About Ernest Brown


We deploy a wide variety of tactics to resolve legal disputes. 

Ernest Brown’s underlying philosophy is to protect the interests of his clients through the ethical, knowledgeable and skilled mediation and practice of the law. He is known as an energetic and responsive leader capable of resolving even the most complex construction dispute matters.
Mediation is an art and a terrific innovation for the legal industry, but counsel and the parties must fully understand its underlying philosophy and purpose, carefully prepare their mediation case, and then wholeheartedly engage in the settlement process.

Mr. Brown has the distinction of being endorsed as one of the top five construction lawyers in California, according to Chambers & Partners, the premier independent ranking publication for lawyers across the globe. His Chambers & Partners profile praises him as a "very, very experienced construction attorney" with a "very smart and practical" approach.

Strong Foundations

At Ernest Brown ADR, we have the resources, skills, and experience to assist you with strategies and tactics that reflect your objectives every step of the way through your legal dispute.

Ernest Brown’s background as a Civil Engineer, Real Estate Counsel at Fluor, starting his own construction law firm, and eventually acing as San Francisco Managing Partner at Smith Currie & Hancock before founding Ernest Brown ADR, makes him uniquely qualified to quickly understand, analyze, and act to resolve project disputes. He has a remarkable breadth and depth to serve large construction and real estate clients and advise ongoing global projects.

Mr. Brown has successfully resolved more than 3,000 disputes through complex mediations, jury trials, court trials, Dispute Resolution Boards, and arbitrations. For more than 30 years, Ernest Brown has developed a nationally recognized practice focused on the construction, government contracts and public infrastructure, aviation, insurance coverage, engineering and manufacturing, and real estate industries and the variety of legal issues facing those in that industry. He has extensive experience and in- depth knowledge of personal injury, wrongful death, energy and environmental, and international law.

Mr. Brown acts as a Mediator, Arbitrator, and Special Master for private and public clients working or located across the US, as well as Mexico, Canada, Central and South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa.

Mr. Brown offers exceptional conflict resolution services across a full range of topic areas. Early on in his career, Mr. Brown earned an AV* Rating as a pre-eminent construction law attorney, based on a national peer review system that reflects a lawyer's ability and integrity. He has been selected as a Super Lawyer since 2014. There are few lawyers nationwide whose combined training, experience and skill set encompass such a wide range of subject matter.

Dedicated Client Service

At Ernest Brown ADR, client experience is our first priority. We’ve designed our practice to enable potential and existing clients to reach us readily, get answers easily, and move toward dispute resolution confidently.

You can reach us through email, phone, or video consultation. We offer free phone and video consultations for anyone that would like to learn more about the services we offer or would like to test drive our Blue Jeans software to see how this technology sets us apart.

We are dedicated to continuing to develop and improve our services to help our clients successfully resolve disputes.

Project Counsel & Litigation Experience

Mr. Brown has advised more than $10 billion in US and International Construction Projects. He has also been chief trial counsel in global construction disputes such as the Central Arizona Project Pipeline failure ($146 million, Defense Verdict) and the June 9, 1985 Southern California Edison Powerplant Disaster ($250 million in property damage and six deaths; minimal settlement for his client).

Mr. Brown has thirty years of experience advising Owners, Builders and Architect/Engineers in major United States and International construction projects, including "megaproject" contract drafting and negotiation, claim development and analysis, crisis management, dispute resolution, environmental and OSHA compliance, project audits and ADR resolution of major claims ranging from $250,000 to $250 million.

Mr. Brown has acted as lead trial counsel representing major clients such as airport, casinos, sports arena, power plants, pipelines, transit systems, refinery, roadways and bridges, schools and universities, high technology, industrial, and treatment plants.

He has also created and contributed to legal resource for various construction and environmental law committees of the California State Bar and County Bar Associations, American Arbitration Association, Associated General Contractors, American Society of Civil Engineers and National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE).

