What is construction law?
The area of construction law deals with matters such as infrastructure, housing, planning permissions and construction and engineering. The key to understanding construction law is that it has two main categories: non-contentious and contentious. Below is a brief overview of construction law and its branches.
Non-contentious work involves negotiating contracts and general procurement which happens before construction begins. Construction lawyers work with the people who are initiating the project, the people financing it, the architects and the companies doing the actual construction.
Construction law becomes contentious when something goes wrong. The contracts drawn up at the procurement stage set out how disputes should be dealt with. In an effort to minimise costs, they are usually resolved through adjudication or arbitration, but if a case goes to court, a specialist barrister from the construction Bar would be appointed to advocate.
What does a construction lawyer do?
Contract law features strongly in this practice area as construction law firms are continuously engaged in negotiating and agreeing terms with all relevant parties. They continue to be involved throughout a project – common construction law duties include making site visits and liaising with all parties to ensure everything is running within the contracts.
When things aren’t going to plan, lawyers will be involved in gathering evidence, advising on the strength or otherwise of their client’s position and advising on the appropriate course of action, as set out under the terms of the contract. This may entail instructing counsel and attending proceedings with the client.
Project lawyers work with project companies, interdisciplinary legal terms, local government and financial backers to bring large projects to a successful conclusion in both domestic and international scenarios.
What skills do you need to be a construction lawyer?
- Detailed understanding of the construction industry as a whole, not just the legal aspects. Knowledge of all industry-specific contracts, regulations, and procedures. Any experience in related industries like architecture, engineering or infrastructure would be beneficial.
- Strong verbal & written communication and commercial skills as you will need to draft and review contracts. You will need to be able to work with a range of legal and non-legal professionals. It also involves preparing a case, representing clients in court and carrying out any litigations.
- A strategic, analytical and creative approach will need to break down complex concepts into simple terms.
- You need to advise clients on any issues and guide them through different forms of dispute resolution and knowledge of commercial and dispute resolution law.
How to become a construction lawyer?
Due to the high level of client contact in construction or building law, lawyers need to be able to build rapport with a variety of people from contractors to financial backers and other lawyers. It’s important to see things from a client’s point of view and offer commercially viable advice in terms clients can understand.
Contracts in construction law can be complex and technical so construction lawyers need to have excellent analytical skills and attention to detail, as well as a good understanding of contract law and tort.
Genuine interest in the sector and a good understanding of the technology and terminology in the market in which clients operate is important. Common sense and a practical attitude go a long way in this practice area.
How to study construction law?
Starting your career in construction law is similar to other areas of law. You need to obtain a qualifying law degree or degree in any other discipline followed by the Solicitor Qualifying Exam. If you would like to follow the solicitor pathway, you will need to take a two-year training contract to apply as a solicitor by SRA. If you want to become a barrister, you’ll need to study the Bar Practice Course (BPC) followed by a year of pupillage.
Construction law is a diverse and interesting legal sector that forms an important part of the law. Going into construction law will put you on the front line of many blocks that form society like housing, infrastructure and the economy. You will also develop mitigation skills and negotiation tactics when dealing with businesses and developments.
Construction law salary in the UK
A newly qualified solicitor in a firm outside of the city or smaller commercial practice may expect to earn around £30,000 to £50,000. An average construction solicitor salary in London is anything from £50,000 to £80,000 based on five years’ experience according to Reed.co.uk. For those with over ten years' experience, earnings can range from £65,000 to £1,200,000. Those based in London and bigger cities will often earn more too.
Construction law news
If you want to know more about working in construction law in the UK, find commercial law cases or find out more about the building area of law, see
- LawCareers.Net (LCN) is all about law - a comprehensive, one-stop online resource created for future lawyers and those who recruit them: Lawcareers.net.
- Over 160 law firms and barristers' chambers independently reviewed. The student's guide to the legal profession: Chambers and Partners Student guide and
- Law or non-law student, read our expert advice to master legal CVs and apply for training contracts and vacation schemes with top law firms: Target Law
Keep up with construction news by looking at the legal section of the
- UK's leading magazine for construction professionals featuring the latest news, expertise and intelligence from the Building industry: Building Magazine,
- Construction News is the leading resource for UK construction industry news, contract wins, top contractors and clients, market intelligence and forecast and trend data: Construction News,
- The Society of Construction Law holds meetings, lectures and social events; publishes papers given to the Society; supports educational bodies, in particular by funding the purchase of books; sponsors an annual prize paper; generally promotes interest in construction law: Society of Construction Lawyers,
- i-law is a vast online database of commercial law knowledge. It contains thousands of pages from many trusted legal sources.: i-law.