James N. Nowacki is of counsel to the Litigation Practice Group in Kirkland's Chicago office, engaged in a national practice of commercial litigation and construction law. He concentrates his practice in construction litigation for architects, engineers, contractors and owners for complex industrial, transportation, office building and manufacturing projects. Jim's focus also includes professional liability defense of attorneys and others in professional practice. He tries jury, bench and arbitration cases involving complex construction disputes, technology and scientific issues.

Jim's practice spans the federal and state courts across the country with work extending as well to Europe, Asia and the Middle East. A critical focus is claims management geared to keeping clients out of litigation through contract drafting assistance, advice and troubleshooting on project problems on a host of different client issues. Jim has been chosen by his peers as a top commercial litigator and construction law attorney nationally as well as in Illinois, and in 1994 he received the President's Award from the American Institute of Architects.


Thought Leadership


 "Alternate Dispute Resolution: Choices For The Design Professional," Architects and Engineers Liability: Claims Against Design Professionals, 3rd Edition, Wiley Law Publications, 2006

"Alternate Dispute Resolution: The Pros and Cons," Architect and Engineer Liability, Claims Against Design Professionals, 2nd Edition, Wiley Law Publications, 1995

"In Search of the Past: A Lawyer's Perspective," The American Archivist, Vol. 59, number 2, Spring 1996

"Cyclops Ravishes Construction Industry," AIA Illinois News, Spring 1992

"Engineer's Economic Loss Defense: New Wine For Old Bottles?" Specifying Engineer Magazine, June 1983


Drafting Legislation and Testimony Before the Illinois Legislature on the Statute of Limitations For Construction Claims

London Seminar on Changing Cities in 2000 and Beyond

Seminars For the Invited Attorneys AIA, Practising Law Institute, the AIA, Construction Litigation Superconference, the Architect-Engineer Council and the New York Law Journal Institute


Recognized by Martindale-Hubbell —  AV Preeminent™ Award for The Highest Possible Rating in Both Legal Ability & Ethical Standards, 2023

"Top Lawyers in Illinois" — The American Registry, 2023

Listed in “The Best Lawyers in America,” by Best Lawyers® — Construction Law/Litigation-Construction, 2006–2024

Listed as a Recognized Practitioner in Chambers USA — Construction (Illinois), 2018–2019

“Leading Lawyer” in Construction Law (2016–2018); Commercial Litigation (2018); Professional Malpractice Defense Law: Including Legal/Technical/ Financial (2018), Leading Lawyers Magazine

“BTI Client Service All-Star,” BTI Consulting Group, 2016

Recognized by The Legal 500 U.S. — Construction, 2014–2020

Leading Construction Lawyer: "Construction and Projects" PLC Which Lawyer?, 2012

"Top Lawyers in Illinois" — Commercial Litigation and Construction Law, Leading Lawyer Magazine, 2011

"Illinois Super Lawyers" — Business Litigation, 2011–2012

"Super Lawyers" — Litigation, Construction, Environmental, 2012

President's Award, American Institute of Architects — Illinois, 1994

Memberships & Affiliations

Society of Illinois Construction Attorneys

Community Activities

President (1997–1998) and Vice President (1999) of District 203 Board of Education (New Trier High School)

President (1987–1989) and Member of District 36 Board of Education (Winnetka) (1983–1991)

Winnetka Schools Foundation — 1995 to 1997

New Trier School Foundation — 2001 to 2005


Admissions & Qualifications

  • 1973Illinois


  • Supreme Court of the United States
  • United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
  • United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
  • Supreme Court of Illinois


  • Yale Law SchoolJ.D.1973
    Harlan Fiske Stone Prize
  • Princeton UniversityA.B.1969

    Woodrow Wilson Scholar, Woodrow Wilson School

    Phi Beta Kappa