Tell us a bit more about the industry in which you operate. What trends are you seeing; the opportunities and challenges?
The Arcadis Contract Solutions team provides global dispute avoidance, mitigation and resolution services to every sector across the construction, engineering and oil and gas industries.
We provide independent expert witness reports and testimony, claim preparation and defence in all dispute resolution proceedings including international and domestic arbitration, litigation, adjudication and mediation.
Our team specialises in providing expertise in quantity surveying, quantum of damages, delay analysis and technical expertise (including geotechnical, civil engineering, structural engineering and building surveying).
We have recently published our Global Construction Disputes Report 2017, which was entitled ‘Avoiding the Same Pitfalls’. The report is based on an annual review of disputes on which our teams worked during 2016.
The report identified that the causes of disputes have as much to do with human behaviour as they do with physical factors, such as site conditions and design errors. We have found that there often seems to be lack of willingness to compromise and resolve disputes at an early stage of a project.
As in previous years, the most common cause of disputes was a failure to properly administer the contract; with the parties failing to understand and comply with contractual obligations being the second most common factor.
This points to experienced industry advisors not being sought during projects coupled with the scarcity of suitably trained and experienced professional staff familiar with dealing with contracts requiring high levels of administration (for example NEC) and demanding payment legislation (particularly in the UK).
We also found that disputes were commonly caused by the parties producing poorly drafted or incomplete and unsubstantiated claims. Our Report identified that parties seemed to be more driven to settle disputes, but not before already having gone through a large part of the process of dispute proceedings.
We also found that arbitration (particularly internationally) was more common as a method of dispute resolution than in previous years with mediation following closely behind, although in the UK adjudication was popular and this is reflective of the recent case law handed down in recent months following a series of adjudication enforcement proceedings relating to payment notice disputes.
In the longer term, we see some of the challenges to the industry being, the lack of skilled resource to deal with the major schemes now coming on stream, together with investment in training of employees to adequately deal with the more popular construction and engineering contracts that are highly administrative.
In the short term however, it provides consultancies like ours with the opportunity to assist parties in dispute by applying our knowledge and expertise during the early stages of a dispute to ensure that claims and defences are produced properly and fully supported by contemporaneous evidence. This allows both parties to a dispute to fully grasp the ‘real’ amounts in difference between the party’s positions and to allow the best opportunity to avoid formal dispute proceedings by negotiated settlement, where possible. Where it is not possible to settle, the parties are at least able to rely on these properly and fully supported claims, which can stand up to scrutiny during formal dispute proceedings.
Can you provide a bit of insight on your role in the organisation?
I am a Director within the Arcadis Contract Solutions quantum team and I provide expert evidence in construction disputes involving quantity surveying issues or quantum damages claims or defences.
My role involves either acting as lead expert witness calling on support from our widely experienced support team, or as commission leader running the support staff when dealing with specific elements of a large-scale international mega-dispute and providing assistance to a lead expert witness.
My role also includes developing our expert witness training programme with one of our training providers. Our commitment to annual training and accreditation for our practising experts ensures that our employees are up-to-date with recent developments in the procedural rules and case law to ensure that our clients are always provided with knowledgeable and skilled experts.
Our Partners and Directors share the responsibility to develop our teams for the future by providing opportunities to work on a wide variety of projects, increasing responsibility year-on-year and providing our support teams with the experience they need to progress towards acting as lead expert witnesses in their own right.
We also encourage continuing professional development (CPD) whether be it from attending conferences, or taking more formal Master’s degree courses.
What attracted you to sign up as a CIArb Corporate Member?
We were offered the opportunity to be one of the first corporate organisations to sign up as aCIArb Corporate Member and we jumped at the chance.
We met with the CIArb team and discussed the opportunity and soon realised that the Institute shared many of its interests and values with those of the Arcadis Contract Solutions team.
We are aware of the popularity of CIArb events and having had one of our highly experienced Partners, Gary Kitt, C.Arb, present recently at a Young Members Group event on his experience in providing expert witness testimony, we are very attracted to the idea of further presentation and thought leadership opportunities the Institute can provide.
In addition to the wide range of experience and skills within our team, with several world-renowned expert witnesses and dispute resolvers (Arbitrators and Adjudicators) at our disposal, we also have several up and coming construction and dispute resolution specialists that have an interest in working with the Institute to become the next generation of dispute resolvers and expert witnesses, within both our firm and the Institute.
Being a Corporate Member will allow us better access to the training, accreditation and dispute resolution panels in order for us to achieve this. We believe providing the next generation of leaders is one of the key ambitions that we share with the Institute.
And your top priority going forward with CIArb?
Our top priority is to ensure that we promote ourselves as construction and engineering expert witnesses and dispute resolvers in conjunction with promoting the Institute. We believe that the relationship works both ways and it is as important for us to market the Institute, as well as using Corporate Membership as a tool to underpin our professionalism, knowledge and experience in dispute resolution.
We want to regularly engage with the Institute and the Membership by offering our highly experienced expert witnesses and dispute resolvers to present, particularly to the younger generation, to provide inspiration and encouragement to continue to pursue a career in dispute resolution and demonstrate how being part of the membership can assist them in becoming a successful dispute resolution practitioner.
We have already mentioned that most of our work is in proceedings such as international and domestic arbitration, litigation, adjudication and mediation and given the Institute has panels providing services in each of these dispute resolution methods, it is a great opportunity for us to become more active on these panels and to encourage all our staff who are not currently Members or Fellows to join the membership as Affiliate or Associate members.
We look forward to our newly formed Corporate relationship with the CIArb and the opportunities it will bring. Many of our staff have long been Members or Fellows of the Institute and we hope to extend our relationship further.
If your organisation is interested in Corporate Membership, please email email@example.com or call Owen Brigden on t +44 (0)20 7421 7469.