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Construction Claims & Disputes | Desirable experience & qualifications guide

In a recent poll, 72% of construction professionals with an interest in claims & disputes stated that they would be most interested in hearing career advice relating to what experience and qualifications are most desirable to employers in the claims & disputes sector.

In this article I will try to give some generic advice in relation what experience and qualifications employers in the claims & disputes sector find desirable when hiring at the junior and intermediate levels. i.e. the level that many candidates enter a specialist role in the claims & disputes sector for the first time in their career.

I can only provide advice on my own specialist markets, which is quantum and delay roles with both claims consultancies and expert witness consultancies.

I will split this advice into 3 sections:

  • Expert Witness Consultancies (Quantum)
  • Claims Consultancies (Quantum)
  • Claims & Expert Witness Consultancies (Delay Analysis)

It is important to point out that the advice below is generic advice. The requirements of individual employers do vary.

Expert Witness Consultancies (Quantum)

Desirable Experience:

  • Typically, expert witness consultancies require candidates for quantum roles to come from a commercial background. i.e. Quantity Surveyors, Commercial Managers, Cost Consultants, Contract Administrators etc.

  • Candidates should have had a minimum of 4-5 years of experience in a commercial role, where they have learnt the fundamental skills and principles of a Quantity Surveying role. Ideally having ran several projects or sizable packages of works (if on larger schemes) through the post-contract stage through to final accounts.

  • Candidates should also possess a good knowledge of contracts and the key components of a claim. Ideally through practical experience of compiling claims. This is not because you will be compiling claims in an expert witness consultancy. Instead, your role will often be to analyse large quantities of claims documentation and quickly make determinations with regards to what the key issues of the dispute are. Common forms of contract include NEC, JCT and FIDIC.

  • Formal disputes experience (i.e. adjudication, arbitration or litigation) would be desirable. However, it is not essential to have such experience to move into a quantum expert witness role at a junior to intermediate level.

  • I have seen a healthy number of candidates successfully move into quantum specialist roles from contracting, consultancy and client organisation backgrounds. Whilst individual employers may have preferences, I personally see no correlation here and you can be successful from any of the above backgrounds.

  • Strong report writing skills. Expect to either show example of your report writing skills or tested on them throughout the interview process. This is an essential part of the expert witness role. Training can be provided on the more legal aspects of your writing skills, however you must possess the fundamental skills to write accurately with regards to spelling, grammar, punctuation, presentation and general accuracy.

Desirable Qualifications:

Chartership:  The most desirable qualification for candidates wanting to work for an expert witness consultancy is to become a chartered Quantity Surveyor. There is a strong preference for this to be with the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). For many clients that I work with in this sector RICS is absolutely essential to make the move into their business. In some instances, I have known candidates be successful whilst holding alternative charterships such as members of the Institute of civil engineering surveyors (ICES) and members of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb). However, if you are looking to work in the expert witness sector and considering which professional body to join, I would advise the RICS.

Higher quals:  Higher qualifications such as an MSc / LLM in construction law are important to progress in the expert witness sector, but they are not essential to make the move into the sector. If you are wanting to specifically work in the expert witness sector and weighing up whether to progress your chartership or studying a master’s in construction law. My advice would be very clear to prioritise your chartership initially.

Claims Consultancies (Quantum)

Desirable Experience:

  • Much like the expert witness consultancies, claims consultancies tend to favour candidates from a commercial background for quantum claims consultant roles. Therefore, candidates from a Quantity Surveyors, Contract Administrators, Cost Consultants etc. are particularly desirable.

  • Candidates should have had a minimum of 4-5 years of experience in a commercial role, where they have learnt the fundamental skills and principles of a Quantity Surveying role. Ideally having ran several projects or sizable packages of works (if on larger schemes) through the post-contract stage through to final accounts.

  • Candidates who have had experience in a senior or supporting role on formal dispute proceedings (adjudication, arbitration, litigation etc.) are particularly desirable. This can include being a key contributor or acting in an assisting role in the preparation of a claim that is heading to a formal dispute proceeding.

Gaining experience of dispute procedures within your commercial role can be hard, and it can often be the luck of the draw as to whether projects that you are working on encounter disputes.

  • In the absence of formal disputes experience, candidates with significant experience and/or knowledge of compiling claims within their role can be desirable to claims consultancies. If you’re not getting exposure to claims or disputes within your role, I would suggest considering one of the following to strengthen your CV.
    • Ask your employer if you can get more involved in claims and disputes within the business.
    • Consider studying an MSc / LLM in construction Law. There is a significant cost to self-funding this, therefore if that is not viable, try to find some less costly training courses, attend claims and disputes related webinars or events, or read some books around this subject.

  • Candidates will be expected to have strong writing skills and in particular have experience of writing strong narratives to back up claims. It would also be advantageous if candidates have had experience of writing or drafting referral notices for dispute proceedings.