International Projects

While at Fluor Corporation, one of the world's largest engineering and project management companies he advised large and complex international projects. These included the Saudi Petrochemical Project ($3.4 billion), the PERTAMINA Oil Refinery in Chilachap, Indonesia, the Kemya Project in Saudi Arabia, and several projects in Alaska, Chile, Canada, the UAE and Indonesia.


Massachusetts Institute of Technology  BS, Civil and Environmental Engineering, 1975
University of California at Berkeley  JD, 1978; MSCE, Project Management, 1978
Harvard Law School Graduate Study in International Law

ADR Training

  • Faculty, AAA Construction Conference – Keeping Arbitration Lean, 2015

  • AAA Advanced Mediator Training, 2009

  • AAA Chairing an Arbitration Panel: Managing Procedures, Process & Dynamics (ACE005), 2007

  • AAA Dealing With Delay Tactics in Arbitration (ACE004), 2005

  • Faculty, San Francisco Bar Association, Construction Mediation, 2005

  • AAA Arbitration Awards: Safeguarding, Deciding & Writing Awards (ACE001), 2004

  • Faculty, State Bar of California, Construction Mediation, 2004

  • AAA Construction Arbitrator II Training: Advanced Case Management Issues, 2002

  • AAA Arbitrator Update 2001

  • AAA Construction Industry Arbitrator Training, 1999

  • AAA Mediation Training, 1996

Professional Licenses

Admitted to the Bar California, 1978
Registered Civil Engineer California, 1980

Awards & Honors

  • Founded and Led the Orange County, Calif. County Bar Association - Pro Bono Committee for Desert Storm

    • Pro Bono Law Clinic (1990-91) assisted 187 soldiers, sailors and their families

  • USMC - USMAS El Toro Community Service Award

  • American Jurisprudence Award, Boalt Hall, 1978

  • Harmon Writing Prize, Boalt Hall, 1978

  • Karl Taylor Compton Prize, MIT Community Service Award, 1975


  • California Infrastructure Projects: Successful Contracting and Dispute Resolution, Recorder Books, (2015).

  • CEB's California Public Contract Law handbook.

  • Editor, Construction Contracts and Disputes Continuing Education of the Bar.

  • Co-author, Federal Publications and Cambridge Institute course manuals on architect-engineer malpractice.

  • A Practical Guide to Public-Private Partnerships, Publisher Design Group, Inc. (2015).

  • California Public Works: Contracts & Litigation (1999).

  • Architect/Engineer Malpractice, Federal Publications, (1980).

  • "What Lawyers Must Know About Asbestos," ABA Journal, Nov. (1987).

  • "Architect/Engineer Liability Under California Law", Cambridge Institute (1992).

Work History

  • Arbitrator and Mediator Present

  • Special Counsel to Smith Currie & Hancock January 2016-March 2016

  • Managing Principal, Smith Currie & Hancock, LLP 2011-2015

  • Ernest Brown & Company 1989-2011 (merger of firms)

  • Senior Vice President and Executive Consultant, Hill International (NYSE: HINT) 2000-2002

  • Partner, Stradling, Yocca Carlson & Rauth 1986-1989

  • Partner, Natkin Weisbach & Brown 1984-1986

  • Corporate Counsel, Fluor Daniel 1981-1984

  • Litigation Attorney, Bronson, Bronson & McKinnon 1978-1981

  • Civil Engineer, Dames & Moore 1975-1978

Professional Associations

  • Co-Chairman, California State Bar Association, Construction Law Section

  • Member, American Bar Association Forum on the Construction Industry

  • Member, Bar Association of San Francisco

  • Mediator and Arbitrator, Northern California Commercial Association of Realtors

  • Member, National Society of Civil Engineers (former)

  • Member, American Society of Professional Engineers (former)

  • Associated General Contractors

  • California League of Cities

  • County Counsel Association & American Institute of Architects

  • International Mediation Institute (IMI) Certified Mediator