Legal Marketplace Analysis: Construction 2014

In this edition, we identify 523 practitioners from 302 firms and 48 countries who are considered leading lawyers in the field of construction law. Several firms stand out due to the number of inclusions they achieve, with Pinsent Masons boasting more listings than any other firm. It has lawyers recognised from 18 different jurisdictions, demonstrating its impressive geographical reach. Jones Day also has a high number of practitioners singled out, as does top-tier US firm Peckar & Abramson.

We also select the 15 most highly regarded individuals in the world for construction law who stand out for their experience and expertise.

Most Highly Regarded Individuals
Lawyer Firm
Bruce Reynolds Borden Ladner Gervais, Toronto
Adrian Bastianelli III Pecker & Abramson, Washington, DC
Andrew Ness Jones Day, Washington, DC
Deborah Ballati Farella Braun + Martel, San Francisco
John Heisse Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, San Francisco
Douglas Jones AO Clayton Utz, Sydney
Humphrey Lloyd QC Atkin Chambers, London
Patrick O'Connor Faegre Baker Daniels, Minneapolis
Robert Peckar Pecker & Abramson, New York
John Bishop Pinsent Masons, Beijing
Donald Gavin Akerman, Vienna
Robert Rubin McCarther & English, New York
Nicholas Gould Fenwick Elliot, London
Julio Cesar Bueno Pinheiro Neto, Sao Paulo
Michael Zetlin Zetlin & De Chiara

Pinsent Masons once again emerges as the leading firm in our research with an impressive 18 listings across six jurisdictions, demonstrating its breadth of expertise in the construction field. The firm’s UK contingent is well-represented, with four listings in London and three in Scotland. Head of the firm’s water sector group Mark Lane is a “renowned infrastructure specialist”, with over 25 years’ experience in the road, water and energy sector. Mark Roe is head of international arbitration at the firm and enjoys a reputation as a “go-to lawyer” for major construction and engineering disputes, having previously appeared in over 25 major cases involving $100 million plus claims, often on behalf of main contractors. The “truly outstanding” Virginie Colaiuta specialises in commercial arbitration relating to construction and energy disputes, while Martin Harman CBE has “invaluable experience” in the construction sector and regularly advises contractors, consultants and owners on major domestic and international infrastructure projects. Fraser McMillan heads the Glasgow office and is a “leading authority” on construction-related dispute resolution, having appeared in numerous mediations, arbitrations and statutory adjudications.

The firm also has a strong presence in the Asian market. John Bishop heads the Beijing office and is recognised as “one of the foremost international construction lawyers”, with a broad practice encompassing transport, oil and gas and general construction projects in the UK and Far East. In Shanghai, office head Kian Heong Hew is praised by clients for his “expert handling” of major infrastructure and commercial construction projects in China and other jurisdictions. Heading the Hong Kong office is Vincent Connor, who acts for a range of contractors and offers “comprehensive project-based advice”. He is also described by peers as a “first-rate advocate”, and regularly represents clients in arbitration and litigation. In the UAE, Sachin Kerur heads the Gulf region practice and is also head of the Dubai office. Acknowledged by peers as a “brilliant strategist”, he advises governments and private sector entities on privatised and publicly procured infrastructure projects, with a particular focus on airports, road and rail networks, commercial developments and oil and gas facilities. He is joined by Michelle Nelson, a “top-notch” lawyer for contentious construction matters with international experience in hotel, commercial and residential premises, process and power plant and airport-related projects.

