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Building Better Construction Contracts 2019


Speaker(s): Alison Ashford, Conor Tighe, David E. Suchar, Dwight Larson, Joseph Schuster, Ken Cobleigh, L. Tyrone Holt, Patrick J. O'Connor, Jr., Patrick M. Miller, Robin G. Banks, Simon Block
Recorded on: Dec. 13, 2019
PLI Program #: 252354

Dwight serves as senior vice president and general counsel. He leads Mortenson’s legal department and is responsible for oversight and counsel in the company’s legal affairs and in areas of compliance and corporate governance. Dwight joined Mortenson in 2004.

Prior to joining Mortenson, Dwight served as corporate counsel for Honeywell’s building controls business. He also worked as a construction lawyer at the firm of Leonard Street & Deinard (now Stinson Leonard Street) and as a civil engineer at BRW, Inc. and other consulting firms. Dwight earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Idaho and studied law at the University of Minnesota. He is a licensed professional engineer in addition to being a lawyer.


Alison Ashford is a partner in the New York office of Seyfarth Shaw LLP and a member of the firm’s national construction practice.

Ms. Ashford has acted for the full spectrum of stakeholders in large scale public and private infrastructure, and energy, resources and mining projects in the United States and around the world.

She has solid experience in the representation of clients involved in the procurement of public projects, including via public-private partnership, in the sectors of economic infrastructure (rail, aviation, transportation, waste water and desalination projects) and social infrastructure (education, housing and health projects). Key recent achievements include the representation of the design-build joint venture member of the private consortium selected to redevelop the LaGuardia Airport Central Terminal Building in New York and the representation of the design-build joint venture member of the private consortium appointed to develop the James A. Farley Building in New York into the new Moynihan Station.

Ms. Ashford also regularly represents developers (including REITs and joint ventures) and contractors in the drafting and negotiation of project agreements for private commercial, retail, high-rise residential and industrial buildings and facilities. An important recent achievement includes the representation of a large United States-based REIT in the drafting and negotiation of project agreements for the redevelopment of hotel and lodging properties located across the United States and around the globe.

Ms. Ashford represents developers and large contractors within the energy, resources and mining sectors, including on iron ore, gas, methanol, fertilizer, civil and earthworks, manufacturing and pipeline projects. Ms. Ashford also advises investors and developers on renewable energy projects in the United States. A key recent engagement includes representation of the engineering, procurement and construction contractor in the development of the largest fertilizer plant in the United States.

Ms. Ashford is a regular speaker at industry conferences and events in the field of private and public project procurement and has prepared numerous papers and presentations for domestic and international industry publications.


Conor Tighe is the regional in house counsel for Turner Construction Company supporting Turner’s Great Lakes Region and Canadian operations. In addition to legal services responsibility, Conor is also responsible for insurance and risk management  including negotiating the appropriate insurance structures and responsibility for claim loss history for the region. Prior to receiving his law license attending night classes at John Marshall Law school, Conor worked in Turner’s operations for 9 years as an field engineer, superintendent and later, in charge of Turner’s cost accounting department in Chicago.

Conor’s legal experience includes negotiating contracts between Turner and its clients in a wide range of procurement settings including private public partnership (PPP), design-build, construction management at risk and construction management as advisor roles. In addition to the up front transactions, Conor assists Turner’s operations and carriers in navigating claims arising from the delivery of the Project.

Conor’s PPP experience includes social infrastructure transactions in both the US and Canadian markets. PPP responsibilities include supporting Clark Builders, an Alberta based subsidiary of Turner Construction Company. Conor has experience in negotiating Project Agreements (including applicable dropdowns), direct lenders agreement, interface agreements, lending documents, security packages including PPP performance bonds with liquidity elements and insurance packages required to support DBF and DBFM procurements.

