Matt McClean understands both sides of construction litigation.
He has viewed cases from government’s perspective, such as when he represented Elm Grove in a dispute with a contractor. And he has represented construction companies, such as a structural engineering firm accused of making design errors.
As a shareholder with Davis & Kuelthau, McClean works with municipalities, businesses and construction companies on contract matters, construction disputes and property claims. He represented the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District when it was accused of causing damage to local businesses. And he helped a homeowner recover $50,000 in damages for survey errors at a home near Okauchee Lake.
The variety in his work is both challenging and thought-provoking, McClean said. His next challenge will be serving as chairman of the Construction and Public Contract Law Section Board of the State Bar Association of Wisconsin. His one-year term began in July.
The Daily Reporter: What do you consider your biggest career achievement to date and why?
Matt McClean: I’d say that I’ve made it 10 years successfully to this point. It’s been a good run.
TDR: What is the top legal issue construction firms need to be aware of today and why?
McClean: The devil is in the details: what the contract says, what everyone’s specs call for in a project. If you’re not very clear and careful with those — what we agree to and agree to do — you can get in a whole lot of trouble.
TDR: What is one thing attorneys should know that they won’t learn in law school?
McClean: Whoo, I’d say practicality. The law school experience teaches you how to think like a lawyer. But I think you have to learn to think like a business person and some of the common sense and the economics.
TDR: Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
McClean: ‘Does that make sense?’ That just seems to be my go-to.
TDR: What was your least favorite course in law school and why?
McClean: I took a UCC course that was very dry, and they made you carry with you your UCC handbook. It was gigantic. It wasn’t for me.
TDR: If you hadn’t become a lawyer, what career would you have chosen?
McClean: I’d say after I tried, and probably unsuccessfully, to become a SportsCenter anchor, I would have been a history teacher.
TDR: Who are your heroes?
McClean: I don’t know if I have any heroes, but I’ve learned to admire a great deal what my father and father-in-law have accomplished professionally while raising good families. I hope to be able to do the same.
TDR: Where would you like to live?
McClean: I like it here, but I’d also like to live somewhere warm and on a golf course —someday, anyway.
TDR: What piece of new technology could you no longer live without?
McClean: Probably the DVR. With work and a young family, it’s rare I get to sit down and watch anything I want to watch on my schedule.
TDR: What is your definition of success?
McClean: I’d say, if I’m happy and I’m found to be indispensable at home and at work, then I’d think I was a success.
TDR: What are your words to live by?
McClean: I’d say, ‘Slow and steady wins the race.’
TDR: What book is sitting on your nightstand?
McClean: I’ve got four kids 5 and under, so it’s a picture book.