Robert Peckar has been practising construction law in the United States since 1972. He is highly regarded for his representation of general contractors and construction managers in regard to all manner of domestic and international legal issues and disputes, applying innovative strategies to achieve successful results. Mr Peckar is co-founder of Peckar & Abramson, and continues to serve as its founding partner. He is a graduate of Rutgers University and Columbia Law School.
What was it about the law that made it attractive as a career? Has the reality exceeded the expectation?
Having grown up in a “construction” family rather than a “law” family, the attraction was to be part of the process of resolving legal problems on construction projects of the sort I had heard of throughout my childhood. Of course, when I engaged upon my career, I had no idea of the opportunity I would have to rise among the ranks of construction lawyers, and to ultimately lead one of the world’s finest construction law firms.
What is your approach when seeking creative solutions to resolve serious disagreements in construction projects?
To solve disagreements, I need to understand all aspects of the disagreement. What makes the other side take the positions they take? Why does my client insist upon their position? With an understanding of all dimensions of a disagreement it is possible to create solutions that navigate through the engineering, the dollars, the contract, the history and the emotion, which all form an essential aspect of the disagreement.
What are the challenges of providing compliance training to client teams located in different countries?
When I train clients’ employees in foreign countries on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act the teams typically involve many nationals and some expatriates. Each brings different “baggage” to the discussion about corruption. Acceptance of corruption by locals as a way of life, and expats’ experiences in corrupt practices in other parts of the world, are a primary challenge. A secondary, and significant, challenge is overcoming the perception that a US lawyer providing training about US law in a foreign country is either irrelevant or arrogant. Leaving with a sense of success is extremely satisfying.
What role do lawyers play in terms of trying to avoid the proliferation of corruption and bribery in the international markets?
Interestingly, lawyers play too small a role in the fight against corruption. Citing the duty of loyalty to the client, some lawyers knowingly facilitate corruption and others close their eyes to the obvious. There have been cases where lawyers, both internal to companies and external counsel, have been convicted of facilitating corruption through the creation of phantom companies for money-laundering purposes, thus enabling corruption. Given the current climate of increased prosecution of corruption around the world, one would hope and expect that lawyers will jump on the wagon and start drawing lines in the sand.
Why do you think the construction industry has been slow in embracing the benefits of technology? Is this changing?
According to most studies, the construction industry is lagging behind in the adoption of cutting-edge technology. Perhaps there was simply a lack of momentum in that direction. However, that momentum has just picked up with major contractors around the world announcing their financial investment in start-ups, which will no doubt start a competition resulting in major changes in the technology of construction, particularly using artificial intelligence.
How important is it for senior attorneys to assist and mentor young lawyers to further their careers and transition them into leadership roles?
There is no more important role for senior lawyers than to impart knowledge and guidance to younger lawyers who will follow in their footsteps. Throughout my career I have gained enormous satisfaction from taking the time and investing the energy in working with younger lawyers to share my experience and insights into the best practices to deliver valuable service to clients. The same applies to transitioning younger lawyers into positions of leadership in the law firm. Without this knowledge and experience transfer, the older lawyer just walks off into the sunset leaving little behind that can benefit the future.
What makes Peckar & Abramson stand out from its competitors in the market?
I have always had great admiration for so many construction lawyers and law firms, and thus it is a bit uncomfortable to talk about how P&A stands out from them. However, there is one aspect of P&A I am not uncomfortable bragging about, and that is our commitment to succession within the firm. I started my career in New York City in a market with many fine construction law firms. I also watched the vast majority of them, one by one, disappear in time as the older partners failed to give way to their juniors. We were committed to not making that mistake and, as a result, have just completed our 41st year in practice with a robust young leadership team that convinces me that we will be around 41 years from now, providing a consistent level of premium legal service to the construction industry.
You have had a highly successful career. Is there anything you would still like to achieve?
I do not perceive my career as being in the rear view mirror. As long as I am able, I intend to continue to practise law, and each new matter presents its own challenges and opportunities, which is what excites me each and every day.