Play Nicely in the Sandbox (or, Why GC’s and Subs Should Get Along) (guest post)

Chris HillToday’s guest post is from Christopher G. Hill, lawyer, Virginia Supreme Court certified General District Court mediator and owner of the Richmond, VA firm, The Law Office of Christopher G. Hill, PC, a LEED AP. Chris authors the Construction Law Musings blog where he discusses legal and policy issues relevant to construction professionals. Additionally, Chris is active in the Associated General Contractors of Virginia and a member of the Board of Governors for the Construction Law and Public Contracts Section of the Virginia State Bar.

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First off, thanks to Melissa for this opportunity to post here at Construction Law in North Carolina. Having co-presented with her and discussed construction contracting from all perspectives, I can safely say she’s good at what she does and shares great insight here at her blog.

Now that the formalities are out of the way, I thought I’d share my thoughts as one who represents many subcontractors and general contractors on the topic of good relationships meaning good business. I am always a bit surprised at the failure of either side of the GC/Sub dynamic to act in a businesslike manner.

Remember, the General Contractor and the subs are in the boat together in many ways. They both have a job to do and, ultimately, an owner at the top of the payment food chain that is looking to get a project done on time. Ultimately, they both have an architect/engineer representing the owner that may or may not be up on the job (sorry Melissa) and may not be trained in project management. If the general and its subs aren’t “playing well in the sandbox” together, the relationships up and down the project chain get all out of whack and cause delays in completion and importantly in payment.

Another phenomenon that happens more frequently than I would like is the general contractor “burning” good subcontractors in an area through making payment (particularly final payment) difficult to receive. While this type of activity occurs on what I am sure is the minority of projects (and fully acknowledging that my practice makes me think that Murphy was an optimist) I am always flabbergasted by this sort of treatment given to a subcontractor that should be helping pull the boat.

While it is obvious that subs need to play nice with GC’s because they have the money, it may seem less obvious how the above can hurt a general contractor. The short answer (and don’t worry I won’t be going into the long one) is that burning good subs eventually means that good subs won’t work with you. Subs talk to each other. Your reputation will precede you. Eventually the economy will improve and you won’t be the only game in town. Not to mention that such actions are the stuff of which claims are made.

In short, getting along costs your local construction lawyer money because he or she doesn’t get to go to court for you. It is almost always less expensive to get along, finish the job and work out payment than to get we attorneys involved in the construction claims process.

To make a long story somewhat less long, GC’s work with the subs and subs, play nice with the GC’s. It’s the best way to a lower stress project and a higher monetary payoff.

Thanks, Chris, for your insights from the contractor’s side of things.  Even if you did (politely) slam the hard-working design professionals.  Reader, now it’s your turn.  Share your thoughts, comments, or questions with Chris or me in the comment section, below.

Add a comment »8 comments to this article

  1. Thanks to all who commented here. I’m glad to hear that the construction bar in most places is a lot like here in VA and works to the best result.

    Reply

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  3. Yes, The Engineer or the architect employed by the client has to play wisely otherwise the whole project get delay due to no fault of the contractor. the employer has to keep an intelligent balance between the contractor and the engineer as both are working for him. The main player is the contractor who is an important pillar out of two. Dealing fairly with him save the time,claims,extra money and bad name in the market.

    Reply

  4. This is what I like about practicing Construction Law! I’ve always said that lawyers can be part of the problem or part of the solution. On construction cases, my experience has been that – at least in the Kansas City area where I primarily practice – the Construction Bar is generally pretty cooperative.

    Reply

    • Rob:
      Thanks for commenting. It helps when folks understand that, eventually, everyone will need a favor! Playing nicely is *always* a plus.

      Reply

  5. Sure thing Chris! Stop by anytime.

    Reply

  6. Thanks again for the opportunity Melissa. Some of my good friends are architects and engineers, and meany of them are truly diligent, so I hope they don’t take things too personally. I just find that troubled jobs don’t have the more diligent of them representing the Owner.

    Thanks again

    Reply

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