Architects and Engineers Liability Attorneys In Chicago

Are you looking for an experienced architects and engineers liability lawyer in Chicago? Design firms are a driving force behind every great project – but they face tremendous challenges. A/E design law firms must solve difficult technical issues, with elegance and creativity. And they must retain talented designers against a backdrop of tight profit margins.  Jeremy enjoys counseling them in all aspects of their operations to minimize risk, maximize profit, and help them to serve society with great design.  Jeremy counts architects and engineers as among his favorite clients. 

Lawyers Representing Chicago Architects and Engineers

Jeremy, an Architect and Engineers lawyer, is passionate about representing design firms in Chicago, the birthplace of modern architecture. Whether it is looking up to admire the city’s monuments to great architecture and engineering, or making new friends in the design professional world, he loves being a small part of this community.

Much of our practice is dedicated to counseling A/Es.  Jeremy has represented dozens of design firms in a variety of capacities, from a deeply engaged outside general counsel to an occasional advisor.  A keen understanding of professional liability insurance – and the critical role it plays for designers and their clients, in both contract negotiation and dispute resolution – is essential.  We have the knowledge, insights, and experience that design professionals can trust to handle all their legal needs.

Our Attorneys Guide Chicago Architects and Engineers Through Disputes

Jeremy has successfully resolved disputes for dozens of Architect and Engineering firms through mediation, arbitration, and litigation.  He frequently defends designers from insured error and omission claims, but he also represents them in non-insured matters.  Recently, he has represented prominent international and Chicago-based design firms in:

  • Collecting unpaid fees with mechanics lien and contract claims, and through bankruptcy court proceedings.
  • Alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Fair Housing Act, and their state and local equivalents.
  • Intellectual property matters, including copyright infringement claims brought by and against his designer clients.
  • Working with professional liability insurers to defend A/Es from dozens of claims alleging design malpractice.

Thoughtful Contracts for Architects and Engineers

Helping design firms manage risk with smart contracts is a core focus of our practice.  Jeremy frequently negotiates project-specific A/E contracts.  He also helps A/E firms craft template contract documents for repeat future use.  Having represented most players in the industry, Jeremy understands how to agree on reasonable contract terms that both protect A/Es and are acceptable to the owners and developers who employ his designer clients.

Serving the Design Industry

A Liaison to the AIA Contract Documents Committee, Jeremy is honored to help the AIA craft its widely-used standard form AIA Contract Documents.  He is a frequent speaker and author for industry groups such as the AIA, ACEC, CSI, ABA Construction Law Forum, and IICLE on cutting edge issues such as BIM / Digital Practice and Designer-Led Design Build. 

Common FAQs from the Architect Industry

What Risky Contract Terms Concern Smart Architects and Engineers?

Architects and engineers might want to be wary of contract terms like the following:

  • Contact terms that take design professionals outside the protection offered by their professional liability insurance. Most of the money in design and construction runs through contractors. This means architects and engineers rarely have the funds to settle design defect claims. Design professionals who face claims which are uninsurable under professional liability insurance policies can be forced out of business. Also, real estate developers and project owners whose claims are not covered by an architect’s or engineer’s professional liability insurance might win their claims but achieve no monetary recovery.  It is in every’s interest for the terms in architects’ and engineers’ contracts to be insurable.
  • Coordination. While it is appropriate for the lead architect or engineer to accept a certain level of obligation for coordinating the design of the overall project, often liability for design team coordination can be set out in vague contractual terms. This creates a risk that creative attorneys will blame the lead designer for the mistakes of others; for failing to properly “coordinate” their work. Few design professionals consider this risk when they vaguely agree to coordinate the design. When they think about coordination, many designers envision running meetings and facilitating communications between the owner, contractors, and other design team members – NOT the risk of being blamed for the design errors of others. This risk is acute when the project owner directly contracts with some members of the design team, including design-build MEP/FP contractors.
  • Accessible design. The Fair Housing Act and Americans With Disabilities Act impose certain responsibilities on design professionals that go beyond the typical kinds of liability exposures architects and engineers face in negligence claims. You should confer with your attorney before agreeing to the client’s terms and conditions for accessible design, to ensure that they are both fair and legally valid.

