Although Husch Blackwell is 105 years old, professionals at the firm have no shortage of new ideas.
One of its latest, its Construction Academy, was started a mere two years ago.
Joshua Levy, co-chair of the Academy, said the intended audience consists mainly of owners, developers, contractors and design professionals.
“It offers legal support and best practices,” Levy said. “But it’s also a location to learn what’s trending in construction. And there are a lot of non-legal issues where we ask our clients questions. We want to learn from clients. We don’t have all the answers and the Academy is a platform for our lawyers to understand what’s trending and important to our clients.”
But construction is just one of Husch Blackwell’s many specialties. The firm traces its roots to 1916, when it was founded in Kansas City, Missouri. It came to Wisconsin in 2016 when it acquired the long-standing firm Whyte Hirschboeck, bringing with its expertise in energy and natural resources, financial services and capital markets, food and agribusiness, health care and various other practice areas. At the time, the deal gave Husch Blackwell more than 700 lawyers working in offices in 19 U.S. cities.
Levy, who spent years as in-house counsel at a large contractor, had recently been recruited by Whyte Hirschboeck to oversee its construction section. Now a partner at Husch Blackwell, Levy continues to draw on his experience and knowledge to guide other lawyers working in the firm’s real estate, development and construction division.
Among the resources that can be found on its Construction Academy website are maps that users can click on to learn about individual state’s lien and prompt-payment laws. When groups like the American Institute of Architects make revisions to their standard contract documents, the site will present information explaining exactly what the changes are and how they will affect contractors’ business. And should the Biden Administration succeed in its goal of passing a massive infrastructure bill, construction companies will be able to go to the Academy website to learn how they can put themselves in line to win some of the resulting work.
There are also tips on how to avoid fraud in contracting and, of course, plenty of advice on measures to take to protect workers and minimize liability during the COVID-19 pandemic. Recent virtual webinars organized through the Academy have touched on everything from material shortages to changes in government safety regulations.
Levy said the site provides him with a means not only of spreading the word about the latest construction trends but also of staying abreast of them himself. One long-running development, he said, is a move away lump-sum contracts, which stipulate that a project will be completed for an amount of money agreed to at the outset, to deals that factor in the changing price of materials.
“I think when this is done correctly, it’s very healthy, because we are moving to more pricing transparency. I think that now that almost every project is fast-tracked, and developers and contractors aren’t always starting with a fully developed plan, it’s important to have more flexibility with designs and more price transparency.”