NSPE's Gateway to Private Practice February 2007 

Employee Management and Financial Management Roundtables

NSPE announces the NSPE/PEPP National Human Resource Roundtable. The event will take place on March 21–23 in Alexandria, Virginia. The HR Roundtable is a valuable national forum for human resource professionals of engineering firms to network, benchmark current activities, identify trends, and discuss emerging issues.  Space is limited—and this event sells out each year—so register today!


We invite CFO's to attend the NSPE/PEPP 2007 National CFO Roundtable, May 3–5 in Arlington, Virginia. Join us in a supportive learning environment that provides a valuable national forum for CFOs (and Principals) of A/E/C firms to network, benchmark current activities, identify trends, and discuss emerging issues. Click here for more information.


Professional Liability/Risk Management Brief
Richard B. Garber, Vice President A/E/C Risk Management Services, Victor O. Schinnerer & Company, Inc.

Document Ownership

Many clients look at professional services as a commodity. With surveys, reports, plans, specifications, and other documents viewed as “products,” it is important to understand intellectual property rights intrinsic in professional services. Design professionals need to contractually address business and liability issues relating to the use and ownership of deliverables and any rights to use those deliverables if the professional service relationship is terminated.

Using Deliverables as Leverage

Design professionals provide services; deliverables are instruments used to provide those services. Although these instruments of service are not products of a professional relationship, they do have commercial value. Therefore, the ownership rights in instruments of service should not transfer to the client or another party unless all fees and reimbursables are paid. Ownership of deliverables is the major leverage factor a design professional has in obtaining payment.

Addressing Liability Exposures

By transferring title ownership and copyright of instruments of service, a firm is giving up control over the use or reuse of those instruments. When a firm signs and seals documents, the firm identifies itself as responsible for their content. As a result, firms may have to defend against future meritless claims based on inappropriate use of their documents. Any transfer should be in exchange for the client’s commitment to defend and indemnify claims from the client’s future use.

Obtaining Protection Through Copyrights

Under industry standard forms, not only does ownership of instruments of service remain with the design professional, so do the copyrights, which constitute separate property rights. This reservation of ownership recognizes that a firm is retained and compensated for special expertise, knowledge, and skills expressed through instruments of services. Clients do not pay for documents, they pay for professional services. 

Ownership of documents is distinct from ownership of the copyright in those documents. A copyright exists even without any action to register the copyright. This right prohibits others from reproducing documents, creating derivative works based on those documents, and distributing the documents to others. Merely possessing one set of documents does not alter the copyright in those documents. 

Transferring “Works Made for Hire”

Copyright law allows the transfer of rights in intellectual property from the creator to the client. Simply calling the deliverables “works made for hire” may not affect this transfer. Unless there is a written assignment of copyright, the client may not gain any control.

Controlling Documents Upon Termination

Standard agreements grant the client a limited license to reproduce instruments of service solely for purposes of construction and operation of a project. Any termination of the design contract automatically terminates the client’s license. If termination does not trigger the firm’s agreement to extend the license, the client cannot use those documents to complete the project.  

Often, when a design professional’s contract is terminated, the parties trade the right of continued use of the documents for the payment of all sums due and the release of the firm from any future claims. If the client can terminate the contract for its convenience, precautions should be taken to preclude the transfer of rights in the instruments of service without appropriate compensation and liability protection. 

Because the use or misuse of instruments of service affects specific rights and obligations of the client, construction team, and public, a licensed professional should retain ownership of, control over, and responsibility for those instruments. Any ownership transfer provision should be considered carefully.

Statements concerning legal matters should be understood to be general observations based solely on our experience as risk consultants and may not be relied upon as legal advice, which we are not authorized to provide. All such matters should be reviewed with a qualified advisor.

Victor O. Schinnerer & Company Inc. is managing underwriter for the CNA/Schinnerer Professional Liability Insurance Program commended by NSPE/PEPP since 1957.

[ return to top ]

Get More Visibility for Your Firm with the PEPP Sustaining Firm Program

Link more business to your future while receiving the following benefits as a PEPP Sustaining Firm:

Exposure: NSPE's web site receives more than 1 million hits and over 20,000 user sessions each week. 


On-line Reference Source: PEPP Sustaining Firms listed in detail, including specialties; searchable by state.  Let owners and other customers and partners find you!


Recognition: PEPP Sustaining Firms are listed in an issue of PE magazine.   (Circulation is 60,000)  


Provide support to the industry and profession: thanks to PEPP, NSPE members have a variety of benefits, including standard contract documents, continuing education programs, political advocacy, professional liability products, and much more.             


Become a PEPP Sustaining Firm Member by Registering Online Today!


[ return to top ]

Top 10 Ways to Conduct More Effective Meetings
Herbert M. Cannon, president of AEC Management Solutions Inc.


10. Invite only those people who are absolutely essential to the meeting.

Cannon's Law of Meetings states: The productivity of meetings is inversely proportional to the number of attendees. Not only are more attendees less productive, they are also not participating in revenue producing billable activities.

