Focusing on philosophy of law pays off
Published: July 26, 2010
Tags: Construction Law 2010
“In one sense, I see the law and practice of law as practical or applied philosophy,” Hanus said. “That’s really one of the things that attracted me to it.”
Hanus has been practicing construction law, in one form or another, for almost his entire career. Although he still does some construction defect litigation, Hanus said, much of the construction work he is involved with now is defense of architects and engineers in professional liability cases. Most cases — even those that are hotly contested and heavily litigated — are resolved through settlements, he said.
Judges in Milwaukee County, as well as the other counties where Hanus practices, tend to order the parties to participate in mediation in an effort to reach those settlements. And mediation has challenges, such as “adjusting both your client’s expectations and your opponent’s expectations of a reasonable outcome,” Hanus said. “A successful mediation is one where the case is resolved, but no one walks away happy.”
Hanus noted that mediation and arbitration are a growing trend in construction law, particularly in larger, more complex cases. Clauses are often written into construction contracts requiring the parties to resolve disputes through arbitration, he said.
As a volunteer neutral mediator for the Metropolitan Builders Association, Hanus has the opportunity to help people settle their differences without going to court.
“In my experience, ultimately, clients who participate in the process do prefer to be in control of their own destiny, to decide for themselves on what terms the case will be resolved instead of putting it in the hands of 12 jurors,” Hanus said. “The reality is there are no guarantees in a jury trial and sometimes, even though you think you have a very defensible case, you can be surprised.”
He said he finds that developing presentations and writing articles about the work, when time allows, is a good way to identify trends, particularly in construction law.
“And then my firm (Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP) is organized around its practice groups, and we have a very strong construction, architects and engineers practice group,” he said.
To unwind, Hanus said, he enjoys sailboat racing and cycling, and recently earned his private pilot’s license.
“Flying shares many things in common with sailing, which I love and have always had an interest in,” he said.
— Nan Bialek