Jones Day performs impressively in this edition with 10 listings, including Washington, DC-based Andrew Ness, who is once again recognised in our research as one of the finest international construction lawyers. He regularly assists owners and contractors with troubled projects and has acted in numerous major construction disputes before state and federal courts; peers describe him as a “fantastic litigator”. In New York, Susanna Fodor is a “model attorney” who represents various Fortune 500 companies, developers and financial institutions in the financing of commercial, residential, sports, health care, energy and hospitality projects. The firm has a strong contingent of construction specialists in California – Daniel McMillan co-chairs the firm’s global construction practice and acts for owners, contractors and designers in large-scale construction disputes. He is acknowledged as a “highly skilled negotiator and draftsman” in relation to the full range of construction contracts. In San Francisco, David Buoncristiani is regarded as a “true legend” of the US construction law bar, with 40 years’ experience in all aspects of public and private construction including contract negotiation and preparation of contracts. The firm’s cross-border capability is emphasised by the listing of Beijing-based Ashley Howlett, who leads the firm’s Asian construction practice and advises Chinese and international contractors at all stages on the design of construction process. He is widely acknowledged as “one of China’s most prestigious construction lawyers” and represents foreign investor parties on major disputes in the Chinese market. The “sharp and intelligent” Mercedes Fernández heads the global disputes practice in Madrid and focuses on contentious matters relating to construction contracts, large civil engineering projects, construction defects and energy infrastructure initiatives.

Major US firm Peckar & Abramson also achieves 10 nominations, reflecting its status as a “leader” in the construction law field. Adrian Bastianelli is one of the most highly nominated lawyers in our research and peers recognise him as a “truly exceptional” construction lawyer, litigator and mediator. He advises the full range of parties in the construction industry, including general contractors, subcontractors, owners and design professionals, and places particular emphasis on government construction claims. Founding partner Robert Peckar is also included in our list of most highly regarded individuals and is a “real authority” on international construction law. “Among the very first” to use alternative dispute resolution techniques in construction law, he is praised by clients for his “practical and creative approach”. Fellow founding partner Richard Abramson is a “formidable litigator” in the sector and regularly acts in highly complex litigations and arbitrations; he is lauded by peers for his “impeccable technical knowledge”. The “greatly respected” Stephen Reisman is vice chairman at the firm and also co-manages the Miami office. He has a “highly recommended” construction practice and specialises in the negotiation and preparation of construction documents as well as advising on project administration, helping clients to highlight and resolve any possible conflicts and disputes. Stephen Charney is the chairman of Peckar & Abramson and maintains a “stellar reputation” in the construction field. Highly commended for both his litigious and advisory work, he is a “major favourite among clients”.

 Clyde & Co consolidates its position as an “established player” in global construction law, with eight nominations across five jurisdictions including three in the UAE. David McElveney leads the projects and construction group at the Abu Dhabi office and is a “bona fide specialist” in high-profile construction disputes, having represented a range of major clients in matters before the GCC. In Dubai, the “vastly experienced” Mark Blanksby advises contractors, subcontractors, employers and suppliers in relation to large-scale projects in the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. He is “highly knowledgeable” on the formation of construction contracts and has over 19 years’ experience in the industry. Ian Cocking leads the firm’s Hong Kong and China construction group and is known as “one of the most prominent legal advisers” to the construction and project development industries in the Hong Kong and Asia-Pacific region. The firm’s international reach in the sector is demonstrated by the inclusion of Paris-based David Brown, who has a “comprehensive practice” covering dispute resolution in the energy, infrastructure and nuclear industries.

King & Spalding also boasts eight listings in this chapter. In Houston, Scott Greer leads the firm’s worldwide construction transactional practice and is regarded as a “towering figure” in international construction law. Greer regularly advises the world’s biggest owners and developers on major projects valued between $100 million and $20 billion, such as natural gas and crude oil pipelines, power plants, petrochemical facilities, sports stadiums and mixed-use developments and condominiums. Joining him is Scott Chalmers, a “greatly respected” construction lawyer with a practice focusing on complex international infrastructure projects. Described by peers as a “transactional genius”, he advises sponsors, owners and lenders at all stages of the project, from pre-contract negotiation to post contract dispute resolution. In Abu Dhabi, Adrian Cole leads the firm’s Middle East dispute resolution practice and focuses on conflicts arising from energy and infrastructure development. Clients praise his “strong understanding of the practical issues in a given construction dispute”, and Cole is able to draw on his previous experience as a quantity surveyor in this regard. In Singapore, Peter Megens has over 30 years’ experience in contentious construction matters and is recognised as a “formidable litigator” by key figures in the sector. He also advises clients on the negotiation of construction contracts and is particularly active in the Asia-Pacific region.

Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman is a “recognised leader” for construction law, particularly in the US; all of the firm’s six nominees in this edition are based in the country. In San Francisco, John Heisse leads the firm’s construction counselling and dispute resolution team and is widely known as “one of the world’s best construction litigators”, as demonstrated by his continued inclusion in our list of most highly regarded individuals. In Washington, DC, Jeffrey Gans is vice chair of the firm’s construction counselling and dispute resolution practice and chair of the public-private partnership team. At the same office, Michael Jaffe specialises in construction-related arbitration and, with over 30 years’ experience in the field, is regarded as a “dean” of the US construction bar. Recommended for his “impressive cross-border expertise”, Jaffe has acted in major international arbitrations under numerous arbitral systems.

US construction specialist Smith Currie & Hancock is well-represented in our research with six listings, all based at the Atlanta office. Thomas Abernathy is “extensively experienced” in the full range of construction matters and has advised on various construction projects including federal office buildings, high-rise buildings, bridges and highway projects, power plants and commercial and industrial initiatives. The “highly reputable” Thomas Kelleher places particular emphasis on government-associated construction contracts and is a “go-to” lawyer for advice on related bidding, delay and termination issues, while James Butler has a varied construction practice and specialises in engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contracts and design-build projects; sources describe him as a “sharp and intelligent negotiator”.

At Borden Ladner Gervais, Bruce Reynolds chairs the firm’s international construction projects group and once again emerges as the most highly nominated lawyer in our research. Based at the Toronto office, Reynolds is an “acclaimed practitioner” in the field and “excels” in the litigation, arbitration and mediation of construction disputes. He also advises on the development of contracts for major industrial and infrastructure projects and is recognised by peers as an “expert draftsman”. A further four lawyers from the firm achieve listings, including Calgary-based Jeffrey Vallis QC, who leads the firm’s national litigation department and regularly acts for owners, contractors, lenders and sureties in matters ranging from commercial disputes to oil and gas production and distribution. In Vancouver, the “superb” Christopher O’Connor QC acts for owners and contractors in relation to construction disputes and delay claims and also advises sureties on contractor defaults. Two further experts are listed in Quebec: Daniel Ayotte is “first class” for construction litigation and represents multinational corporations, contractors and engineering firms, while Simon Grégoire is regional leader of the construction and engineering group and was praised to researchers for his “knowledge of the construction industry, his abilities in the courtroom as well as his politeness and true professionalism”.

Donald Gavin at Akerman is one of the most highly nominated individuals in this year’s research and has earned a reputation among clients as an “excellent professional and strategist”. Gavin’s work is international in nature, and he has advised on major petroleum, gas, chemical, waste water and power production projects in the US, South America, Asia, Europe and Africa, both land-based and offshore. He is joined by Jeffrey Gilmore, who heads the firm’s construction practice and is “highly recommended” for his work in relation to design-build projects, health care and multi-family housing.

At Norton Rose Fulbright, Melbourne-based Grant Ahearn is nominated for his “unparalleled expertise” in the construction sector; he has advised major clients on the negotiation and documentation of some of Victoria’s most significant infrastructure projects, including the Ararat prison and AAMI stadium. In Montreal, the “accomplished” Olivier Kott has nearly 35 years’ experience in the management and resolution of complex construction litigation and arbitration.

