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Technical Excellence in Government Contracts
and Construction Matters Since 1893.
Oles Morrison

Partner Spotlight – Sam Baker Jr.

Thu Jul 12, 2018

Our 125 years of success are a direct result of the hard work and support of our people. We want to recognize the people that make Oles Morrison Rinker & Baker what it is today and those that will impact the future of the firm. Each month, we will share a Partner Spotlight that not only highlights one of our partners but the biggest issues impacting the legal industry.

sam baker, jr.

How long have you been practicing law?
47 years

How has the legal industry and/or your practice area evolved since you started practicing law? 
When I began practicing law in 1971, there were only a handful of attorneys whose practice focused primarily on construction law. With my background and undergraduate degree in construction management, practicing construction law was a natural fit and I have focused on it almost exclusively representing contractors mainly in the public sector. Today, there are hundreds of attorneys whose practices are concentrated in construction law just in the Seattle area. However, there are few other law firm’s that can rival ours on both experience and number of construction law attorneys. Over the years of my career and the firm’s nearly century of experience in construction law, we have expanded our construction law practice to Alaska and California. This makes us one of the largest, if not the largest construction and government contracts law firms on the West Coast.

How has the Seattle economy changed over the years?
The Seattle economy has changed significantly especially as it relates to construction. The skyline today consists of scores of towering buildings, many major new bridges, tunnels and marine structures. Unfortunately, the infrastructure, specifically roads and utilities, has struggled to keep pace.

What is one legal trend your clients should be paying attention to right now?
The construction of infrastructure must improve even though it will present major opportunities and complications. The legal trend that will accompany that will be the ability of skilled labor to meet those demands. Skilled labor is essential in that without it contractor’s risks will compound and with that, legal issues will also. That is why the local construction industry should do all that it can to encourage the brightest and best talent to enter the field of construction. And from the standpoint of labor, training and wage growth will be essential to meet the demands.

What is your most memorable case? 
It was the Felton vs. Seaboard Surety case which began as a lawsuit brought by a contractor’s surety for large sums incurred to complete two large utility projects in Portland after the contractor suffered a default. The surety responded by removing the contractor and replacing it with two contractors who incurred $10 million in cost overrun to complete. We contended the surety owed its principal duty of good faith and that required the surety to conduct a thorough investigation to decide not to fund the contractor before engaging replacement contractors.  The jury was so instructed and returned a verdict awarding the contractor in full for the destruction of the contractor’s business. The case had a substantial impact on the surety industry in America.

Click here for more information about Sam Baker Jr. and his practice.