1. Why do I need an attorney who specializes in government contract law?
The regulations that govern every phase of government contract work, from bidding through completion, are complex and ever-changing. The administrative process itself is different in many ways from the rules of court that most attorneys regularly encounter. Every government agency has its own idiosyncrasies that attorneys must be familiar with in order to be efficient and effective. Attorneys who are not practiced administrative lawyers may miss deadlines, which are often arbitrary, or fail to grasp the nature and extent of a contracting officer's responsibilities, or fail to claim the full measure of damages to which their contractor client is entitled. It's an area of law that, in order to practice competently, lawyers must devote significant attention to on a consistent basis.
2. What will the total cost of the representation be?
We offer hourly rates that are below market, and will also consider contingency fee arrangements in certain cases. The total cost of a case is difficult to predict, but is usually driven by the complexity of the issues, and whether it becomes necessary to hire expert witnesses to prove certain technical aspects of a client's claim or rebut the assertions of government technicians and engineers. We maintain relationships with experts with whom we consult informally and hire as witnesses in order to establish the facts we need to win. Our lawyers will provide a rough estimate of the total cost, or the cost of any particular phase of the representation, at any time upon the client's request. It is our policy to speak frankly with clients concerning this matter so that the client is fully informed and knows what to expect every step of the way. It's the client's case after all.
3. How will I know if my claim will be successful?
Although there are no guarantees, our lawyers perform a detailed analysis of the merit of your case on day one. We look closely at the facts, review all relevant documents, obtain additional documents from third parties when appropriate, and do our best to predict how a court or jury might rule. In short, we keep digging until we're satisfied that we've covered all the bases. Only then can we properly advise our clients. Informing the client of both the good and bad aspects of his or her case is an important service that attorneys provide and we take it very seriously. This is an ongoing process that continues through the entire course of the representation. As we interview witnesses, make motions and research the law, we are in constant communication with the client about how new developments impact the ultimate likelihood of success.
4. If I protest a bid, will I ruin my relationship with the procurement agency?
Most contracting officer's are working very hard to award a contract using a fair process. If an error is identified, contracting officers are ready to take corrective action. If you look at the Government Accountability Office (GAO) bid protest statistics, contracting officer's frequently take voluntary corrective action to correct errors in the procurement process. Although the GAO sustain rate for protests is just 12%, that figure is somewhat misleading because of the number of cases in which the agency takes voluntary corrective action. The effective rate of cases, which combines both cases that were sustained or resulted in agency corrective action, was 45% in Fiscal Year (FY) 2015. Handling the protest in a professional manner is the best way to avoid damaging a contractors relationship with the procurement agency.
5. How much or what kind of damages or compensation am I entitled to?
Compensation generally depends on the nature of the claim and the circumstances of the case. Damages awarded for breach of contract are intended to make the person or business whole. That is, to give you the benefit of your bargain—the compensation you would have received if the contract had been fully performed. Even lost profits, under certain circumstances, are recoverable. It happens occasionally that a breach of contract causes additional damages as well. Maybe the government's delay caused you to incur overhead costs while standing by, waiting to perform. Maybe the breach ruined your credit or cash flow, and deprived you of prospective business opportunities or the use of your money (interest), or subjected you to additional liabilities and exposures and caused you to suffer losses you otherwise wouldn't have suffered. Consequential damages such as these are recoverable only if they were within the contemplation of the parties at the time the contract was made. Legal fees and costs are sometimes awarded. The Equal Access to Justice Act provides for an award of attorneys fees in some cases. But usually, attorneys fees are not recoverable unless the contract says they are, or a statute does, or the other party's conduct is so egregious that the court awards them in order to do justice. Punitive damages are generally not recoverable against the government, and difficult to recover against a private party. But if that party's conduct is particularly egregious, a court or jury may make such an award. Also, certain statutes authorize the court to impose penalties or increase an award of damages by multiples of three, which the law refers to as "treble damages." The availability of those damages depends on the nature of your case. Qui Tam or False Claim lawsuits, for example, are based on statutes that often provide for penalties and treble damages.
6. How long will my case take?
We do our best to resolve litigation as expeditiously as possible. Most non-complex cases should be resolved within a year. Clients play an important role and we encourage them to become part of the litigation team. With their active involvement, we are able to move the case forward more quickly. But we are also equipped and have the stamina for the long haul. Challenging or novel cases are our specialty. Uphill battles come with the territory and we're not afraid to fight them. We thrive on complex issues that require extraordinary effort and have taken over cases and prevailed for clients in protracted litigation after their previous attorneys had given up.
7. What does Qui Tam mean?
It's a lawsuit brought under a statute that allows a private person (relator) to sue for a penalty, part of which the government or some specified public institution will receive. The type of action is for false claims or fraud. Two common examples in the government contract area are submitting false invoices to the government for payment and making false representations to the government to obtain a contract, such as misrepresenting the intended use of disadvantaged small business subcontractors. The relator brings the action on behalf of the government and the government has the option take over the litigation. The relator bringing the action is entitled to a percentage of the government's recovery. The percentage will be based on whether the government opts to handle the case or not. Common percentage recovery for the relator are from 20-30%.
8. Why do I need a firm with a construction law specialty?
Construction is a complex and constantly changing industry where projects are often fraught with unique challenges. Clients in this sector need an experienced, guiding hand to ensure the needs of owners, developers, and general or subcontractors are met, and that issues are handled in a timely and cost-effective manner. Lien and bond claims are governed by state law, unless the project is a federal project, in which the federal Miller Act would apply. Lien and bond claims require detailed documentation and the process to “perfect” a claim often involves strict deadlines. We are uniquely positioned to handle the diverse challenges that confront the construction industry, including government issues, taxation issues, project finance issues, environmental regulations, bankruptcy issues, real estate transactions, labor and employment issues.
9. Why do I need a firm with Information Technology experience?
Without sufficient knowledge of the IT industry, attorneys are unable to address the unique challenges inherent in the contracting and claims resolution processes involving the design, development, implementation, operation and maintenance of complex information technology, telecommunications and e-commerce solutions. Client in this sector require litigation and regulatory solutions tailored to meet their specific needs. We are knowledgeable and experienced in transactional, administrative, legislative and governmental approval processes. By taking into account the legal and regulatory ramifications of business decisions, and proactively applying our in-depth knowledge of the law and our clients’ businesses, we not only keep our clients compliant with laws and regulations, but minimize risks of conflict, litigation, or government interference with business objectives. We are well-positioned to provide expert counsel at efficient rates on legal matters throughout the United States in the areas of technology law and litigation. Our team differs from most other law firms in that many of our team members are not just attorneys, but also have industry experience, including on the inside with the government.