Why words matter (aka Shakespeare for Architects & Engineers) (Law note)

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

Romeo & Juliet balcony

Words do matter.  In the context of construction law, there are some words that you should avoid at all costs.  Top of the list is the word inspect.  If your contract gives you the responsibility of inspecting the contractor’s work, stop.  Do not pass go.  Do not collect $200.  Inspection (at least to some owners and juries) connotes that a thorough review will be provided, and that every fault will be identified.  Instead of Inspection, a better word for your construction contract is Observe.  You should not be providing periodic inspection.  Instead, provide periodic observation.  

Am I nit-picking? Perhaps.  But inspect implies a much stronger duty than observe.  (Just my personal observation!).  There are other words you should also avoid in construction contracts.

Instead of certify, try review

Instead of approving shop drawings, try No exceptions noted 

Instead of best (or highest) standards, try meet the professional standard of care

Instead of immediately, try without undue delay

This list is just a sample.  There are many other words to be leery of, including guarantee, warrant, insure, and ensure.  

In doubt about whether your contract contains dangerous words that may expose you to extra legal liability?  Write your contract as if your attorney is looking over your shoulder.  Keep in mind, both Romeo and Juliet learned the hard way that words do indeed matter.

Welcome to my new readers.  If you have not already done so, sign up for email delivery so you never miss a post from Construction Law in NC.  I welcome your comments & thoughts.

Photo:  (c) freefoto.com.

Get your PDHs & HSW Units while meeting me! (Tue Tip)

Do you need PDHs, Contact Hours, or HSW Learning Units?  What about Continuing Education hours or CLE credits?

If so, make plans to attend the Law of Construction Defects & Failures seminar, presented by Halfmoon Seminars, on October 20, 2011 in Chapel Hill, NC

I’ll be one of the Faculty presenters, speaking on “Strategies for Reducing Defects & Failures.”


Here’s the full agenda.

The all-day course qualifies for credits as follows:

Architects: 6.0 Contact Hours (HSW)
AIA: 6.0 HSW Learning Units
Engineers: 6.0 PDHs
Contractors: 6.0 Continuing Education Hours
North Carolina Attorneys: 6.0 CLE Hours (No ethics or SA)

Hope to see you there!  If you do register, drop me an email and let me know you are coming so I can put a face with a name!

Photo credit: Scott Hodge via Creative Commons license.

Free money for design professionals (and other lucky folks)? (Tue Tip)

free money bridge sign

Okay, I’m technically cheating.  Today’s Tip is not specific to architects or engineers.  However, it is something that might put a little dough in your pocket that you didn’t even know you had coming to you.

Have you heard about the websites that can help you locate money due to you from a state government’s unclaimed property account?  This is money that is due to folks from old utility accounts, cell phone accounts, and the like.  If the company cannot locate the person they owe the refund to, they escheat it to the state.

Spend 5 minutes the next time you are internet surfing to see if you are owed any money.  Start with MissingMoney and plug in your name (and likely misspellings of your name).  You will note that many states (including North Carolina) are not yet listed with that national site; however, the MissingMoney site will give you the quick link to those states’ websites for “lost money”.  (North Carolina’s website for unclaimed money is here).

In playing around with these sites the other day, I found money owed to my Uncle, a cousin, and a college roommate.  While I didn’t find any money due to *me*, it was still a worthwhile exercise.  Everyone can use “free money” when they happen upon it, right?


Photo (c) jazza2 via Creative Commons license.

Free Marketing Training for Architects & Engineers (Tue Tip)

Interested in A/E/C marketing Best Practices?  Attend a free webinar this Thursday, sponsored by the Construction Marketing Association (CMA). 

construction marketing wordle

The webcast will be held Thursday, September 15, 2011, at 2pm ET.  Free! (Registration required).

Deborah Hodges, Executive Director of the Construction Writers Association, former SMPS President, and BOVIS alum will share examples of how construction firms deploy marketing.

Wendy McBay, Marketing Director from Reed Construction Data will identify how AEC firms can best use lead services for marketing and business development.

AEC veteran and consultant Hope Wilson will present how to market construction services to the government.

CMA Chairman Neil Brown will share results of a national survey on AEC marketing.

 If you attend the webinar, be sure to drop me a line and tell me what you learned, and if it was worthwhile.  I strive to only promote quality events on this blog, but I need your feedback to do so.  Thanks!

Photo: modified from Online Marketing Blog wordle by TopRankBlog via Creative Commons license.

And the winner is….

Thanks for everyone who submitted suggestions in the Tell Me What Construction Law Topics to Write About contest.  I’ve received many good ideas, which you will see in the coming weeks. 

I also enjoyed some doozy stories, including one in which a contestant (not our winner, for the record) called one type of construction professional the most “ruthless underbelly of life God ever created“.   I won’t state which profession was called that, for fear of starting a flame war.  But rest assured, it was one of the more memorable comments I received!


The underbelly of a bridge…. not quite what the commentator had in mind!


After entering all the names into my highly scientific lottery cup, I had my assistant draw the winning name to ensure it was all on the up and up.  (You know lawyers, always making sure to cover our tracks!).

And the winner is……….. Andy Mullins, of Advanced Contractors in Holly Springs, NC.   Andy, a subscription to Architectural Record will be headed your way.

Got a topic you want to see addressed? Just because the contest is over doesn’t mean you have no say.  Comment below with your burning questions and issues!

Photo:  Severn Crossing Underbelly 2 by Dan Pope via Creative Commons license.

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