Some attorneys like the dynamics of a trial, the verbal combat of litigation. While longtime construction attorney Robert F. Babcock certainly doesn't shy away from confrontation, he says he prefers to find out-of-court answers that work for everyone.
Babcock, 61, a partner and co-founder of Salt Lake City law firm Babcock Scott & Babcock, has been working for more than 35 years to keep contractors and designers on the jobsite or at the negotiating table and out of legal hot water.
"Construction folks don't want to litigate," Babcock says. "They want to find a solution. They want to resolve disputes as quickly and efficiently as possible."
Babcock advises his clients to "communicate well and early and keep the channels of dialogue open." He advocates creating solid contracts, keeping good records and adopting a deal-with-it-now attitude that doesn't defer issues until they become problems.
When Babcock helped establish Babcock Scott & Babcock in the early 1980s, few attorneys specialized in construction. Now, he says, the industry has become much more competitive but also more complex from a legal standpoint. The advent of virtual building and broad-based, cloud-stored document sharing on jobsites makes it a "document-intensive industry," he says. Contractors today must be better managers to stay out of trouble and succeed, he says.
Many industry colleagues and clients refer to Babcock as "Mr. Integrity," alluding to his reputation for honesty and fairness in dispute resolution.
"That's a nice compliment," Babcock says. "But I don't want to oversell things. I'm just a realist trying to find solutions."
It is clear that Babcock knows construction. The son of an engineer, he also earned a degree in engineering at Brigham Young University before he studied law there. He says his engineering skills have helped him better understand and resolve construction disputes, and he advises young attorneys to get some jobsite know-how before they practice construction law.
He also advises regular involvement with industry associations and trade groups. AGC of America has honored him with its Service to the Industry Award, and the Associated Builders and Contractors recognized his work with a similar statewide award. He serves as legal counsel for several design and trade associations.
"I have known Bob as a construction lawyer for the past 35 years," says his colleague and partner Kent Scott. "Bob teaches, mentors and supports countless attorneys of all ages and experience."
State legislative committees, politicians and some representatives of the courts also regularly seek his advice on construction matters.
"He is a teacher of judges in matters of construction law," Scott says. "The construction community is now a better place, for Bob having woven his influence into its complex and challenging fabric."