In addition to his role at Turner, Conor is a founding board member of Embarc, Inc, a Chicago non-for profit. Embarc is a three-year program that provides community-driven, experienced-based learning opportunities to low-income High School students to inspire and prepare them for college and career success. During Conor’s involvement with Embarc, the organization has grown from supporting 25 students in 2010 academic year to 840 students in 18 schools for 2017 academic year.


David Suchar, a skilled trial attorney, regularly represents clients in construction and insurance coverage disputes, government and internal investigations, and a variety of commercial litigation. In the 2019 Who's Who Legal worldwide ranking of construction law "Future Leaders," David was the sole ranked practitioner from the United States, described as "an impressive trial lawyer whose practice spans the spectrum of construction matters from insurance to payment claims." The 2019 edition of Chambers USA ranks David as one of the top Minnesota construction lawyers and notes that sources describe him as "an excellent attorney with a superb grasp of construction law.”

David has developed a niche national practice representing commercial policyholders in insurance coverage disputes, including on many of the largest construction projects and claims across the United States. His recent successes include multimillion-dollar recoveries for such matters in Minnesota, Florida, Louisiana, Washington, Virginia, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Utah. A frequent presenter on construction and insurance coverage issues, David draws from his experience on the Steering Committee for the ABA Forum on Construction Law's Division 7 (Insurance, Surety & Liens) and as contributing editor of The Construction Lawyer, the flagship ABA construction publication.

As a former federal prosecutor, David has also counseled and represented clients at trial and through all aspects of various government, administrative, and internal investigations. His experience includes criminal prosecutions, inquiries, and subpoenas from state and federal agencies. David's in-court experience sets him apart from the crowd. He has acted as first-chair trial counsel for a variety of bench and jury trials in courts across the country. In addition to his work in the areas of construction and insurance coverage litigation and government and internal investigations, David has successfully litigated various high-end contract and commercial litigation matters. He serves on the Executive Committee (2019 Officer at Large) of the Network of Trial Law Firms, a network of over 5,000 attorneys in 23 separate and independent trial law firms, including Maslon.

Before joining Maslon, David served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice and successfully represented the United States as lead counsel in hundreds of contested hearings in federal district court and oral arguments in the United States Court of Appeals. Prior to his DOJ service, David was a member of the litigation practice group at Kirkland & Ellis LLP in Chicago. In between college and law school, David served as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer and grant writer at Habitat for Humanity. He serves on the Regional Advisory Board for Tickets for Kids, a non-profit organization that provides free access for low income and at-risk kids to attend the arts, cultural, educational, and athletic venues in their communities.


Joseph Schuster is a structural engineer with over 12 years of experience. His career has included a broad range of projects, including the structural design of new buildings, the renovation and adaptive reuse of existing buildings, and the design of repairs for deteriorated structures. Mr. Schuster joined Thornton Tomasetti in 2018 and currently leads the forensics practice in TT’s Newark office, where his work focuses on the investigation of failed structural systems. He routinely consults with attorneys on adjacent construction issues, reviewing access agreements and investigating damage at buildings that neighbor construction sites. Mr. Schuster is a member of the Structural Engineers Association of New York (SEAoNY) Codes and Standards Committee and he is the co-author of AISC’s “Rehabilitation and Retrofit Guide, 2nd Edition” for historic steel construction.


Ken Cobleigh is a Managing Director and Counsel at the American Institute of Architects. Ken works with a team of lawyers, specialists and support staff, and the AIA Documents Committee, in developing and publishing AIA Contract Documents. Ken regularly conducts seminars and workshops on topics related to design and construction, as well as topics related to the AIA Contract Documents program, and is the author of several articles and other publications on such topics.

Ken is a graduate of the University of Maryland, where he earned both his B.A. and J.D. with honors.

Prior to joining the AIA in 2006, Ken practiced for eighteen years as a construction attorney in private practice Maryland law firms. During that time, he represented owners, contractors, subcontractors and design professionals in a number of dispute resolution forums, including State and Federal Courts and administrative agencies, mediation and arbitration. Ken is admitted in state and federal courts in the State of Maryland.


