As a kid, Brian Zimmerman loved visiting his grandfather because he ran a commercial construction firm.
One of his most vivid early memories was getting a ride in a dump truck. That was when he decided that he’d work in construction some day.
But he also was very impressed with the work of his father, business attorney Bob Zimmerman.
Fast-forward to the present, and he’s combined the work of both men, as a construction lawyer with Hurtado SC.
“I’ve always liked the aspect of seeing older buildings refurbished or rebuilt completely,” Zimmerman said, “or seeing new construction come out of bare ground.”
The Wausau native earned a degree in civil engineering, and enjoyed the construction and project management aspect of that field. But he always knew it would be a stepping stone to getting a J.D. and his present career.
Zimmerman said his job is a fascinating mix of both transactional work and litigation. He’s been a key player in several large-scale new construction projects. But he also represented a subcontractor in the failed Staybridge Suites development in downtown Milwaukee.
“There were so many subcontractors and parties, that the case brought together a very diverse representation of the construction bar from the Milwaukee area,” Zimmerman said. “It was really a pleasure to work with so many highly skilled construction law attorneys, working both collaboratively with them and opposite them.”
The Daily Reporter: What is the No. 1 legal issue that construction firms need to be aware of today and why?
Brian Zimmerman: I think it’s dispute avoidance, through having a contract that fully addresses the work that’s to be completed, and also having good practices and communication among project managers, subcontractors, owners and lenders, to ensure that everyone’s on the same page about the project as far as the work that’s being done, the progress of the work, and all the parties’ expectations.
TDR: What is one thing attorneys should know that they won’t learn in law school?
Zimmerman: They always say law school will teach you ‘how to think like a lawyer’ – which it does. But it doesn’t teach you how to advance your client’s interests cost-effectively, and to know when to exercise your judgment to guide your client toward the result they’re looking for.
TDR: Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Zimmerman: I think I start sentences with ‘You know’ too often. Or, ‘Well,’ when I’m trying to steer someone in another direction.
TDR: What was your least favorite course in law school and why?
Zimmerman: Employment law because I already had a sense that it wasn’t an area where I’d be devoting a significant part of my practice on. The class generally dealt with issues affecting large employers, and I already knew I’d be in a small practice, working with small businesses.
TDR: If you hadn’t become a lawyer, what career would you have chosen?
Zimmerman: Project manager for a construction company or something else in construction.