Wearing Multiple Hats

Attorney Jodie McDougal chairs Construction Law Section Council.

Des Moines attorney Jodie McDougal once considered a career as an architect. She pursued law instead, but she still wears a hard hat on occasion. That early fascination for building things led to a focus on construction law.

This past June, her peers recognized her for that leadership by naming her Chair of the Iowa State Bar Association’s (ISBA) Construction Law Section Council. “My passion lies in legislation and education,” McDougal says, “so being a part of the Construction Law Section Council has been a great experience.”

McDougal has been a member of the group for several years, serving as Vice-Chair for the past two. She is also Chair of the Construction Department at the Dentons Davis Brown Law Firm, where she represents construction and design companies in the commercial and residential construction industries and writes a construction law blog that’s distributed to hundreds of local construction professionals.

“I’ve been doing the blog for over five years now to help educate our clients on legal matters that could affect their businesses,” she says. “With COVID and changing laws, I wrote more than 40 posts this past year alone.”

Recent articles have discussed everything from the federal eviction moratorium to volatile construction material prices. “We have about 20 attorneys in our firm whose work touches in some way on construction law,” she says. “In addition to representing our clients, we work to help them mitigate the risks involved in running a business in the construction industry.”

Her expertise in construction law led to her involvement as the Iowa author for the national lien law resource LienLawOnline.com. She was selected to be part of the Iowa Attorney General’s working group of attorneys that drafted, reviewed, and finalized the administrative regulations relating to Iowa’s new Lien Law in 2012, and she has spoken numerous times at the Iowa State Capitol as a construction subject matter expert.

In addition, McDougal is an active member of several construction and real estate associations and speaks regularly to industry groups and trade associations. “I’ve been particularly proud of our Council’s efforts to effect positive legislative change for the construction industry,” she says. “This past year, one of our biggest efforts was advocating for the passage of a bill to enhance the mechanic’s lien rights of residential contractors.”

The ISBA is a statewide association of lawyers. Sections within the ISBA provide opportunities for members to come together and address issues in various areas of concern. The Construction Law Section Council is one of those.

“It’s a way for lawyers to educate each other and get updated on new laws, as well as advocate on issues affecting our industry and our clients,” explains McDougal. “We review bills before the Legislature and evaluate whether they’ll have a positive or negative effect on the industry and determine what action we should take as a Section Council.”

As Chair, McDougal says her goal is to do her best for the Section and to make it possible to accomplish what the members want to do. “We’ll continue to monitor upcoming legislation and push any affirmative issues,” she says. “We also put on a great continuing education seminar each year.”

In her work at Dentons Davis Brown, she says she gets to experience the best of both the legal and construction professions. “We see deals close and work closely with our clients to help them grow their businesses and mitigate the risks,” she says. “As attorneys, all of our construction department works to help our clients get ahead of any potential problems so they can avoid legal issues.”

But growing up as the daughter of an engineer who was handy around the house, McDougal enjoyed hands-on projects, too. As a construction law attorney, she still gets to enjoy them. “Some days I put on a suit and go to court,” says McDougal. “Other days I put on my hard hat and steel-toed boots and go out to a jobsite.”

McDougal’s passion for legislation and the construction industry and her record of facilitating the needs of others will serve her well in her role as Chair of the IBA Construction Law Section Council. No matter which hat—or shoes—she’s wearing.