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Build A Career In Construction Law – Find Your Niche

Like in real estate law, a construction law practice focuses on tangible projects. Construction lawyers help homes, roads, office buildings, and special projects get built. For example, construction lawyer Matthew DeVries tells us about working on Music City Center, Nashville’s new $585 million convention center, as part of his construction law practice. He even got to attend the ribbon cutting with Sheryl Crow!

As a construction lawyer, Matthew loves that he does something different every day. The work these types of lawyers do is a mix of both litigation and transactional law. Matthew tells us all about construction law in today’s career videos.
  Join JD Careers Out There for access to this video plus more day-in-the-life career path interview videos & transcripts.

Today’s Guest

Construction Law Attorney Matthew DeVriesConstruction Law Attorney Matthew DeVries
Title: Partner, Burr & Forman
City: Nashville, TN
Law School: University of Richmond School of Law in Richmond, VA
College: American University in Washington, D.C.
Other Careers: Matthew blogs at Best Practices Construction Law. He and his wife have 7 children, and he blogs on work-life balance as a lawyer and father at The Same As You.
Videos: Construction Law & Matthew’s Career Advice

Construction Law

Matthew DeVries is a great example of a lawyer who has found success by specializing in a niche practice. While it’s common for construction lawyers to have a background in construction through a family business or training as an architect, Matthew tells us that he started with neither an expertise in nor connections to construction.

In the full interview, Matthew shares great advice for what to do with a law degree, no matter what niche interests you. He also explains how he broke into construction law and how you can too. Check it out – you’ll hear all kinds of tips that apply no matter what career path you choose to take.



This is a preview of the video transcript on being a construction lawyer.

Join JD Careers Out There for access to the full version of this transcript plus the career path video library & transcripts.

Luber: Hey everyone, today on JD Careers Out There we’re looking at what it’s like to be an construction lawyer, so stick around. [theme song]

Alright, as you may already know, at JDCOT we explore career paths both in and out of law to help you find a career that fits you and help you succeed using your law degree.

I’m your host Marc Luber, the founder of JDCOT. I’ve always used my law degree to work in alternative careers for lawyers – first in the music industry and then as a legal recruiter. I’ve been helping lawyers with their careers since 2003 and I’m excited for the opportunity to help you.

Today’s guest is Matt Devries and he’s a construction lawyer in Nashville where he’s a partner at Stites & Harbison, which is one of the oldest law firms in America. Matt’s the founder of the Best Practices Construction Law blog and he was also named as one of the Best Lawyers in America in 2013 and has been listed as a Rising Star by Mid-South Super Lawyers in 2011.

Matt’s gonna tells us all about construction law today. Matt, welcome to JDCOT!

Matt DeVries: Well thanks for having me, Marc, I’m glad to be here.

Luber: Matt, I’m going to be asking you all about a typical day, who makes a good fit for construction law and what are the right skill sets, personality types and also, how do you break in and how do you succeed. But first, let’s start with the basics. Tell us about what you do as a construction lawyer and tell us about your practice.

Matt DeVries: Well, as a construction lawyer I’m involved pretty much in the day-to-day of a construction project. I’ll tell you, my practice, I primarily represent contractors – and that would be on any type of construction project that could be anywhere from a commercial project, maybe it’s a hotel or a condo unit, it could be a public project, so it could be a highway or bridge or wastewater treatment plant for a facility. It could be a residential project.

So being a construction lawyer, I represent primarily contractors and the disputes would be anything on the front end from construction financing, getting building permits, working with a local regulatory agency on environmental issues to drafting the contract documents that go between the owner, the architect, the bank, the contractor, to during projects – things always go wrong.

So contractors and parties do need legal assistance through the process. There could be an accident on site, you might have an OSHA investigation, you can have employment issues representing contractors.

And then ultimately, if the project finishes, sometimes it’s not on time, sometimes it’s not on budget, and so the parties are often looking at each other to recover additional amounts, whether it’s additional money for the contractor or additional time in his time of performance, and that’s where it turns into disputes. And I’d say probably 50 or 60% of my practice is straight litigation and disputes.

Luber: So then you would say that you both have a litigation and a transactional practice?

Matt DeVries: I think that’s accurate. And I think most constructions lawyers fit some type of the mold. You will have construction lawyers who are full, 100% litigation and others who are only transactional.

I think I’ve been able to withstand the downturn in the economy because as the economy tightened in 2006, we started to see a lot more disputes because people were fighting over projects, they were fighting over project funds; there was a lot of contractors and developers going out of business, filing for bankruptcy, so there was a lot more litigation.

When we started in the last year starting to see more contracts hit my desk, that was a good sign because then you see that there’s new projects out there. So I would consider myself both a transactional and a litigation attorney.

Luber: Interesting. Alright, in the full interview we’ll dive lots deeper – you’ll all learn much more about construction law careers because Matt’s gonna tell us about a typical day, who makes the right fit, how you can break in and how you can succeed.

You’ll want to join the JDCOT membership for access to the full, in-depth career interviews & transcripts that will help you find and land a career that fits you. Check out what people are saying about JDCOT by clicking here.

Thanks again for watching everybody. I’m Marc Luber and I’ll see ya soon.

[theme song]

©2015 Careers Out There

Can you see yourself in construction law? Let us know what you think! Be sure to share your feedback in the Comments section below.

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JDCOT's self-reflection questionnaire 


Thinking of leaving the law? The best first step you can take is a good look in the mirror. START HERE:

it's free!
You’ll also get periodic updates, reminders & access to career guidance programs sent to your inbox. We respect your privacy. You can unsubscribe via a click at any time.