Indiana State Bar Association embraces construction: Organization starts Construction and Surety Law section to help lawyers who work in building-related fields

March 28, 2005

A new section of the Indiana State Bar Association is a little out of the ordinary.

The Construction and Surety Law section, which went into operation last fall, focuses on a specific industry instead of a specialized area of the legal practice, such as liability or contract law. This approach is pretty uncommon for state bar associations, Indiana State Bar Association officials said.

"This section represents the cutting edge for bar membership," said Section Vice Chairman David J. Theising, a partner at Indianapolis law firm Christopher & Taylor.

The construction industry and the related surety business require their own state bar section because the two fields share many of the same legal issues, according to section member Mike Cavosie, a partner with Eastern & Cavosie in Indianapolis. Those issues just don't fit in neatly with the traditional sections.

The construction and surety fields have been attracting more attorneys than they did two or three decades ago, said Section Chairman Michael F. Drewry, a partner with local law firm Drewry Simmons Vornehm LLP.

Drewry estimated that when he started in the construction law field in 1979, fewer than 10 Indiana attorneys focused specifically on that area. Today, the total is 50 or more, he said.

In addition, more attorneys are getting involved in the construction field at least occasionally.

As a result, there was a need for a state bar section that focused on construction and surety, said Drewry, who headed a committee that proposed the section in January 2004.

The organization quickly approved the idea and the section quickly took shape. Its first formal action was to make a presentation last fall at the state bar's annual meeting.

Construction law involves all the legal issues that come up in the building process, whether public or private. The surety part comes into play because many building projects involve performance bonds and similar legal guarantees.

Theising noted that a lot of case law has been created in this area in the last two decades, so attorneys in the field need a way of keeping up with developments. As a result, one of the main goals of the section is education. The section is organizing a committee that will develop educational programs.

Drewry said the section is planning to create a database that will compile all the legal decisions and administrative rulings that apply to construction and surety.

This is important because a lot of the new case law comes from outside Indiana, Cavosie said. Many decisions are handed down by various federal government boards or come from courts in states that have construction industries larger than Indiana's.

Theising said the section will make it easier for its members to network and compare notes. The section has 115 members and is expected to grow to 150 to 200.

While most of those members won't focus strictly on construction, Drewry and Theising said that won't be a problem. Attorneys who handle occasional con struction cases also can benefit from membership, they said.

"I'd like to see members of the other sections join up, like those in real estate or contract law," Theising said.

Plans call for the section to eventually have four committees: education and seminars; legislative and public policy; membership; and publications and forums. In addition to the planned database, the section also wants to publish an e-newsletter.
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