9. Use meetings to make decisions not to disseminate information.

I absolutely hate showing up for a meeting only to be given a handout of information that we will then be lectured on. The problem with this format is that while the author of the handout is talking about information on page 1, attendees are thumbing through to page 10 and no one is paying attention to the speaker. Distribute any handouts before the meeting so people have time to review and digest the information. Once the meeting begins, you can start with a productive discussion that leads to a decision or further action.

8. Have an agenda for the meeting.

An agenda for the meeting will keep it on track. Everyone's time is too valuable for every meeting to become an open forum.

7. Have a Chair for the meeting.

Someone needs to be in charge of the meeting. That person needs to start and end the meeting on time, keep everyone on topic and move things along.

6. Eliminate the meeting when it is no longer needed.

If the meeting no longer serves a useful purpose, cancel the meeting. I am talking about those standing meetings that we all have. Every three months or so review your standing meetings with a critical eye toward reducing the frequency of meeting, reducing the number of attendees, or eliminating the meeting altogether.

5. End the meeting on time.

Let's meet, discuss what we have to, make our decisions, and move on. It is up to the Chair to make sure all meetings end on time. One way to end meetings on time is to schedule meetings close to lunch—and don't have anything available for people to eat. Hunger will take over and the meeting will finish on time.

4. Fine people for showing up late for meetings.

An effective way to emphasize the importance of being on time is to have a monetary penalty for showing up late for the meeting. The fine can range from $1 on up to whatever it takes to make the point. When an employee waltzes in 1 minute or more late for a meeting they are forced to pay a $1 on the spot. It is actually a lot of fun to enforce the fine and people do get the point. The fines are collected and eventually donated to a local charity.

3. Prepare an action list.

At every meeting, prepare an action list of what decisions were made or what additional action is needed, who is responsible for taking action, and when. For example, an action item might be: Herb Cannon will call the client about past due invoices no later than November 3rd and report back to the Principal in Charge as to when payment can be expected. This action item includes what has to be done, who has to do it and by when. If no action items are produced at the meeting, please refer back to item number 6 and question the need for the meeting.

2. Review the action items at your next meeting.

Make the first thing on your agenda for the next meeting to review the action list from the last meeting. People are much more likely to take action and follow-up on their commitments if they know it will be reviewed at the next meeting. Give it a try— you will be amazed at the results.

1. Show up on time and be prepared .

Woody Allen says that 80% of success in life is showing up. I would modify this somewhat to say that 80% of success in business is showing up well prepared and on time.

Over the years I have seen ridiculous excuses for people not showing up on time. One of my "favorite" incidents happened about 7 years ago when I arrived in New York City for a meeting at 8:00 a.m. on a Monday morning. In order to make it to the meeting on time, I had to leave my house at 6:30 a.m. for a 1½-hour commute. At 8:25 a.m. one of the Principals of this firm, who lived about 20 blocks away, strolled in and declared that it was such a gorgeous day he just had to walk to work that day. Those of you who know me can only imagine my reaction. Here was a Principal in a firm that thought it was okay to show up 25 minutes late and waste the time of 10 other people so he could enjoy a leisurely stroll to work.

Be considerate of others. Their time is just as important as yours and the success of any business depends upon people being where they are supposed to be, when they are supposed to be there. If people in your company can't meet this low threshold of accountability, you are doomed to under achieving at best.

Herbert M. Cannon, president of AEC Management Solutions Inc. and publisher of AEC Managing Partner Newsletter, is a management consultant, seminar provider, and speaker exclusive to the A/E industry. He is available to speak at company meetings and conferences. For more information, contact Herb via e-mail or visit his Web site. 

[ return to top ]

Recognize your Firm and Peers Through the PEPP Awards Program

PEPP presents several awards each year to recognize noteworthy contributions to the consulting engineering field. Members may nominate individuals and organizations for the following PEPP honors. The awards will be presented during the PEPP 50th Anniversary Gala at NSPE's Annual Meeting. 

All nominations are due to the Awards Committee by April 30. The Awards Committee selects a winner with concurrence from the PEPP Executive Board.


PEPP Award

The PEPP Award is given annually to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the advancement and recognition of the role of private practice in serving the public interest. Any individual, except a current PEPP officer or PEPP Awards Committee member, is eligible.

PEPP Professional Development Award

The PEPP Professional Development Award is presented to employers that exhibit exceptional career development initiatives and employment practices that advance the engineering profession.

Local chapters or state PEPP divisions may nominate candidates for the PEPP Professional Development Award. Nominations must reach NSPE headquarters by April 20. The PEPP Awards Committee selects the recipient(s) and any honorable mention recipients.

PEPP Merit Award

The PEPP Merit Award is presented to PEPP members serving in liaison functions or on joint activities, or to any other member who has made significant contributions to PEPP. In addition, the employer of a PEPP Merit Award recipient is recognized for the support the consulting engineering firm has given to the profession through the activities of the PEPP Merit Award recipient. The Awards Committee, with the concurrence of the PEPP Chair, may name as many PEPP Merit Award recipients as it feels are deserving of the honor.

