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Design professionals are required by law to meet the standard of care in the performance of their professional services. If they fall short of that standard and their clients or third parties are damaged thereby, they may be found negligent and therefore responsible for compensation. That standard, however, is not perfection but rather performance with the skill and care ordinarily exercised by members of the same profession practicing under similar circumstances.

It is not news that clients want to hold design professionals to a higher standard, despite the fact that long-standing common law recognizes that perfect performance is not expected of design professionals. This is an old problem, and the time-honored solution has been a combination of client education and sensible refusal by the design professional to accept inappropriate contract language and even entire projects that represent uncontrollable and uninsurable risk.

To the extent there is anything “new,” it is that a difficult economy has created an environment in which clients are free to assume that a design can be “perfect” and that design professionals will pay for fixes for problems over which they have little or no control and for which they have little or no insurance coverage. It is more true than ever that “If you don’t want to do it, another design professional will” – and design firms know it. In these times, clients believe that they have all the leverage, and design professionals, understandably, are reluctant to contradict them.

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Client Expectations of Perfection, Risk Management


March 4, 2012

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