The “truly outstanding” Deborah Ballati is one of three highly regarded names from Farella Braun + Martel. She represents owners, subcontractors, design professionals and sureties in all types of construction-related disputes, including delay and defect claims and construction insurance claims; peers describe her as a “powerful advocate”. The “ever-present” Charles Sink also receives recognition for his “fantastic navigation” of major construction arbitrations.

In Sydney, Clayton Utz’s Douglas Jones AO is a “key name” in international construction law. He regularly counsels on project structuring and financing, contract drafting and project implementation and is singled out by clients for his “commercially viable and practical advice.” At Faegre Baker Daniels, Patrick O’Connor is “undoubtedly one of the best” lawyers in terms of construction contract negotiation, having represented various clients with respect to power plants, waste water treatment facilities and other major heavy industrial projects. At McCarter & English, Robert Rubin is “lauded” for his work in complex construction litigation, and has “invaluable experience” of representing governmental and private owners, developers, institutions, sureties, construction managers and contractors in such disputes. At Fenwick Elliott in London, the “highly distinguished” Nicholas Gould advises on a wide range of construction law-related matters, including general construction, transport, communications, industrial, process plant, petrochemical and energy. He acts in both domestic and international disputes, and clients praise his “strong grasp of highly technical issues”. At Pinheiro Neto, Julio Cesar Bueno is widely acknowledged as “one of the most in-demand construction lawyers in Brazil”, and focuses on mediation and arbitration arising from construction disputes. At Zetlin & De Chiara, founding partner Michael Zetlin has a “stellar reputation” among the US construction bar and acts for national and multinational clients in various construction matters. As a graduate civil engineer, he brings to bear “considerable” experience in the field, and clients include architects, engineers, owners, managers and developers.

 The impressive ability of the English bar in construction law is demonstrated by the results of our research. Keating Chambers maintains its reputation as a home to a number of construction “specialists” in the field, with 12 listings in the edition. Philip Boulding QC is an “outstanding” barrister in the field and focuses on domestic and international work for governmental departments and energy and utility companies. He is widely regarded as an “undisputed authority” on construction-based arbitration and has recently acted in cases relating to major housing and mixed-use projects in Hong Kong. The “superb” Nerys Jefford QC specialises in construction and engineering disputes with an international element. Praised for her “enviable depth of knowledge”, she represents clients from a variety of jurisdictions, including Hong Kong, China, Singapore, Korea, France, Russia and Brazil and appears in ICC, LMAA and HKIAC arbitrations. Robert Gaitskell QC is a “highly reputable” figure in the construction field and has conducted over 100 arbitrations around the world. Drawing on his experience as a professional engineer, he acts in a range of power generation, transmission, distribution and application, motor control and oil rig design-related disputes. Paul Darling QC is “one of the finest advocates active in the field today”, and he focuses on complex cases which involve multiple parties and large amounts of highly technical material. He has acted in numerous jurisdictions and has “comprehensive knowledge” of all major arbitral rules. John Uff CBE QC has a construction practice “of the highest standards” and is a “dean” of international construction arbitration, while Tim Elliott QC has over 30 years’ experience in construction, engineering and energy disputes and is a “true favourite” among local and national governments in various jurisdictions.

Atkin Chambers is also recommended as a “wonderful” set for construction law matters, with a group of “highly skilled” barristers recognised in our research. Humphrey Lloyd QC once again features in our list of most highly regarded individuals and is described by sources as a “legend” of construction-related arbitration. Stephanie Barwise QC is an “established leader” in the sector and regularly represents contractors, employers and governments on an international scale, with clients full of praise for her work in relation to road and bridge projects. The “pre-eminent” Andrew White QC is the head of Atkin Chambers and specialises in domestic and international civil engineering and building disputes, while David Streatfeild-James QC is an “immeasurably talented” barrister with over 20 years’ experience in arbitrating or litigating high-value and technically complex construction cases.

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Nominees have been selected based upon comprehensive, independent survey work with both general counsel and private practice lawyers worldwide. Only specialists who have met independent international research criteria are listed.

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