specific to construction projects.
Since 1978, Watt Tieder has been providing top-shelf legal support to hundreds of construction companies in the Los Angeles area, across America, and around the world. Their knowledge and experience in all stages and forms of construction projects give them a significant edge over general law firms. The main areas of Watt Tieder’s construction law practice include:
- Site acquisition
- Project planning and financing
- Contract drafting
- Contract administration
- Claims resolution
- Alternative dispute resolution and litigation
Watt Tieder’s clients encompass every business in the construction industry. They work with owners and developers, designers, suppliers and subcontractors. They have played a role in every phase of every type of major construction project. This includes everything from tunnels and bridges to subway systems, military bases to waste-water facilities, and just about everything in between.
Christopher Bunge, a partner in the Irvine office, has been on both sides of cases (prosecution and defense) involving total cost claims, productivity and delay claims, change order claims, claims for defective workmanship, pass through claims, insurance coverage disputes, labor audits and reviews, stop notice claims, and mechanics lien claims.
Amanda Marutzky, another partner in the Orange County office, works on construction contracts and disputes related to both public and private building projects.
If you still have any doubts about their construction chops, they are also a founding member of the Global Construction & Infrastructure Legal Alliance (GcilA). This international network of law firms provides clients with legal advice and support specific to construction projects.
5 steps contractors can take to cut their legal budget
When you need one, a good construction lawyer is worth their weight in gold. But if you’re hiring an attorney every time you aren’t paid, you might be spending money unnecessarily.
If you’re constantly struggling to get paid on construction projects, here are 5 steps you can take to reduce your need for legal representation:
- Make sure your contract or work agreement is solid. Brush up with our Guide to Common Construction Contract Parts. If you need a contract but don’t know where to start, our in-house lawyer team created a boilerplate construction contract that you can download for free.
- Get in the habit of sending a 20-day preliminary notice when you start every job. In some states, you’re required to send a notice in order to protect your right to file a lien in the future. But even if your state doesn’t require it, sending a preliminary notice will help you get paid faster.
- Communicate clearly during the project. This helps to set expectations for the project owner or GC. Sending something as simple as a project awareness letter can have an outsized impact. If the GC hears from you when you’re on the job site, they’re more likely to remember you when it comes time to cut the checks.
- Send invoice reminders. If you haven’t gotten paid for a job yet, it may just be that your invoice got lost in the shuffle. Sending an invoice reminder to the GC or property owner won’t just jog their memory; it also shows them that you’re seriously organized.
- File a mechanics lien with a lien filing service. Generally, you can do this without hiring a construction lawyer. Many lawyers will actually refer their clients to a lien filing service first because a lien, if prepared and filed correctly, makes it easier for them to enforce or foreclose on the lien if you don’t get paid.
If you’re still not sure if you need a construction lawyer, or you need more help deciding what to look for, download our free guide, How to Find a Construction Lawyer.