 [ return to top ]

PEPP Hosts Council of Principals Session, February 23, Tampa, FL

The PEPP Council of Principals—PEPP's program to provide the tools, information, and support needed to become a successful leader and principal in private practice — is holding a FREE 4 hour education session on Friday, February 23 from 12 to 5 p.m., including lunch, at the Wyndham Westshore hotel in Tampa, FL.
Friday February 23, @ 12:00 -5:00 pm
Wyndham Westshore
Coaches Corner 
Tampa , FL

12:00 — 12:45          Gather, Network, Lunch, and Self Introductions
12:45 — 1:00            Introduction by Andrea Martinez, P.E.
1:00 — 2:30              Top 10 Ways to Communicate and Connect with Employees
Herb Cannon, AEC Management Solutions, Inc.
One of the most common complaints by employees is the lack of communication from the owners or top management. On the surface, it would seem that the use of e-mail, voice mail, intranet, internet, virtual workspaces, cell phones, and blackberries would make communication a no-brainer. However, the reality is that most employees feel more disconnected than ever.  The reality is that we are mistaking the constant noise of information for meaningful communication. 

This lack of communication ultimately leads to employee discontent, increased turnover and lower productivity. This session will focus on some simple steps you can take to improve communication and make employees feel more connected and productive. 
 2:30 – 3:30               Open Session / Roundtable Discussions 
Topics will be selected by the group. May include COP Target Topics listed below.
Topic 1. Social Skills
Topic 2. Leadership Development
Topic 3. Thinking Like an Owner
Topic 4. How to Run a Meeting
Topic 5. Media/Public Relations
Topic 6. Strategic Thinking/Vision
Topic 7. Technology Awareness & Application
Topic 8. Understanding Finances
Topic 9. Political Lobbying
Topic 10. Personal Characteristics for Success
Topic 11.  Retaining Future Principals
3:30 – 5:00                Managing Change
John B. Zumwalt, III, P.E., PBS&J 
Change surrounds our industry and our lives.  In this interactive session we’ll take a look at change and some ways to manage it.
To attend, contact Kim Granados.
[ return to top ]

NSPE Cosponsors AAA Construction Mediation Conference


The Construction Mediation Conference: What you Can't Not Know
March 30
Bank of America Tower Conference Center
Miami, Florida

At this conference, indispensable information about construction dispute resolution through mediation will be provided to you.

The American Arbitration Association—and Mediation?
The American Arbitration Association (AAA) is not just about arbitration. We know the issues and have got answers for you from some of the construction industry’s best-known experts. You’ll hear how to:

  • Answer the question of whether or not to mediate.
  • Fit the mediator to the case.
  • Use multi-member mediation teams in complex disputes.
  • Use concepts such as expected value, break-even analysis, risk aversion, utility and value of perfect information in mediation.
  • Effectively use the mediation conference to accomplish party, counsel and mediator goals.
  • Assess whether mediations may be vulnerable to lawsuits.

Who will be there?
This conference is geared to all sectors of the construction industry. You will interact with speakers and other professionals attending the conference, including construction-company owners, contractors, developers, architects, construction-industry attorneys and engineers. 

Click here for the detailed program brochure.




[ return to top ]

Contact the PEPP Executive Board

Steve Theno, P.E.
Anchorage, AK
Immediate Past Chair
Larry Britt, P.E.
Oxford, MS
Kevin Skibiski, P.E., F.NSPE
Springfield, MO
Pete Koval, P.E.
Syracuse, NY
Vice Chair, Northeast Region
Randy Rakoczynski, P.E.
Buffalo, NY
Vice Chair, Southeast Region
Dan Dawson, P.E.
Wilmington, NC
Vice Chair, Central Region
Mark Davy, P.E.
La Crosse, WI

Vice Chair, North Central Region 
Kevin Nelson, P.E.

Vice Chair, Southwest Region
Eric West, P.E.
Midland, TX
Vice Chair, Western and Pacific Region
Steven Dyrnes, P.E.
Portland, OR
Young Engineer Representative
Dawn Edgell, P.E.
Chicago, IL
SSEC Representative
Pat Christians
Birmingham, AL

PEPP Staff
Kim Granados, CAE
1420 King Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
tel: 703-684-2857
fax: 703-836-4875


PEPP Homepage

[ return to top ]


PEPP Home Page
Archived Newsletters
Contact PEPP
Printer Friendly
Forward to a Friend

PEPP is now  taking registrations for the 2007 listing. 

Join your colleagues and competitors. List your firm on the NSPE Web site and link more business to your future.             


Deltek is a proud sponsor of the CFO Roundtable.
For more information on how Deltek® delivers software solutions
specifically designed to help project-driven businesses improve
performance, streamline operations, and win new business
visit their website today.

For more information or to contact us directly, please visit www.nspe.org.
TO UPDATE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS, please reply to this e-mail (pepp@nspe.org) with your full name and nine-digits.
To unsubscribe to future editions of PEPP Talk, please click