Moving into a specialist construction claims and disputes role can be a highly rewarding and financially lucrative career decision. It’s most common for candidates to start their career in more traditional construction roles such as Quantity Surveying, Project Management, Planning or Engineering before deciding to specialise in claims and disputes work. The vast majority have typically had some exposure to disputes related tasks within their current role and decide that it would be something they would like to specialise in going forward.
When trying to get into disputes, candidates may come up against several challenges and barriers to entering this specialist sector of work. These can include; their experience being deemed not suitable or their qualifications not matching up to what is expected for a role in the disputes sector.
For example, the Consultancies I work for that specialise in Expert Witness work tend to require their Quantum Consultants to be Chartered (MRICS). Equally, for Senior Consultant roles I generally recruit for within disputes, our clients often require candidates to have a fairly strong level of exposure and understanding to previous disputes work.
However, for those that meet all the criteria for our clients to work in a claims and disputes role, there is a reasonably common sticking point that can prevent a candidate moving to a specialist claims and disputes role and that is…. money!
How Do Your Salary Expectations Stack Up?
It may sound strange to hear that; as specialising in construction disputes can be one of the most financially lucrative ways to earn a living in the entire industry. However, it won’t necessarily be there for you on day 1. Job roles such as Quantity Surveyors and Planners are in short supply and have been for some time now and as such salaries have seen a significant rise in recent years in these professions. These are common roles for candidates to be in when deciding to move into disputes.
The issue can cause is Quantity Surveyors and Planners can often earn a higher salary working as a traditional QS or Planner than moving into an entry disputes role at Consultant or Senior Consultant level.
When such situations arise, it’s obviously my role to try and realistically manage a candidate’s salary expectations at the early stages of the process to ensure that nobodies time is wasted.
To ensure candidates have realistic expectations when considering a role in construction claims and disputes, let’s put some rough numbers to this situation:
Consultant: £40k - £50k
Senior Consultant: £50k - £85k
Associate Director: £85k+
All figures stated are basic salary only
To put a bit of meat on the bones to these figures, I’ll add a little bit of insight into the numbers.
Firstly, most candidates looking for their first role within a claims and disputes specialist consultancy have tended to enter at Senior Consultant level rather than Consultant level in my experience. Most clients can bill employees out for more at a Senior level, therefore it can be in their interests to have candidates in more senior roles within reason. This hopefully goes to explain why there is such a wide range of salaries on offer at this level. I would estimate that 75% of the candidate moving into claims specialist roles for the first time receive a salary in the region of £60k - £70k.
It’s rare we find candidates starting roles in disputes at Associate Director level as most of our clients tend to require a degree of experience at this level which usually lends itself to candidates who have already been working for one of their competitors in the disputes sector.
Factors that will Determine Your Salary
There are a number of factors that go into justifying one’s salary when entering disputes, such as:
- Total years’ experience
- Quality of experience
- Years’ experience exposed to claims and disputes responsibilities
- Quality of experience on claims and disputes related work
- Professional Memberships
- The potential the hiring business sees in you after the interview process
Given the knowledge and experience within this sector and the frequency and volume of candidates we’ve found work for, we’re very happy to give candidates an honest reflection of what we feel would be realistic salary expectations based on their individual profile.
For candidate not particularly overwhelmed by the basic salaries on offer when stepping into construction claims and disputes for the first time, there is an important factor to consider as part of your thought process. Bonuses!
Many candidates in traditional Quantity Surveying roles and similar are used to having a discretionary bonus in their contract. However, when I speak to many of them, the amount that seem to actually be receiving a meaningful bonus on a regular basis are minimal.
There’s quite a contrast when you consider candidates working with our specialist claims and disputes clients. It’s quite common for employers within the disputes sector to offer bonuses up to 15% - 20%, with much of their earning within the higher end of such bonuses, if not the full entitlement.
My advice would be to fully consider your total annual earnings with bonus factored in when considering whether the package on offer will be suitable for you.
Your first step into a claims and disputes role can often be the hardest to make. Particularly in some of our candidates’ situations where they’ve had to accept a small drop in their basic salary to make this move.
However, when bonuses are factored in, most candidates can earn at least equal to their current salary when entering into a specialist role, with a large number also able to improve their annual take-home pay when all areas of the package are considered.
Salaries once within the sector seem to rise quicker than traditional construction roles such as Quantity Surveying and Planning. Whilst salaries can get increasingly lucrative if you are able to reach the highest levels of Director and Partner within such businesses.
All in all, most of the candidates we find work in claims and disputes go on to have long and prosperous careers in the sector. Performing interesting, complex work on major domestic and international disputes. It’s a great way to earn a good living in a highly professional, close-knit industry.
We always welcome enquiries from candidates looking to make their first step into claims and disputes roles. You can check out some of our similar content and advice here - https://www.maximrecruitment.com/news/categories/Quantum%20Delay%20Claims%20and%20Dispute)
You can also see what vacancies we have within claims and disputes here - https://www.maximrecruitment.com/quantum-delay-claims-and-dispute-jobs
Since this article was written in 2018, we’ve had to face a number of challenges in the construction industry, not least the COVID pandemic in 2020.
The construction industry generally seems to have weathered the storm as well as most industries in the UK, and the construction claims and disputes industry has fared particularly well. In fact many businesses specialising in the construction claims and disputes are reporting an increase in work as we reach the end of 2020, and expect this to continue into 2021 and beyond due to an increase in delay and disruption to projects in 2020.
Despite all of the above, there has been a slight decline in entry-level roles for first time movers into specialist claims and disputes roles since March 2020.
There are a number of factors for this, however it can largely be attributed to the difficulties many businesses experience when trying to induct, train and support entry-level candidates into a role they have not performed previously.
Many clients have opted to hire at a more senior level during the pandemic, favouring candidates who can ‘hit the ground running’ and require less supervision.
My opinion is that this is a temporary trend and will be rectified as clients start returning to their offices in 2021.
An increase is supply of staff and a lower demand in roles, has had a minimal impact on salaries in the sector, however they have stagnated more than declined.
The most common salaries for each level of seniority as of the end of 2020 are as follows:
Consultant: £40k - £45k
Senior Consultant: £55k - £65k
Managing Consultant: £70k - £80k
Associate Director: £90k - £100k
About the author
Senior Recruitment Consultant, UK
I am based from the Maxim Recruitment head office in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire. With over 10 years’ experience at Maxim, I have experience of recruiting quantity surveyors, commercial managers, project managers and a variety of other professional and technical engineering and construction roles across the UK, Middle East and in other international locations.
Latest UK Quantity Surveying Jobs: https://www.maximrecruitment.com/quantity-surveyor-jobs-uk