Successful design professionals provide technical expertise and solutions for client projects. When rendering these services, design professionals often become trusted advisors to their clients. Because of their familiarity with land development and the construction process, design professionals are often consulted about matters that don’t relate to their technical expertise. For example, a civil engineer who focuses on site development is often asked about what it will take to get a variance to the current land use plan authorized by the jurisdiction. The engineer may well be familiar with the process of getting a variance, but that process should ultimately be handled by the client’s land use attorney. It is advisable to tell your client to consult with a land use attorney before they make any decisions or commitments about a proposed project.
I came across another example two weeks ago when an architect asked us about the appropriate amounts of insurance that the contractor should have for a project, and whether a particular combination of the general liability and umbrella policy limits were appropriate for a particular project. Ultimately, the client’s designated risk manager should make this type of determination, which at the very least would require an examination of whether the umbrella policy “follows form” for all of the exposures that the underlying general liability policy covers. Design professionals should avoid becoming their client’s risk manager; they do not have the tools to provide insurance coverage advice.
Stay focused on your role. Defending a claim related to your advice that is unrelated to your customary services can be very difficult.