Happy New (Bar) Year, Construction Lawyers

By Matt Bouchard

Greetings, fellow members of the Construction Law Section, and welcome to the 2020-2021 bar year! It is my honor and privilege to serve as Chair this year and to work with an outstanding group of council members, committee co-chairs, and NCBA staff to reward your Section membership with top-notch programming, activities, content, and other benefits, all aimed at adding meaningful value to your law practices and professional development.

Like the clients and the industry that we serve, our Section will face unique challenges in the months ahead as North Carolina and the country at-large continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. Those challenges include safely providing the same excellent CLE programming that has served as the cornerstone of our Section’s offerings each year. Toward that end, our CLE Committee is working diligently to transition its Summer 2020 program, originally scheduled for in-person presentation in Wilmington, to a webcast format. I urge all of you to mark your respective calendars for the Committee’s “Laying the Foundation, Brick by Brick” CLE webcast the afternoon of Thursday, September 24 and all day Friday, September 25. This not-to-be-missed “sticks-and-bricks” program will focus on a range of construction practices presented by industry experts as well as your Section cohorts, with sessions focused on zoning and other regulatory issues, civil and structural engineering, building envelope considerations, and much more (including Jay Wilkerson’s always anticipated case law update). Please watch this space for additional details soon. And since your calendars are now open, go ahead and mark Thursday, February 18, 2021, for our Winter CLE program and Annual Meeting, to be held in-person (fingers crossed!) at the Bar Center in Cary. Again, details to follow.

If asked to provide a theme for the goals I’d like the Section to pursue this year beyond providing terrific CLE programming, I would respond that we should strive to “build stronger bonds” together (don’t worry, I’m not talking about surety instruments here). While our Section enjoys a reputation as one of the NCBA’s most collegial and dynamic groups, maintaining and nurturing that distinction in the age of coronavirus will require flexibility, persistence, and increased reliance upon technology. The Communications Committee undoubtedly will play a key role in this effort, and its co-chairs are committed to providing high-quality blog content—including, among other things, case law updates, legislative and regulatory insights, and other construction law-related articles—more consistently than ever before. An expanded role for our Young Lawyers Division Committee, in the service of providing additional learning and networking opportunities for our newer members, is also being eyed, as we are starting to welcome the first Gen Z construction lawyers into our ranks. Finally, while our quarterly in-person socials necessarily will remain suspended for a while, the Section will offer virtual happy hours and other opportunities for our members to mix and mingle, albeit through a computer screen for the time being.

No preview of the year ahead would be complete without highlighting that the Eighth Edition of the Construction Law Deskbook will soon be published, thanks to the diligent efforts of our Deskbook Committee and roughly two-dozen chapter authors. It bears emphasizing that this and all future editions of the Deskbook will be published online only and that access to this vital resource will be available exclusively to Section members as a benefit of your membership. To my mind, that’s worth the price of admission in and of itself.

Chief Justice Cheri Beasley, speaking on June 26 during the NCBA 2020 Annual Meeting, reminded us that “challenging times present opportunities.” New NCBA Chair Mark Holt used his Annual Meeting remarks to encourage all North Carolina lawyers to “rise together to meet the challenges of our time.” Inspired by these words, I couldn’t be more excited about working with you in making this a successful and engaging bar year, despite the challenges we face. The more involvement from you, the better, so please consider volunteering to serve on one of our many wonderful committees in addition to participating in our upcoming activities. You can email me (mbouchard@poynerspruill.com) or call me (919-783-2887) at any time to discuss how you might become more involved in the Section and maximize the value that your membership provides.

Stay safe, my friends, and let’s make it a great year.