Advice and Help on How to Break into Your First Role in Construction Claims and Disputes

Posted by Nilam Modhwadia, Graduate Recruitment Consultant on Monday, June 24, 2024

Breaking into the field of construction claims and disputes can be a rewarding career move. However, it is also an extremely niche area of the construction industry – one that not many people know about. As such, advice on how to break into this specialist area can be quite scarce.  Thankfully, Maxim Recruitment has over 20 years of experience successfully recruiting construction claims and disputes professionals. So, throughout the years, our specialist consultants have written numerous blogs offering valuable advice gathered from our market knowledge and speaking to clients and candidates day in and day out.

I thought it would be a good idea to create a concise guide giving crucial points, that have proven useful for candidates considering a move into this niche of the construction industry, that we provide as required to our candidates who attend job interviews for these types of roles.

Understand the basics

As with moving to any job or industry, it is vital to conduct thorough research before making any applications or attending interviews. Here are a couple of questions that candidates often ask us:

Would I be suited to a Quantum role or Delay role?

I often hear candidates say they are eager to move into construction claims and disputes, but when questioned further, are unable to differentiate if it is a quantum or delay role they would like to specialise in.

Whilst both types of Consultants play critical roles in managing and resolving construction disputes, their expertise and primary areas of focus are distinct, with quantum consultants dealing with cost related claims and delay consultants focusing on scheduling and time-related issues.

Generally, we see Quantity Surveyors, Contract Administrators and Cost Consultants transition to a Quantum role. On the flip side, planners, engineers and project managers usually move into Delay roles. However, this is not a strict rule, as we have often seen the opposite happen. It all depends on where your skills fit best and what you enjoy the most.

Is Expert Witness work the same as Claims?

No. Whilst claims roles typically focus on the preparation of disputes heading for adjudication procedures, expert witness work relates typically to disputes that are heading to arbitration or litigation.

The roles for each are very different. Therefore, it’s important to understand firstly that there is a difference between claims and expert work, as well as what the differences are to fully evaluate if the role will suit you. Some consultancies also offer a mix of both. You may wish to refer to this article: 12 points to help you assess whether expert witness work is for you.

Do your research

Before making any formal applications or conducting interviews, it is vital to carry out thorough research on the logistics of the role – including job titles/levels, expected salaries, progression, location working hours. Here are some good questions to ask yourself:

What level would I be employed at?

Assuming you have never worked in construction disputes before, the highest level you can expect to be employed at is usually:

  • Consultant/ Associate/ Analyst
  • Senior Consultant /Senior Associate

On some occasions, candidates with indirect experience into construction disputes can be offered Managing Consultant roles. However, this is much more of a rarity than the above 2 levels.

What Salary can I expect?

The answer to this question always depends on the individual, location, as well as the consultancy they will be joining.

Every year, we post an annual salary survey guide with up-to-date figures collated from our daily work within construction claims and dispute recruitment. Feel free to view the most recent 2024 annual salary guide.

Are the hours long?

Most contracts state circa 40 hours per week.

However, as with any job, there may be times when you are required to work longer than your contracted hours on occasions depending on workload. There may be days where you take home some work to spend a few hours on.

One period of time in this sector when things can become particularly demanding, is when a court date is approaching. In these instances, things can get very busy as the expert report is particularly scrutinised internally to ensure it is to the expected standard for the court. During such time, you may find yourself staying late to contribute to sections of the report.

Gain Relevant Experience

Although some consultancies do hire fresh graduates, most consultancies are reluctant to do so, due to the lack of on-site experience. Practical site experience is essential for fully appreciating the complexities of various construction methods, sequences, and techniques.

For quantum roles, here is the common criteria we find across most employers:

  • Strong experience in a Quantity Surveying role; usually managing their own projects/packages of work
  • Experience of and ability to operate Standard Forms of Contract (JCT/NEC/FIDIC)
  • Exposure to claims; ideally writing your own claims
  • The ability to prepare, assess and interrogate construction costs
  • Exposure to some dispute-resolution techniques
  • Experience on high value, complex projects
  • Good stability of employment.
  • Reputable employers – Ideally have some experience with large, reputable main contractors/consultancies.

More information regarding a move from Quantity Surveying to Expert Witness work can be found here.

For Delay roles, here is the common criteria we find across most employers:

  • Strong experience in a Planning, Engineering or Project Management role.
  • Ideally have experience on high-value, complex projects.
  • Demonstrable skills of using common Planning software’s such as Primavera P6, Asta Powerproject and Microsoft Project
  • Proficiency with MS Office suite programmes, i.e. Excel, Word, Powerpoint
  • Some exposure to delay analysis is desired; i.e. reviewing extension of time claims and forensically analysing the programme, performing critical path analysis etc.
  • Ability to plug progress into construction programmes and be able to evaluate which delay techniques to use and when.
  • Exposure to some delay techniques used e.g. As-planned vs As-built, Critical Path Analysis, Earned Value Analysis
  • Good stability of employment.

More information regarding a move from Planning/ Engineering to Expert Witness work can be found here.

Education and Training

For candidates wanting to make a move into the construction claims and expert witness industry, qualifications and professional memberships are very important additions to your CV in order to be an attractive candidate to leading employers.

Quantum: RICS (Member / Fellow), MSc or PgDip in Construction Law, CIArb (Member / Fellow), Membership to the SCL. NOTE: RICS remains most important for Quantum specialists.

Delay: CIArb (Member / Fellow), MSc or PgDip in Construction Law, Membership to the SCL, and perhaps membership to relevant Project Management institutes.

Here is a comprehensive guide on when and where to study for a Masters in Construction Law.

However, my primary piece of advice to candidates is always to get Chartered before considering any other form of further education. Many of the leading employers in this industry offer sponsorship towards further education such as the MSc in Construction Law and Dispute Resolution.

Writing your CV and preparing for interviews

A well-presented CV may make the difference between you being invited to a job interview and having to convince an employer of your suitability in person. As a result, taking the time and making the effort to ensure that your CV presents you in the best possible light is definitely worthwhile.

Here are some useful tips on how to tailor your CV for claims and disputes jobs.

Once you’re invited to an interview, it is important to consolidate your interviewing skills and prepare for your interview. Conducting thorough research on the company as well as reading industry blogs and articles are a great way to add to your understanding and show potential employers your dedication to specialise.

Here are 7 useful resources to prepare for a construction disputes job interview.

Reach out to Maxim Recruitment!

With over 20 years of successful experience recruiting claims and disputes professionals, we are best placed to offer constructive and honest advice for those looking to transition into this industry. We provide candidates with comprehensive guidance throughout the process with the aim of maximising their chances of success in interviews and progress their careers as far as possible.

Maxim Recruitment work exclusively with many of the industry-leading consultancies who specialise in construction claims and disputes work throughout the UK and internationally. This ranges from claims consultancies all the way through to high-end expert witness specialists and all in between. As such, we can match you up to the best possible fit for you.

If you are considering a move into the construction claims and disputes sector and would like to arrange a confidential phone call to explore this further, feel free to reach out to one of our specialist consultants in this area.

Nilam Modhwadia
Nilam Modhwadia
Graduate Recruitment Consultant
Maxim Recruitment

Nilam is a Graduate Recruitment Consultant based in the Maxim head office in Leicester, Leicestershire. She supports the team with researching, headhunting, shortlisting, and interviewing valuable construction industry candidates, to place them in premium construction jobs with our market-leading UK and international clients.