Jeremy Baker helps architects and engineers negotiate contracts with real estate developers and project owners to achieve a fair and balanced allocation of risk – focusing on who can best manage those risks and the cost-benefit of the deal.

Can Architects Help Protect Owners from Construction Project Problems?

When the project owner hires them directly, an architect can play a key role in preventing problems, especially during the construction phase. They can:

  • Visit the site and confirm whether the work performed is consistent with the design
  • Review and approve contractor requests for payment
  • Support the owner at project closeout by preparing the punch list (minor corrections that the contractor must make before the project is declared complete)

Having an architect handle these matters can help ensure the integrity of the completed project.

Should Designers’ Proposals Have Terms and Conditions on the Back?

Architects, engineers, and contractors should put the terms and conditions under which they propose to do the work on the backside of the proposal page.

The reason why is that in the construction industry, it is common for work to start before a well-thought-out construction contract is in effect. For example:

  • Initial drawings are requested from architects so that the project owner can obtain a construction loan
  • Contractors are asked to do some preliminary site work

Legally, a contract exists as soon as any type of work begins, especially if money is exchanged. This creates the question: if a problem arises during the project and a thoughtful contract has not been signed, what are the terms and conditions of the contract that this preliminary work created?

When there are terms and conditions on the back of the proposal, a court or arbitrator may conclude that they are included in the formed contract and make its/their decision accordingly.

Why Are Architects and Engineers Scared to Build What they Design?

Some of Jeremy’s Recent Contributions

  • Mechanics Liens and Other Payment Avenues During COVID-19, AIA Contract Documents Video Podcast (April 28, 2020)
  • Using Mechanics Liens to Get Paid: A Primer for Architects In the COVID-19 Era, AIA Chicago Webinar (April 7, 2020)
  • Anatomy of Indemnity and Copyright Clauses: What Architects Should Know, AIA Chicago, Chicago, IL (March 18, 2020 – COVID-19 Postponed)
  • Understanding AIA Document A201-2017, the General Conditions of the Construction Contract, Berkley Design Professional Webinar (June 13, 2019)
  • Protecting the Design Professional with Insurance and Contract Provisions, ABA Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section, Chicago, Illinois (Feb 7, 2019)
  • Design Professional Liability Exposure, Construction Litigation Dispute Resolution, IICLE Seminar, UBS Tower, Chicago, Illinois (Dec. 12, 2018)
  • AIA’s Digital Practice Documents: Managing the Risks of BIM and Digital Data, AIA Chicago Presentation, Chicago, Illinois (Nov. 8, 2018)
  • Professional Liability Law, Managing Engineering Liability and Risk, Halfmoon Education, Lombard, Illinois (May 30, 2018; Oct. 25, 2018)
  • Using AIA’s Digital Practice Documents to Manage the Risks of BIM and Digital Data, ABA Forum on Construction Law – “Hot Topics” Webinar (May 16, 2018)
  • Managing Legal Risks, CSI Academy: Risk Management, the Sofitel Hotel, Chicago, Illinois (Apr. 27, 2018)
  • The New Role of the AIA’s BIM and Digital Practice Documents, ACEC Annual Convention and Legislative Summit, Washington, D.C. (Apr. 17, 2018)
  • Chapter 1 – Responsibilities and Liabilities of Architects and Engineers for Construction Failures, Construction Dispute Litigation 2018 Edition, IICLE (Mar. 2018)
  • Using AIA’s Digital Practice Documents to Manage the Risks of BIM and Digital Data, ABA Forum on Construction Law, “Hot Topics” Webinar (Dec. 6, 2017)
  • Engineer-Led Design Build: Simple, Safe & Profitable, ACEC Fall Conference, Orlando, Florida (Oct. 17, 2017)   

To learn more, contact Baker Law today.

Architect and Engineer Tools
Do Architects and Engineers still use these? Or is it all BIM now? Asking for a friend…