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Talking Shop: Communicating with Contractors


Explore the importance of effective communications, identifying appropriate communication methods, and make smart communication decisions.

In one of the most memorable lines from the 1967 Paul Newman movie classic 'Cool Hand Luke', the prison warden says, 'What we've got here is ... failure to communicate,' as justification for having clubbed, chained, and shackled prisoner, Luke Jackson, in the head with a baton. While the consequences are usually not as violent, failing to communicate effectively on a construction project can result in misunderstandings, mistakes, and mistrust that leave its participants feeling much as Luke must have in that memorable scene. Project success depends upon effective communications. Contractors need to communicate frequently with owners, architects, engineers, subcontractors, suppliers, and others to keep a project moving forward. Such communications can range from corroborating design, modeling, and sustainability objectives, negotiating changes, justifying claims, or sequencing and coordinating the work on the project. Construction projects have long suffered from ineffective communications. Technology like smartphones, tablets, building information modeling, drones, robotics, and the proliferation of optical devices have made the ability to communicate easier, faster, and more accessible than ever before. However, the ability to communicate has not resulted in more effective communications. If anything, technology, expediency, and our way of life have caused the effectiveness of communications on construction projects to trend downward. It does not need to be this way. Good, effective communications during construction projects are achievable without sacrificing technology, expediency, or our way of life.



Scott D. Cahalan

Scott D. Cahalan

Smith, Gambrell & Russell, LLP

Scott Cahalan

  • Partner in the construction law and litigation section of Smith, Gambrell and Russell, LLP, an AmLaw 200 firm
  • Part-time instructor of graduate courses in Design and Construction Law and Real Estate Development Law at the Georgia Institute of Technology
  • General counsel to the Georgia Utility Contractor’s Association
  • Practice includes all aspects of design and construction law from drafting and negotiating prime contractors, subcontracts, and purchase orders to mediating, arbitrating, and litigating construction disputes
  • Drafted form construction contracts for the Associated Owners and Developers, a national organization
  • Recognized by Chambers USA, The Best Lawyers in America, and Georgia Super Lawyers
  • Frequent author and lecturer on construction law
  • Member of the State Bar of Georgia, Northern District of Georgia, and 11th Circuit Court of Appeals
  • J.D. degree, with honors, University of Georgia; B.S. degree in construction engineering, Iowa State University
  • Contact information [email protected], [email protected], or (404) 815-3711

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