Roy Wagner’s work in construction law is so attuned to business interests that contractors ask to get sued by him.
Wagner, chairman of construction-law practice at von Briesen & Roper SC, steers clients to collaborative settlements whenever possible. His methods are meant to ensure disputes are solved quickly and money is left over to deal with additional difficulties that can arise from building projects.
And, as happened when a contractor told a wronged condominium owner that he preferred a pending suit against him be taken up by Wagner, the resolutions can sometimes entail allowing a party to work off debts.
“We were able to get everyone involved quickly on that one,” said Wagner. “I took it as a compliment that he’d offer me to bring up a claim because I’d do it in a way that didn’t leave a destructive process where everyone was worse off.”
Wagner, 61, gained experience representing architects and engineers at two suburban Milwaukee firms before joining von Briesen in 2006. He said he has a sort of “right-brain” sympathy for designers and developers – one of his three grown children, Ross, is an architect in San Francisco – and said it’s more important to settle and resolve construction disputes than to bill hours.
Wagner sits on an architectural review board in his home village of Whitefish Bay and has helped clarify guidelines laying out expectations for homeowners, architects and builders. Wagner also started a conference specifically for lawyers, builders, architects and developers.
Seven years on, the event has come to be about much more than networking. Special attention is often given to topics such as dealing with public-sector bidding or “mega projects” like the Marquette Interchange.
Kevin Lyons, construction litigator at Davis & Kuelthau SC, said Wagner won a victory for construction law when he appeared before the state Supreme Court and successfully argued a case involving limits on the services that builders can offer.
What differentiates Wagner from many of his colleagues, Lyons said, is his ability to “fight cordially.”
“[Wagner] will listen really until the other side has run out of breath. That gives him a great knowledge of what the interests of the other side of the party really are,” Lyons said. “The best thing is that he has an ego big enough to do the work but he has it under control so the client still comes first.”