Jim focused the vast majority of his nearly 49 years of practice solely on representing design professionals. Representative cases included successful jury trials, bench trials, and arbitrations on a wide variety of projects including jails, schools, power plants, custom homes and civil engineering projects. Jim’s approach consistently embraced the technical aspects of design practice, explaining it to the uninitiated, and fitting the facts and law into a compelling presentation. From a solo 35-day arbitration spread over 6 months to a solo six-week jury trial, he relished winning by making things like CCDs, CPM schedules, RFIs and ASIs understandable and convincing to non-practitioners.
On the business side, where he focused his practice at Lee/Shoemaker PLLC, Jim provided legal advice in the formation of dozens of firms, closed on over 50 external transactions among design firms, and even more internal ownership transition plans. He has advised clients on edits to the AIA contract forms, beginning with the 1977 version to the present, providing context to clients for the numerous changes and trends in contract language over the years. Jim represented and advised design firms on corporate and litigation matters, ranging from some of the largest design firms in the United States to solo practitioners (and every size in between). His personal count of design clients encompasses over 500 different firms in every discipline.
Jim’s contribution to the design professional community is perhaps best exemplified by the Annual Case Review of Legal Decisions Affecting Architects and Engineers, a labor of love he began in 1994. Continuing today, the Annual Case Review has become a must-attend event for design professionals in the DMV and the content is valued nationwide.
In addition to his representation of design professionals, Jim contributed as a Board member to the non-profit Council for Court Excellence in DC for over 30 years, served over 6 years on the Washington Architectural Foundation Board, and sits on the Board of Technical Research International, Inc. He is also a member of the Barrister’s and past president of the Counsellor’s in D.C. He is a past president of the D.C. Defense Lawyers Association and was selected as its 2022 Lawyer of the Year.
We treasure the contributions Jim has made to Lee/Shoemaker PLLC, setting the firm up to serve design professionals for decades to come. We will miss his voluminous redlines on draft documents, his “tickles” on files, and his blunt assessment of situations. But, most of all, we will miss his creativity in the practice of law, his mentorship, and his desire to make each lawyer at the firm the best version of themselves.
We wish Jim all the best in his retirement!