Not George Baldwin of Ford Nassen & Baldwin (www.fordnassen.com).
The Central Texas attorney brings significant experience as a mediator and arbitrator to the typical role of attorney advocating for the interests of his or her clients. And it has made all the difference for Baldwin, making him a worthwhile subject for our Wednesday interview.
Question: Describe your legal practice?
Answer: “I have practiced construction law, primarily in the area of disputes resolution, for over 30 years, 24 of which I’ve practiced in Austin. My practice has focused on the representation of general contractors, owner-developers and municipalities. I have also had the opportunity to develop form construction contracts for two of the largest cities in the state. In addition to advocacy work, I have practiced as an arbitrator for over 25 years and a mediator for about 13 years.”
Q: What are the biggest challenges for your clients and how do you go about helping them resolve those challenges?
A: “Construction disputes are business disputes, pure and simple. The biggest challenges that most of my clients face, other than the fact that they are forced to retain a lawyer, thus spending precious resources, to recover money that, by and large, they feel they are owed, is to document their loss and present a logical and supportable damages model. Most (about 96 percent) of construction disputes settle, so I see my task as positioning the client’s matter in the situation that most enhances the chances that the ultimate settlement will benefit them. While advocacy is vitally important, I also see my role as a facilitator, teaching the other side why settlement with my client is in its best interest as well. So advocacy need not be nasty or confrontational and most successful construction negotiations ultimately are not.”
Q: What are the advantages to practicing law in Austin?
A: “The atmosphere and the people that we get to deal with on a daily basis are second to nowhere I’ve practiced. I started out in Washington, D.C., and the Virginia suburbs, and quite a lot of my practice has involved dealing with folks in Dallas and Houston. Austin is a friendlier place, but the other lawyers with whom I work, both as colleagues and as adversaries, are first rate. Plus, the city itself is beautiful, relaxed and easy to live happily in.”
Q: How does your experience as a mediator or arbitrator help you provide exemplary services to your clients?
A: “I think that my practice as a neutral has helped me appreciate that disputes have two sides and that each party zealously believes that its side is right. As an advocate, it is easy to get wrapped up in the details, legal and factual, of your client’s case and not appreciate the arguments advanced by one’s opponent. As a neutral, one must look at both sides and, I think, as an advocate one must do that as well. From a purely practical point of view I have learned what sort of arguments and factual presentations are effective and which fall flat. I have used the tools that I have observed as an arbitrator and a mediator in my practice as an advocate.”
Q: Who or what was your biggest influence in becoming a lawyer and why?
A: “I have always been a verbal person and, through college, I sought a vocation that would use my verbal skills. I was a reporter for a while and considered becoming a teacher, even spending a year at the University of Virginia in its graduate English program. But I found that assembling and presenting factual and legal analysis were skills that fit my personality. Plus, I loved legal television shows and novels; I still do.”