Ms. Banks focuses her practice in all areas of construction law, from contract drafting and negotiation to pre-litigation dispute resolution and complex construction disputes involving mechanics liens, payment bond claims, and construction defect claims.  She represents clients across the construction spectrum, including design professionals, owners, construction managers, contractors, subcontractors, and suppliers.  In addition to her construction practice, Ms. Banks serves as an associate outside legal counsel to the AIA Contract Documents Committee and has been directly involved with updating the 2019 Construction Manager Documents, 2017 AIA Owner-Contractor Agreements, and 2014 AIA Design-Build Documents, as well as developing the 2015 AIA Teaming Agreement.

Ms. Banks has authored publications and spoken on topics such as the AIA’s 2019 construction manager documents, risks of P3’s for design professionals, teaming agreements, contract considerations for design professionals and contractors, understanding the general conditions of a construction contract, innovative design - risks and rewards for the design professional, issues affecting Maryland design professionals, payment bonds and mechanics liens, and construction changes and extras.  

Ms. Banks is a member of the American Bar Association Forum on the Construction Industry, Maryland State Bar Association, and District of Columbia Bar Association, and an Allied Member of the National American Institute of Architects.  She is admitted to practice in Maryland state and federal courts and the District of Columbia.  She received her B.A. degree, with honors, in Economics, from the University of Delaware, Phi Beta Kappa, and her J.D. degree, with honors, from the University of Baltimore School of Law.


PATRICK J. O’CONNOR, JR.  Partner with the international law firm of Faegre Baker Daniels, LLP in its Minneapolis, Minnesota office.  He received his B.A. degree from Hamline University in 1975 and his JD degree from The American University in 1981.  He was law clerk to Miles W. Lord, Chief Judge of the Federal District Court for the District of Minnesota.  Mr. O’Connor’s practice focuses on construction, suretyship and insurance.  He has served as litigation or coverage counsel for contractors, owners, design professionals, and product suppliers in disputes venued in over 25 states and Canada.  He also acts as a mediator, arbitrator and expert witness in construction and insurance disputes.  Mr. O’Connor is co-author of Bruner & O’Connor on Construction Law (West Group 2002), a twelve-volume construction law treatise.  He was an adviser to the American Law Institute’s Restatement of the Law Third, Suretyship and Guaranty.  He works closely with a number of industry organizations on Building Information Modeling and Integrated Project Delivery initiatives.  Mr. O’Connor currently is Co-Chair of the BIMForum’s Legal Subforum.  Since 2007, Mr. O’Connor has counseled the AIA’s Documents Committee in connection with numerous contract forms.  Mr. O’Connor has held LEED AP (New Construction) certification through the U.S. Green Building Council.  He is a Fellow, former member of the Executive Committee, and Past-President of the American College of Construction Lawyers.  Mr. O’Connor is also a former member of the Governing Committee for the ABA Forum on the Construction Industry.  Mr. O’Connor is listed in “The Best Lawyers in America,” “International Who’s Who of Construction Lawyers,” and “Minnesota Super Lawyers.”  (Contact Pat O’Connor at 612-766-7413 or email at patrick.oconnor@faegrebd.com.)


Patrick M. Miller, Partner with international law firm of Faegre Baker Daniels, LLP in its Chicago, Illinois where he serves as Office Leader.  His practice focuses on construction law and real estate litigation. He has significant design-build and P3 procurement expertise and extensive experience with heavy civil and highway construction, process projects, and real estate development.  Patrick serves on the Design-Build Institute of America's National Legal Committee and is one of few lawyers in the nation approved to teach DBIA's Contracts and Risk course. His representative engagements include:

