Mr Reisman is vice chair of Peckar & Abramson, a national and international construction law firm with 10 offices across the US. He is certified by the Florida Bar as a specialist in construction law, and is a fellow of the American College of Construction Lawyers and numerous other legal and construction industry organisations. His practice is focused on the representation of general contractors and construction managers in all aspects of their legal business.
What inspired you to become a construction lawyer?
Although I began my legal career as a general practitioner before construction law was recognised as a specialty, I was fortunate to make an early connection with a growing building contractor with projects across the US and in the Caribbean, and I ultimately became the equivalent of their outside general counsel. This gave me the opportunity to learn about the technical, business and legal sides of the construction industry from the inside out, and I was fascinated to the point where I decided to make construction law my career.
What do you enjoy most about your role in overseeing the entire practice of the firm?
The people I meet and have the opportunity to work with across the firm are the best part of what I do. My partners and associates are genuinely talented and dedicated professionals who provide legal counsel to their clients at the highest level. It is my job to provide guidance and assistance to them, and to ensure that the firm is supporting their efforts and providing the necessary platform for them to excel. I find this to be very rewarding.
Which qualities make a successful construction lawyer in today’s environment?
A successful construction lawyer must have the skills, temperament and dedication required to be a good lawyer, coupled with a deep understanding and appreciation of the business of construction. In these days of increased specialisation in all fields of law, the practice of a successful construction lawyer is likely to be focused on specific areas of the construction industry, such as building construction or civil work, and may concentrate on specific legal services for that segment, such as transactional work or dispute resolution through mediation, arbitration or litigation.
What are the main differences between advising clients on the procurement process for public and private construction projects?
The procurement process for public work is far more constrained by laws, rules and regulations than it is for private work, where the parties have much greater freedom of contract.
How do you seek to identify and resolve conflicts earlier on in disputes when providing project administration assistance to clients?
My role in project administration often follows successful negotiation of contract documents of behalf of my general contractor and construction manager clients – with both owners and critical subcontractors. This gives me the advantage of knowing the key players as projects unfold, the issues that are most important to each of them, and my counterparts on their legal teams. These relationships provide the opportunity for prompt communication among the affected parties as difficulties arise and I consider meaningful communication the most important tool for identifying potential conflicts and avoiding or resolving them in real time. In instances where I do not have the perspective and relationships that would come from being involved on the front end of a project, I seek to identify and involve the parties on all sides of a potential dispute who will be most collaborative as soon as possible when a potential conflict arises, and convince them of the importance of early intervention.
How can clients be encouraged to pursue methods of alternative dispute resolution?
I believe a well-crafted construction contract should include detailed dispute avoidance and resolution terms, and the principals in charge of the project should be made aware of them from the outset of the project. When problems arise, legal counsel should be in a position to quickly address the issues with their respective clients, and provide guidance on the early communication and intervention processes in the contract, which are the keys to successful dispute avoidance and ultimate resolution, without resorting to costly and time-consuming formal proceedings.
How is the concern of environmental sustainability growing in importance during construction processes and in the type of projects clients are seeking to build?
Sustainability is of increasing importance across the board, especially in terms of marketing, cost-containment and durability. Contractors must be responsive to public and private development interests in controlling the environmental impact of their projects, and they must have the ability to provide meaningful input on means and methods for sustainable construction and the longer-term operation of the projects they build. I expect the focus on sustainable development and construction will continue to increase dramatically as environmental concerns, such as global warming and rising sea levels, escalate.
What is the most rewarding piece of work you have been a part of during your career?
I take great pride in having been a member of the teams responsible for some of the most consequential construction projects in my community – from procurement through completion. The airports in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Orlando immediately come to mind, but there are many others that I look at and similarly think I was privileged to be a part of.
Stephen Reisman is rated as an "excellent lawyer" by impressed peers in the construction and insurance sectors, with wide-ranging experience of defect, delay and impact claims.
Stephen H Reisman is vice-chairman of Peckar & Abramson. He represents contractors and construction managers in the negotiation and preparation of construction documents, and in the resolution of construction contract claims, construction defect and insurance claims and related matters. His construction law practice also includes project administration assistance for the early identification and resolution of potential conflicts and disputes.
Mr Reisman has litigated and arbitrated cases involving: building-cladding systems; roofing; foundations; reinforced, pre-stressed and post-tensioned concrete construction; drywall assemblies; masonry; stucco; fire protection and many other building systems. He has also litigated and arbitrated delay and impact claims, presented requests for equitable adjustment on public works and served as an arbitrator in many construction disputes, including complex and international cases.
Mr Reisman is a member of the Florida Bar, is board certified by the Florida Bar as a construction law specialist and is a fellow of the American College of Construction Lawyers. He is also a member of the American Bar Association Forum on Construction Law and serves on the panel of arbitrators for the American Arbitration Association.
Mr Reisman is co-editor of a book entitled Construction Defects published by the American Bar Association (2012) and co-author of Teaming Agreements on Infrastructure Project published in the Journal of the American College of Construction Lawyers (2015). He has also authored articles and conducted seminars on various construction law topics for the American Bar Association, Florida Bar and numerous construction industry publications.
Mr Reisman has consistently been recognised as one of the top construction lawyers in Florida.
Mr Reisman is a graduate of Emory University and the University of Miami School of Law.