2014 Virginia Legal Elite – Civil Litigation
Stephen G. Test
Williams Mullen PC, Virginia Beach
Other legal specialties: Construction law and construction litigation
Education: Bachelor’s and law degrees, George Mason University
Children: Christina, 33; Tommy, 27; Eric, 33; Danny, 35
Hobbies or pastimes: Reading, hiking, travel, gardening
First job as a lawyer: Alexandria legal aid office
Fan of: Boston Red Sox
Favorite vacation spot: Timbavati/Tanda Tula safari camp, South Africa
Recently read books: “Unbroken,” “Sycamore Row,” “Mandela” and “And the Mountains Echoed.”
Career mentor: Donald H. Clark Sr.
What has been your most memorable civil litigation case?
AMEC Civil v. VDOT. We were asked to defend the commonwealth and VDOT in a $21 million claim for cost overruns on the Kerr Reservoir bridge project. It was a daunting challenge with a textbook list of issues. Following a three-week trial and an adverse judgment for the entire claim, we worked with the Office of the Attorney General through two successful rounds of appeal, obtaining two remands to the trial court. Eight years after suit was filed, the original award was cut in half, providing case-law precedent.
What effect has the slowly recovering economy had on construction disputes?
Developers and contractors look at disputes and legal costs differently due to the economic recession. No one knew when construction and development lending would come back. Major construction projects went dark and sat idle for years. Legal costs for dispute resolution are now a budget line item. Clients expect value for their legal work not framed as a billable hour. They still need capable legal advice, but they expect value in the resolution of disputes. We must find that value early on for our clients. Companies that weathered the lean years will continue to control their dispute resolution costs.