Desirable Qualifications:

Qualifications are not as critical to making the move into claims consultancies as they are with expert witness consultancies. However, they will still significantly improve your chances of securing a role.

As a minimum, you should be Degree qualified before attempting to make the move into a claims role. Charterships and higher qualifications such as MSc / LLM in construction Law will undoubtebly assist you in being seen as a desirable candidate to employers in this sector.

Claims & Expert Witness Consultancies (Delay Analysis)

I have combined the advice for delay analysts wanting to work for either claims consultancies or expert witness consultancies, as there is such a strong cross-over between the two.

Desirable Experience:

I have seen Project Managers, Engineers, Planners and Construction Managers make the move into delay analysis roles. However, the most common route is still from a Planning background.

  • Despite the various routes that you can take into delay analysis, the planning route is the most common. That is often because planners almost always have strong exposure to running programmes on projects and using planning software on a frequent basis. This is critical to making the move into a delay analysis role.

  • The more planning software’s you have experience in using the better. However, the most common 3 desirable software’s which I see in demand are:

    • Primavera (Particularly P6)
    • Asta Powerproject
    • MS Projects

I see a slight preference from clients towards candidates who have Primavera experience. However, that is not always the case. I think as a minimum, you should aim to be a highly competent user of one of these software’s and ideally have some practical experience on a second software. If not, maybe gain some theoretical training at least on an additional planning software.

  • Regardless of which profession you come from, you will need to have had some experience in carrying out delay analysis within your role. Most commonly, I see this on extension of time claims. Either carrying out the delay analysis to help submit claims, or in a role where you are using delay analysis to assess the validity of claims. Ideally you will have done this on an independent basis. However, if you have been assisting in delay analysis on live projects and understand the principles, this may be enough for entry level roles.

  • Exposure to formal disputes such as adjudications, arbitrations and litigations will be incredibly desirable. This could be either in a lead or junior role. The exposure to the dispute proceedings in itself should be enough.

 

Claims consultancies would tend to see this as more of an essential experience than expert witness consultancies. Therefore, it is not essential to have prior experience on formal disputes, but it is highly desirable experience if you have it.

  • Both claims consultancies and expert witness consultancies will expect you to have strong writing and report skills. This will include the fundamentals of being able to avoid spelling mistakes, using appropriate punctuation and grammar, presentation skills and generally understanding the need for reports to be error free.

The main difference here will be that a claims consultancy will be more interested in your ability to write strong narratives based on biased arguments.

Whereas an expert witness consultancy will be more interested in your ability to write in an impartial manner, free of bias for any individual party involved in the dispute.

Desirable Qualifications:

Degree:  As a minimum, candidates should hold a degree in a relevant subject. However, the list of relevant subjects is exhaustive. As there is no specific ‘Planning Degree’ (That I am aware of), candidates are often qualified in subjects such as various forms of engineering or project management degrees.

Higher Quals:  Completing or working towards a MSc or LLM in construction law is not essential to move into a delay analysis role with a claim’s consultancy or an expert witness consultancy. However, there is no doubt that it would greatly increase your chances in securing a role with both. Particularly in the absence of having any formal dispute experience.

Chartership:  Whilst being chartered is not essential when moving into a delay analysis role, the expert witness sector generally is a highly qualified environment and to get to the top of this field and testify as an expert, demonstrating that you are indeed ‘an expert’ in your field is required. Becoming chartered is a great way of proving that and will often be advantageous to you in your career.

Unlike the quantum side, there is not one singular professional body which is seen as the singular prestigious body to follow. Therefore, candidates will choose to pursue charterships with a wider range of professional bodies. Including CIArb, CIOB, PMP and a host of engineering disciplines.

Desirable Personality Traits:

Finally, in addition to the desirable skills and experience set out above, we also need to factor in desirable personality traits which are largely universal across all the above disciplines.

Motivation and Dedication:

The most successful candidates who transition into claims and disputes have a strong motivation to move into and progress their long-term career in this niche area of the industry. This is a big factor for employers in this sector and expect to be probed thoroughly at interview as to ‘why’ you want to transition into claims and disputes. I have found well prepared candidates with legitimate motivations and ambitions to progress in claims & disputes to do better at interview than some of their better qualified counterparts who are less motivated.

Analytical and methodical:

I hear the phrase “analytical and methodical” regularly when talking to hiring managers. Roles within this sector suit candidates who like to get into the detail of contracts and disputes. If you’re someone who does not enjoy this side of the role and prefers the broad-brush approach, then claims & disputes roles are likely not for you.

Continued Learning:

Hopefully, this message has already hit home in the main body of the article, however just in case it is still in any doubt; successful professionals within this sector are highly qualified and dedicate time to their continued career development through training and further qualifications. If you are considering a move into this sector, being dedicated to continuing your studies and learning is essential to progress. If you feel as though you have had enough of training, education and potentially exams then you may struggle to progress within claims and disputes.

Stuart Hackett
Senior Recruitment Consultant, UK
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/stuarthackett/

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