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FROM THE GROUND UP

Clayton Anderson’s Construction Defect Practice Is Built upon a Foundation of Experience, Expertise and a Constant Source of Clients.

ProfessionalProfile_2013With more than 30 years of experience in construction defect law, Clayton M. Anderson, Senior partner of Clayton M. Anderson & Associates, has certainly seen his share of changes in the housing market. Through the booms and the busts, if there is one thing that is certain in his field, it’s that the only constant is change. Yet  these  changes  have  proven  time  and again to result in a consistent caseload for the 1976 graduate from the University Of San Diego School Of Law. In fact, today, roughly five years after the unprecedented building boom came to a crashing halt, Anderson admits that he is “still cleaning up the mess” that resulted from properties which he says “never should have been built,” due to poor craftsmanship and mismanagement by development companies whose “only goal is to close escrow.” However, those homes were built and as a result, countless homeowners have paid the price in terms of cost and stress due to defects in the home’s construction. Fortunately for those homeowners, though, Anderson’s contingency fee based practice is rooted in decades of experience and subsequent expertise, resulting in millions recovered for homeowners.

Clayton Anderson

Evolving Experience & Resulting Expertise
At first glance, Anderson may seem an unlikely sort to become an attorney. After all, he did spend his initial years after college as a journalist, even being tear-gassed in Berkeley, covering war protests in the early 1970’s. But he soon realized that he possessed marketable skills-including an extensive writing background-that served as a powerful tool to accompany his entrepreneurial spirit. “Being a lawyer is the ultimate entrepreneurial experience,” he says.

As such, after graduating from law school, he admits that after a few years of working for real estate firms in the late 1970’s, Anderson was ready to go on his own, and launch his own practice, which he did in 1982. “It was a boutique field at the time,” he recalls. Much of his work in the 1980’s involved work with HOAs and he chuckles when remembering one of his early cases involving 80 condominiums. “We settled for about $80K, which was real money at that time.”

But by 1991, Anderson began looking for other cases that would allow him to put to use the expertise he’d acquired in his 10+ years of battling for homeowners’ rights. He found a niche market with individual homeowners. “With individual homes, you don’t have a shared roof, for example, that you have in condos. Single family residences require you to work with experts to investigate each home,” he explains. His success as one of the few attorneys who were working on cases involving “10, 20, 30 homes at a time,” further solidified his expertise in the niche field.

In the 1990’s, he also found another niche working as a plaintiff’s attorney for clients who had bought condo conversion projects. “The conversions were a scam. People were buying apartments, giving them minimal upgrades and then selling them,” he says. Suffice to say the condos were wrought with construction defects, and Anderson became the go-to-guy for helping those who had been scammed.

While he admits that the construction defect field became crowded in the 1990’s, very few attorneys devoted their entire practice to the work. “There are a lot of attorneys, very good lawyers who dabble in the field,” he says. But there are only a handful who have been working exclusively in the field, and even fewer who have the experience of “more than 40 trials, and more than 2 dozen cases where more than $1 million has been recovered,” he adds.

Constant Caseload
In today’s market, Anderson remains busy helping homeowners who became victims of overbuilding and the subpar construction that has become synonymous with many homes built in the early 2000’s. From defective condo conversions to million dollar homes, Anderson attributes the sheer volume of construction defects to the lack of skilled labor, virtually no regulation on inspections, and looks which are deceiving. “We’ve been working on a case of an $11 million dollar home that has a patio pulling away from the house, and an infinity pool that won’t hold water,” he says.

The steady flow of work is to be expected of course, in a field where the market is constantly in a state of flux. For example, during the construction boom leading up to 2008, “2 million housing units were being built each year in the nation. California was building 10% of that, and about 20% of those homes have problems. That means that 30-40,000 homeowners need help and only a fraction of them get the help they need,” he says. But getting them the help they need is precisely what keeps Anderson fulfilled. “I get great satisfaction in working with others and helping to get a good deal for them,” he says. Specifically, he adds, “We can provide the services people need; we will front the money, so that they aren’t stressed out by the bills.”

Given Anderson’s tenure in the field, it’s not surprising that he’s quick to point out that surrounding himself with other highly specialized experts has played a significant role in his success. “Our paralegals are highly trained. They are not drafting wills one day, and then coming back to work on defect cases. They are highly specialized, and building these cases is a real art,” Anderson says.

He also credits his sheer longevity in the field for having given him an understanding of insurance companies, and forcing him to “bring a lot of patience” to each case. But it’s a field that Anderson loves, and he plans to continue to run his La Mesa practice with attorneys Bradley Schuber and Gerald Sherwin, and his separate, Sacramento-based construction defect practice, Anderson & Schoech, in much the same way he always has. By nature, the plaintiffs firm is kept “pretty lean,” Anderson says, “we employ about 10 attorneys up and down the state.”

As for the immediate future, Anderson is focused first and foremost on continuing to help clients who were victims of faulty construction during the last boom. But after so many housing cycles, he’s learned to predict what’s coming next. And it seems only a matter of a few years before there’s another big swing in the housing market, ensuring that his practice stays busy for years to come.

Contact:

Clayton M. Anderson & Associates
619-589-8800
8220 University Avenue, Second Floor
La Mesa, CA 91942-9321

www.a-k.com | canderson@cma-a.com

Karen Gorden

Karen Gorden is a Staff Writer for Attorney Journal.

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About the Author: Karen Gorden is a Staff Writer for Attorney Journal.

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