By Deb Draper
MLT Aikins brings a century of experience to the construction industry
No one construction project is the same as another, each carrying an almost endless number of unknowns that can affect success from the very beginning. An experienced construction lawyer can anticipate possible issues and help solve any difficulties that should arise throughout the life of the project.
MLT Aikins LLP has recently joined CARM, bringing its extensive knowledge of the legal and commercial issues involved in construction and industrial projects to the attention of members of the association. With 139 years of experience in Western Canada, MLT Aikins is a full-service law firm with six offices in the four western provinces. Of the 257 lawyers working within the firm, approximately 50 work in the field of construction, ready to handle whatever their wide range of clients may need.
“The construction industry is an area we’re very interested in,” said Tyler Kochanski, partner in the MLT Aikins Winnipeg office. “We felt joining CARM was a good opportunity to reach out to both our existing clients outside Winnipeg and some of the other businesses involved in construction in rural Manitoba.”
In practice for more than 20 years, focused on litigation with a particular interest in construction matters, Kochanski recognizes that the rural construction industry has its own unique set of issues in terms of personalities, type of work and challenges, as well as the advantages and disadvantages when it comes to obtaining materials and supplies and ensuring the stability of the workplace.
As Kochanski notes, everyone involved in a construction project wants it to run smoothly; they want to be treated well and, in the end, have an overall good experience. Covering everything in the construction industry from procurement at the start of a construction project, through all the official documents that come into play, to assisting during the construction projects themselves, the team at MLT Aikins brings many skills to the completion of a successful project.
“We act for businesses in all aspects of the construction industry – from owners to general contractors in trades to suppliers. Our goal is to educate our clients and make sure they understand the realities and potential risks involved in their role in a project. We will help mitigate those risks, and if there is a bump on the road further along, we will help them over it.”
Begin at the beginning
MLT Aikins can assist with evaluating and implementing a range of effective project procurement strategies such as tenders, request for proposals and competitive negotiations. When it comes to P3s (public-private-partnerships) and infrastructure, a team of experienced lawyers can provide comprehensive and cost-effective advice as well as prepare effective documentation on all aspects of the development.
All participants in a construction project need to look closely at every contract document before moving forward. A construction lawyer will negotiate and prepare documentation for all types of project-related documents including: design-build construction contracts, engineering and architectural service agreements, equipment supply contracts, performance guarantees and bonds.
“The clients we work with regularly call us early on so we can help them understand the contracts they’re signing when getting involved in a construction project,” said Kochanski. “They need to know whether or not they are provided enough protection, if there are terms that might be concerning or unusual.”
And let’s face it, disputes in construction can happen – from small issues to huge problems – everything from the tender process to costs associated with delays and damages. That’s why contracts must include dispute resolution provisions and it’s essential to understand exactly what these provisions mean.
From claims for extras to delays to deficiencies to cost-overruns and contractual disputes, there may very well come a time during the project when a business needs legal expertise to help find the best resolution. Kochanski notes that no client is too big or too small; whatever the issue, his team will focus on providing down-to-earth, practical, business-oriented advice aimed at resolving conflict. If it comes to litigation or arbitration, they will be there to see it through to a successful conclusion.
MLT Aikins routinely runs seminars on developments in the construction industry to keep those involved educated on how such legislation affects their businesses.
Staying on track
Environmental issues play a part in almost every construction project, and again, this is where a construction lawyer can provide impact assessment, liability and due diligence advice. They will assist in negotiating an appropriate allocation of the risks – and costs – that environmental liabilities may present, counsel their clients on environmental compliance and successor liability, contaminated sites liabilities, site remediation and transporting hazardous materials.
It is also the business of MLT Aikins to keep abreast of legislative developments and inform their clients on how to work within these changes, such as the recent legalization of marijuana.
Kochanski said, “Employers want to make sure their employees and everyone working around them are safe, including the general public. There’s a delicate balance between human rights provisions and ensuring safety in the workplace and the risks are unique in the construction industry in terms of what can happen if there’s impairment on the job site.”
MLT Aikins routinely runs seminars on developments in the construction industry to keep those involved educated on how such legislation affects their businesses. “We’re now running seminars in Winnipeg,” said Kochanski. “We’d like to work with CARM to begin to deliver them perhaps in Brandon as well; covering topics like risk management, developments in builders’ liens and prompt payment legislation. We look at practical considerations from court decisions and updates in workplace safety and health decisions [and] common construction project pitfalls.”
Kochanski stresses that he and his team work for everyone from recent graduates to those who’ve been in the construction industry for decades. “We can help somebody just out of trade school wanting to start a business, help them set it up and protect themselves and their family. From there we go all the way through to large and very experienced suppliers, trades, general contractors and owners.”
“There has always been a vibrant business community in rural Manitoba, including the construction industry, and we are looking towards having a better understanding of what’s going on and who’s doing it. Our membership in CARM is an opportunity for us to talk about some of the unique services we can provide to help these rural businesses be more successful than they already are.”
Through its deep commitment to Western Canada and in-depth understanding of the construction industry’s unique legal and business landscapes, MLT Aikins has established a reputation and level of trust that benefits everyone involved in the construction industry across the province of Manitoba