The Engineering, Construction and Courtroom Experience Factors
The Benefits of Engineering Degrees
Every major construction case involves general conditions, drawings and specifications (“Contract Documents”). Whether the issue involves an interpretation of the Contract Documents, shop drawing submittals, or a question concerning performance, in order to effectively represent a client, an advocate must first be able to understand the technical parts of the case. Most law firms have no attorneys with an engineering degree. Gardner & Kewley has two attorneys with engineering degrees.
Tom Gardner has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Engineering. As part of a core engineering curriculum, Tom Gardner studied all of the disciplines, including:
- Civil Engineering,
- Structural Engineering,
- Electrical Engineering, and
- Mechanical Engineering.
During college, Tom Gardner completed concentrated studies in the sciences of psychrometrics, fluid mechanics and heat transfer. Upon graduation, Tom Gardner spent six years working for a major manufacturer in the heating, ventilating and air conditioning (“HVAC”) industry. While working in the HVAC industry, Tom Gardner disassembled and reassembled engineered machinery air conditioning products, assisted consulting engineers in drafting technical specifications for HVAC products and systems, prepared bids for HVAC equipment and sold equipment to contractors.
Before graduation from Widener University, Tom Gardner worked as an apprentice ironworker on projects ranging from the erection of a one level shopping center to a 32 story highrise office building. Prior to entering law school, Tom Gardner had eight years of experience in the fields of engineering sales and in the construction industry.
Tom Gardner has used his engineering education and construction industry experience to cross examine experts and to clearly introduce direct expert testimony. By being able to understand the engineering principles of a case, Tom Gardner has caused adverse experts to stop testifying against clients and, in some cases, to be disqualified.
Lee Kohler has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering. As part of his core engineering curriculum, Lee completed classes in structural, electrical, mechanical engineering, and in materials analysis.
The principles which Lee Kohler learned while studying mechanical engineering allow him to quickly understand and evaluate technical issues which arise in construction-related legal disputes and to present those issues in the light most favorable to the client. Lee Kohler’s education also allows him to identify and to connect critical information in construction records to support a client’s position. In a recent case, involving the construction of a school campus, Lee Kohler was able to neutralize an adverse expert when Lee Kohler recognized that the expert’s opinions were based on the expert’s misinterpretation of the contract drawings and the pre-construction submittals. In another case, involving the construction of a levee, Lee Kohler was able to tie together information extracted from daily reports, material delivery receipts and material testing reports, to demonstrate that the owner had ordered replacement of purportedly defective materials in an area where the materials actually met the material testing requirements.
These examples demonstrate why construction industry clients rely on Tom Gardner’s and Lee Kohler’s legal and engineering expertise.
The Additional Benefits of Retaining an Attorney who has Sealed Contract Documents and has Testified as an Expert Witness in Open Court
Understanding how and why Contract Documents are organized and assembled is another important factor in representing a client in every construction case. While in law school and for two years after graduation, Tom Gardner expanded his knowledge of the construction industry by working as a consulting engineer. While working as an engineer, Tom Gardner designed HVAC systems and drafted Contract Documents. As a professional engineer, Tom Gardner sealed Contract Documents for low temperature operating rooms, prisons, office buildings, schools and for many other projects. Tom Gardner also served as vice president and general counsel of a consulting firm that employed licensed engineers of all disciplines and several licensed architects. Tom Gardner has been accepted as a mechanical engineering expert in open court, and has testified as an HVAC expert.
Tom Gardner has broad experience in the construction industry as an apprentice iron worker, as an engineered machinery sales representative, as an HVAC designer as a licensed engineer, and as an executive in a regional engineering and architectural firm. There is no attorney in this area with Tom Gardner’s background in the construction and in the design community. When your case is technically challenging and requires someone with engineering and legal expertise, the benefits of engaging counsel with this combination of experience are apparent.
The Benefits of Retaining Experienced Trial Attorneys
All of the attorneys at Gardner & Kewley have been admitted to practice law, and have been practicing in the field of construction law, for at least 25 years.
The lessons learned from decades in this focused practice area are invaluable. Gardner & Kewley believes that experience leads to efficiency, and that attorneys with decades of experience in construction law have a much shorter learning curve on new matters because they have been down that road many times before. Seasoned attorneys know how to handle a particular case. The experienced attorney knows how to proceed on a case because counsel’s judgment is informed by the reality of past results, not by what someone read or was told. Gardner & Kewley believes that there simply is no substitute for an attorney with decades of experience in construction law.
Credibility before the court is an intangible that cannot be quantified. When a Gardner & Kewley attorney appears before a judge or an arbitrator, there is an immediate connection because of obvious experience. The experienced attorney knows how to persuade the trier-of-fact, when to speak and when to remain silent. The experienced attorney knows when to say nothing so as not to jeopardize a good result.
Every attorney at the Firm has introduced lay and expert testimony in open court on direct examination. Every attorney at the Firm has cross-examined adverse lay and expert witnesses. Every attorney at Gardner & Kewley has submitted briefs and argued before courts of appeal, and has filed writs to the Louisiana Supreme Court.
Construction and design oriented staffing, file handling experience, first impression credibility and decades of trial experience are rarely found throughout an entire law firm. Gardner & Kewley serves clients by providing experienced counsel with a level of expertise that is fully responsive to the client’s needs for quality representation.