Design &
Construction Law

Image courtesy of Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates

NW&H lawyers have unequalled experience providing a full range of legal services for design and building projects. We provide general counsel services to architects, landscape architects, and other members of design and construction teams including negotiating design services agreements, ownership transitions and disputes and risk management. We represent 200+ design firms practicing throughout the United States and have advised on projects in more than 30 foreign countries (sometimes engaging relationships with top construction lawyers in those countries). We also represent foreign design firms on projects in the United States.

We are experts in cost-effective dispute resolution, help clients settle problems informally and represent them in mediation and other alternative dispute resolution procedures.

The Life Cycle of a Project

Every project is different, but we are familiar with the legal issues that are likely to impact major projects, including complex and high-profile projects where our clients are key participants. We help clients anticipate and solve problems, protect their professional and financial interests, manage risks, and resolve disputes quickly and reasonably.

Pursuing the job
  • Reviewing contract language in Requests For Proposals
  • Dealing with public designer-selection and bid laws
  • Satisfying inter-state registration requirements
  • Considering joint ventures or other strategic alliances
  • Drafting and negotiating pre-selection teaming agreements
Securing the job
  • Negotiating the owner’s contract with the designer, contractor, construction manager, or design/builder (using AIA or ConsensusDocs forms, owner-generated alternatives, our own forms, or a customized form)
  • Defining and documenting relations between design architects and production (or architect of record) architects
  • Drafting contracts with subconsultants and subcontractors
  • Anticipating problems and addressing dispute resolution, project partnering, insurance, and risk management
While the job proceeds
  • Reviewing other contracts on the project as they may affect our clients
  • Assisting in development of BIM contract addenda and execution plans
  • Reviewing and negotiating certificates to lenders and public agencies
  • Advising on public bidding requirements, including the Massachusetts filed sub-bid laws
  • Advising on major additional services and change order issues
If the job goes sour
  • Resolving payment disputes and advising on lien rights
  • Providing preliminary claim advice and strategies for settlement
  • Dealing with insurers, sureties, lenders, and other interested parties
  • Representing clients in informal negotiations and formal mediations
  • Coordinating with claims counsel in arbitrations and lawsuits
  • Protecting copyright and project credits
Working abroad
  • Identifying and resolving professional registration and other international practice issues
  • Drafting, reviewing, and negotiating FIDIC, RIBA, and other international contract forms
  • Identifying, engaging, and coordinating with local legal counsel and other in-country advisers
  • Dealing with tax treaties, payment and performance security, currency exchange, and similar issues
  • Designing and managing international dispute resolution procedures

The Life Cycle of a Firm

We provide general counsel services to our design and construction clients, from the creation of a firm through the challenges of growth, ownership transitions, and mergers and acquisitions. Unlike many lawyers, we understand and attend to the special considerations – professional, personal, and aesthetic – that affect both the business and the culture of design and construction firms and their principals and employees.

The new firm
  • Choosing the form of entity: corporation, LLC, or partnership
  • Drafting and filing firm corporate and licensing documents
  • Assembling and coordinating a team of accountants, legal specialists, insurers, and other advisors
The growing firm
  • Developing a strategy for inter-state registrations, and setting up affiliates and subsidiaries to comply with the varied requirements in each state
  • Creating form contracts
  • Advising on insurance and other risk management issues
  • Formalizing employment agreements, policies, and benefits
  • Maintaining internal governance records and governmental registrations
The evolving firm
  • Addressing the full range of issues related to transferring ownership to a new generation (establishing valuation, adding stockholders, addressing personal, professional, and management challenges)
  • Advising on mergers, acquisitions, and break-ups


  • Robert A.M. Stern Architects
  • Payette
  • Diller Scofido + Renfro
  • Pickard Chilton
  • Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates
  • Elkus Manfredi Architects
  • MASS Design Group
  • Spagnolo|Gisness
  • Kendall/Heaton Associates
  • Dyer Brown Architects
  • Reed Hilderbrand
  • Tsoi Kobus Design
  • Leers Weinzapfel Associates
  • Sasaki
  • Henning Larsen
  • Machado Silvetti
  • OJB
  • Market Square Architects
  • The Galante Architecture Studio
  • ARC / Architectural Resources Cambridge
  • Safdie Architects
  • Jones Architecture
  • Brookline Housing Authority
  • East Boston Community Development Corp.
  • Utile
  • Toshiko Mori Architect

If clients require legal advice in areas such as tax, estate planning or litigation, we arrange for cost-effective relationships with expert lawyers in other firms who specialize in these areas and with whom we have worked closely.

We have similar close relationships with specialized accountants, management consultants and marketing professionals. We play a central role in providing customized services to meet each client’s legal needs.