  • Represents municipality in procurement of more than $500M in new criminal justice facilities and development, including competitive bidding, design-build best value procurement, and related development matters
  • Represents short-listed developers and design-build joint ventures pursuing and responding to P3 solicitations on availability payment, toll, and other financial models.
  • Represents energy infrastructure investors in arbitration proceedings and litigation related to alternative energy developments.
  • Lead counsel in arbitration of claims arising out of an EPC contract to design and construct multiple frac-sand processing facilities.
  • Lead counsel representing private water utility in development of integrated design procurement and contract documents for the design and construction of a new ground water treatment plant.
  • Lead counsel representing municipality in dispute to remediate defective membrane filtration system in $50 million water treatment plant designed to process 17.3 million gallons per day.
  • Lead counsel in preliminary injunction proceedings in award protests under Indiana's public design-build procurement statute.
  • Co-counsel representing design-build joint venture in arbitration of eight-figure delay and disruption claims on P3 toll project.

In addition to his design-build expertise, Patrick handles a variety of construction and real estate disputes in Chicago, Indiana and throughout the country. His representative engagements in this area include:

  • Lead counsel representing contractor in successful trial of seven-figure change and delay claim on public highway project.
  • Representation of Chicago high-rise developers in construction defect matters.
  • Representation of private equity funds and REITs in litigation throughout the country.
  • Representation of lenders in commercial foreclosure and workout litigation throughout the Chicagoland area


Simon Block represents clients in the design and construction industries, in both litigation and transactional matters.  He has successfully litigated complex commercial cases for corporate and individual clients and has significant expertise resolving disputes, including those with adjoining property owners, through mediation, arbitration, negotiation and litigation.

In order to efficiently serve his clients’ legal and business needs, Mr. Block leverages his extensive experience advising clients on a wide variety of business-related matters, including insurance issues, employment policies and practices, commercial contracts, intellectual property, professional malpractice, misappropriation of trade secrets and business torts.

Mr. Block drafts and negotiates contracts relating to the design and construction of major projects, including license agreements for access to properties adjoining construction projects.  He also represents clients with respect to business formation and ownership transfer, and prepares and negotiates shareholder, operating and employment agreements.


B.A. 1971 (summa cum laude), Morehouse College; J.D. 1974, Stanford University; M. Theology, 1997 Peace Theological Seminary and College of Philosophy; Member of Phi Beta Kappa National Honor Society, Delta of Georgia Chapter (1971).  Ty has over forty years of experience as a construction and commerical trial lawyer, public finance lawyer, construction transaction attorney, project development and deal structuring attorney.  He also has more than thirty-five  years of experience as a construction mediator and arbitrator.  Ty is listed in the “Red Book” of public finance professionals.  He currently serves as Co-bond Counsel for the City & County of Denver, Colorado and Co-underwriters’ Counsel Park Creek Metropolitan District, Denver, Colorado.

Ty served as the President of the College of Commercial Arbitrators from 2013 to 2014.  He served as a member of the Governing Committee of the ABA Forum on the Construction Industry from 2007 to 2010, and was the Chair of the American Bar Association Forum on the Construction Industry’s Special Projects and Education Committee (SPEC) from 2009 to 2011.  He is a member of the Dean’s Advisory Council of the Stanford Law School; a Life Fellow of the American Bar Foundation; and a member of the American Arbitration Association’s Construction Arbitration Master Panel.  Certified Mediator, International Mediation Institute, https://www.imimediation.org/member/l-tyrone-%22ty%22-holt/ [5 star rating review from AAA-ICDR - August 2019].

He currently serves as a Chair or Panel Member of two large, complex construction arbitration panels; and as the single arbitrator in several construction disputes.  Ty mediates approximatley 30-40 constuction disputes a year typically ranging in size from $500,000 to over $20,000,000.

Ty serves as a client advocate in a number of design and/or construction disputes in courts and before arbitration tribunals in various jurisdications throughout the United States.  He is actively engaged in the structuring, negotiating and documenting of design, construction and design-build contract relationships in the construction industry throughout the United States.