Justin Giles III spends his days entangled in the details of contracts and plans as a construction attorney with Evans Petree PC.
Despite the ever-changing nature of the construction industry and specific projects, he says, “I love it.”
He enjoys helping clients develop a project plan and working with like-minded attorneys to cut through the complexities to “get to the meat of an issue” and help make a potential problem into an opportunity.
Born and raised in Memphis, Giles attended Memphis University School before heading to the University of Tennessee-Knoxville to study broadcast journalism. The dream was to work in pro sports and he sought counsel from the general manager of the Tennessee Smokies Double-A baseball team when graduation neared.
“I said, ‘What do I need to do to have your job?’” Giles said.
The answer was to further his education, either with graduate school or law school, to gain credibility. He was interested in being a trial lawyer and chose Stetson University College of Law in St. Petersburg, Fla., for its high ranking as a trial advocacy school.
Just out of law school, Giles was offered work with the Chicago Cubs system, but $15,000 per year wouldn’t begin to cut into his student loan debt. Moving back to Knoxville, he took work doing insurance subrogation.
“They threw me in the fire,” he said. “I was responsible for about 3,500 files and I was serving 17 counties. … It was great experience because I was trying cases and I was learning how to manage a file straight out of law school.”
It was his future wife who led him home to Memphis. A job with Less, Getz & Lipman PLC would lead him to his passion for construction law.
“It’s good work, it’s fun work, and you get to meet a lot of people and you learn a lot."
–Justin Giles III
“I didn’t know how to turn a screwdriver,” he said with a laugh.
He has since learned how to handle the tools in his legal toolbox and has used the knowledge to further his career and standing in the industry. At the end of 2011, he and his wife, Fransje, a nurse practitioner for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, were looking for a change for themselves and two children, Charlotte and Joe. That change took them on an adventure to Boston where Giles worked in construction law for Donovan Hatem LLP.
They learned quickly that the Northeast wasn’t for them and the family found itself back in Memphis within the year. It was a year in which his old firm had merged with Evans Petree and, to Giles’ delight, there was still an office with his name on the door.
Within the firm, he works on a team with colleagues to service clients that include property owners, prime contractors, subcontractors, vendors and suppliers, architects and engineers. The team drafts contracts, resolves negotiations, litigates and handles surety work and collections. He meets head-on the unknown that may creep up in any development or construction process.
“We are there from the beginning to the end of any type of construction project and we will do what is necessary, whether that’s on the plaintiff’s side or defense,” Giles said.
The local construction industry is an intimate one, as is the construction law world. Giles is part of the Tennessee Association of Construction Counsel, a group of 150 members across the state that regularly work with and, in some cases, against each other.
The association strives to stay up on continuing legal education courses and share best practices, as well as cutting through the language at times to get to that “meat” of an issue.
Giles is happy to be back in Memphis where he enjoys spending time with family and is involved with the martial art Jiu-Jitsu as he trains for this year’s St. Jude half-marathon.
He’s also thrilled to be back with his team as part of the larger Evans Petree firm doing work that keeps him on his toes.
“It’s good work, it’s fun work, and you get to meet a lot of people and you learn a lot,” Giles said. “No two days are the same, just because I’m a construction lawyer on Monday, doesn’t mean I’m the same type of construction lawyer on Tuesday – one day I could be doing a lien, the next day a bond, the next day drafting a contract, the next day in court – it allows some versatility in my practice.”