Chicago Construction News special feature
Building on a long personal history in construction with a focus on roofing, Trent Cotney, president of Cotney Construction Law, LLP formerly Trent Cotney, P.A. has built a uniquely blue-collar legal firm focused on representing the construction industry.
Cotney grew up in a construction family and then worked in the industry himself while in school. When he began to practice law in the late 90s, he went to work representing roofing contractors and suppliers. Over time, his involvement in the industry and related associations grew.
Cotney was among the inaugural class to be Florida bar certified specifically in construction law. He is also licensed in Illinois, Tennessee and Texas. “The best way to represent, advise and argue for roofing contractors is to know how to build a roof, to know the job from all sides, and to know the law,” explained Cotney. “Customers aren’t paying me to get up to speed on roof construction because we work on roofing matters every single day and have the institutional knowledge to cut to the chase.”
In building his firm, which he formed in 2012, and that now numbers 19 attorneys, he sought the same kind of expertise and personal experience. He says each of his lawyers has experience in the field because “you can teach anyone the legal aspect but you can’t give proper advice unless you know the business.”
The firm currently represents more than 325 roofing companies across the country. The team’s expertise, he says, means they know the issues, understand the nuances of defect claims, and are intimate in their knowledge to the extent that they know how roofs are built, with what materials, and what can potentially go wrong.
Cotney is committed to providing national legal services for the roofing industry and his recent admission to practice law in Illinois is because of Chicago’s importance to the roofing industry. Additionally, both the Chicago Roofing Contractors Association (CRCA) and the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) are both located in the Chicago area. “We are very engaged in several roofing associations and want to continue supporting them as much as possible along with all of their initiatives,” says Cotney.
Beyond lawyers who know the industry, Cotney has also spent years developing a network of suppliers, manufacturers and others in the know. Understanding who to call or to connect with, he says, ensures he gets the information and action his clients may need to help clarify questions that arise and keep jobs running.
“Representing the construction industry is truly what we love, it is who we are and what we do,“ he said. “There are a lot of lawyers focused on construction work, representing the owner, or the insurer, but very few who defend and advocate for the industry as we do.”
Cotney says the team members are fierce advocates for the industry, founded on a basis of humility and collegiality. “Construction is in all of our roots. An ethic of hard work, an understanding of the people and of the work, is part of who we are and will always be the basis under which we operate.”
His commitment to his clients, and the flexibility a firm of his size carries, means he is able to be creative, offering fixed price or monthly fixed fees for clients, and being able to think outside the box to ensure the team is meeting the clients’ needs the best way possible.
Focused on a bullpen team mentality, one driven by mentorship and shared experiences, means clients benefit from a range of expertise and a depth of personal experience. “We are recognized as a one-stop shop for roofing contractors with experience in immigration, employment law, company formation and business planning, and creditor’s rights and bankruptcy, all from the aspect of construction.”
Cotney is a OneVoice Member of NRCA and General Counsel to Roofing Technology Think Tank (RT3), a group focused on promoting technology in the industry to resolve challenges. The firm provides general counsel and is a founding sponsor of National Women in Roofing. Cotney is also a key sponsor of ROOFPAC and the Roofing Industry Alliance for Progress, and Cotney himself speaks at many industry events and conferences. “We are trying to be a disrupter in the legal world and want to be known for fighting for roofers.”
He has been recognized with numerous awards, including the Gold Circle Award for service from the National Roofing Contractors Association (2014), OSHA Defense Law Firm of the Year USA by Lawyers World (2015-2017), and the Corporate Insider Legal Award for Most Outstanding Construction Lawyer (2017).
For more information, visit http://CotneyCL.com.