Joe Straus

Of Counsel

Some clients have called me a bulldog. I take that as a compliment. I’ll sink my teeth ‎into an issue, and when necessary I will fight tenaciously to protect my clients’ ‎interests.

How I represent clients at Schwabe

I started practicing construction law in 1982 when I didn’t know the difference between a BOMAG roller and a boring ‎log. In the years since I’ve learned from my clients and their folks in the field and nationally renowned experts, ‎and can now expound at length to a jury or a tribunal on topics ranging from how methane gas is drawn from landfill ‎waste to generate electricity; to the inherent properties of concrete slabs to transmit moisture; to how the omission ‎of one event on a critical path schedule can destroy the entire schedule’s logic.‎

My passion is focused on learning my clients’ unique businesses in order to resolve their disputes in the most ‎effective and efficient way possible.‎

Compelling advocacy for troubled projects

Along with my colleagues, I strive to translate complex technical information into easily understandable ‎concepts that traverse all sectors of the construction and design communities and encompasses all parties. ‎Using my years of experience and practiced skills of negotiation and mediation—and, if required, arbitration and ‎litigation—I have secured victories for my clients in a variety of troubled civil, architectural, maritime, and other ‎construction projects in Washington and across the Western United States. Those projects have ranged from ‎failed gasification plants using the latest technologies to hand removal of coal tar from enclosed voids on ‎World War II era Navy vessels to the couple who built their dream home only to be fleeced by their ‎contractor’s unscrupulous billing practices. My goal is to deliver the same level of excellent service and ‎engaged focus and passion to every one of my clients.‎

Though my focus is mainly on construction contract claims, I devote a substantial portion of my practice to the ‎commercial litigation disputes and contract disputes—from escrow to non-compete disagreements—that arise ‎in a business context each day.‎



  • Obtained summary judgment dismissing all claims against a nationwide manufacturer of EFIS systems on a statute of limitations defense. The plaintiff dismissed the case on appeal.
  • Negotiated recovery of repair and replacement costs for a national social service charity from a flooring manufacturer and flooring installation contractor, after failure of engineered sports court floor in a regional recreational facility in Idaho.
  • Handled multi-year and multi-jurisdictional representation of a Southwest Washington-based civil public works contractor in claims with public utility district (PUD), subcontractor and suppliers in four separate lawsuits to recover the general contractor’s costs to correct subcontractor work performance issues on a subcontractor-supplied design-build methane gas cleaning system. All lawsuits were settled to the general contractor’s satisfaction short of trial.
  • Obtained a binding private arbitration award for homeowners against a homebuilder for violations of the Consumer Protection Act for deceptive advertising, deceptive billing practices and wrongful lien. Homeowners were awarded $50,000 in attorney fees.

Maritime Construction

  • Achieved an AAA arbitration award in favor of a Clark County marine painting contractor against a Southern California-based shipyard on subcontractor claims for extra work in refurbishing a Navy tug, including costs for handling toxic metal paint removal from the tug and untimely payments. The shipyard had unilaterally rejected all claims and refused to mediate.

Commercial Litigation

  • Obtained a summary judgment in favor of a decedent’s estate where the former wife sought to invalidate a prenuptial agreement, alleging assets were not disclosed to her. The case involved the interpretation of the Deadman’s Statute. The trial court awarded the estate $250,000 in attorney fees, and after affirming on appeal, an additional $25,000 of attorney fees. The Supreme Court denied review. Kellar v. Estate of Kellar (2010-2013).
  • Successfully represented an international religious denomination that bought a local church building with known contamination issues from liens brought by cleanup contractor hired by seller. We joined the title company that administered funds escrowed by the buyer from the seller’s proceeds for cleanup. All liens were resolved from escrowed funds and funds paid back to the buyer. In addition to release of escrowed funds, the title company paid the buyer $75,000 on our third-party complaint.


  • University of Santa Clara Law School, Juris Doctor degree (1981)
  • Seattle University, Bachelor of Arts degree, magna cum laude (1978)


  • Washington State Courts
  • U.S. Claims Court
  • U.S. District Court - Western District of ‎Washington


  • American Bar Association (ABA), Forum on the Construction Industry, Diversity Committee, Member (2015-present)
  • Liaison from ABA Construction Forum to ABA Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) (2015-present)


  • Ranked for Construction in Washington, Chambers USA (2021-2022)
  • Puget Sound Business Journal, Business of Pride Outstanding Voices 2020 honoree
  • Ranked Top Washington Commercial Litigators, Chambers USA (2010 and 2011)
  • Martindale-Hubbell®, AV Preeminent Ranking (2016)
  • Seattle Metropolitan Monthly award, Top Lawyers List, Construction (2010)
  • Seattle University Alumni Association, University Service Award (1993)


Community Activities

  • Whim W’Him Dance Company, Development Committee (2014), Board of Directors (2015 – present), Chair of Governance Committee (2016)
  • Gay and Lesbian Bar Association of Washington (QLaw), Mentorship Program (2015)
  • Greater Seattle Business Association, Scholarship Evaluator (2013)
  • Federal Club, Seattle Chapter, Human Rights Campaign
  • Seattle University Board of Regents (1993-2012)
  • Seattle University Law School Board of Visitors, Former Member

Outside Interests

Giving back to my native Seattle, supporting LGBTQ causes and enjoying good ‎Washington wine.

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