17 leave Watt, Tieder to start own law firm

Seventeen attorneys have left McLean-based Watt, Tieder, Hoffar & Fitzgerald, one of the nation’s largest law firms focused on construction-related litigation, to form a new firm jointly based in Tysons Corner and San Francisco.

Nine attorneys from Watt Tieder’s main office in McLean and eight from its San Francisco office opened Varela, Lee, Metz & Gaurino on March 1. Three of the firm’s four founding partners are based in McLean.

The new firm will continue representing contractors and developers in construction-related litigation, but it hopes to be leaner and more flexible by doing things such as using contract attorneys on temporary projects or employing cloud-based technology to cut costs, partner David Wonderlick said.

“It’s generally being able to be a little more nimble and adaptable,” he said.

The firm represents contractors, developers, property owners and public agencies primarily in litigation that arises from construction projects, such as disagreements over how much each party is owed if a project veers from its initial plans.

“There are very few construction projects that are going to be built precisely as they are planned,” Wonderlick said. “There are going to be changes and there are often disputes over whether and how much is going to be paid for those changes.”

The firm’s clients include engineering company CH2M Hill, Hensel Phelps Construction and Arlington County, which is currently facing off against construction firm R.E. Daffan in a case over responsibility for delays and costs in the construction of a building addition at the Arlington County Water Pollution Control Plant.

Catherine Ho covers law and lobbying for Capital Business, which she joined in 2011. She was previously a reporter at the Daily Journal in Los Angeles, covering LA civil courts and labor and employment law.
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