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8 Frequently Asked Questions About Moving into Construction Disputes

So, you’ve taken an interest in pursuing a career in construction disputes, but what do you do next?

As a specialist recruiter for quantum and delay related roles within the construction disputes sector, a large part of my role is dedicated to discussing such roles with traditional Quantity Surveyors (Quantum) and Planners (Delay); most of whom have little to no experience working in this sector.

During such conversations, candidates naturally have a lot of questions for me relating to the roles on offer and their suitability. Over time, I’ve logged some of the most frequently asked questions.

I hope this article will answer the 8 most frequently asked questions for candidates considering making a move into construction disputes and allow you to send me your updated CV to progress your interest!

Here goes!

1. What Experience do I need to move into a Construction Disputes Role?

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

  • Consultant
  • Senior Consultant

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.

Candidates moving into Consultant or Senior Consultant roles typically have between 4 – 15 years of experience.

More importantly than their years of experience is their quality of experience. Some of the desirable experience requirements that clients within this sector look for include:

  • Working for a reputable main contractor or consultancy
  • Good continuity of employment
  • Exposure to large scale, complex construction projects
  • Familiar with standard forms of contracts (NEC, JCT & FIDIC)
  • Previous experience dealing with claims and disputes related issues as a QS or Planner (Not essential, but is often advantageous)

2. What Qualifications do I need to move into Construction Disputes?

Most clients are seeking candidates with a relevant Degree and Chartership. However, I need to break this answer down to fully expand on this as it does vary slightly between quantum and delay related roles.

Quantum

For Quantum specialist roles in construction disputes 90% of our clients do require candidates to be fully Chartered. The RICS is seen as the market leading professional body. Some clients may consider other alternatives such as the CIOB or ICES.

Almost all clients that I work with require candidates to be Chartered before considering them for roles in this sector though. A select few clients will consider candidates who are not Chartered, or almost Chartered, but often only at Consultant level. Such roles are less frequent and come with much lower salaries than that of Senior Consultant.

Delay

For Delay specialist roles, the need to be Chartered is less black and white. Whilst there is no doubt that being Chartered is preferred, I haven’t seen the complete dismissal of candidates due to lack of Chartership that I see for Quantum roles.

There doesn’t seem to be one single market leading professional body for Planners moving into Delay roles. Therefore, the desire for Chartership does not seem as rigid.

Even when I do see Chartered candidates for delay roles, their chosen professional body varies widely between being Chartered Engineers, Professional Project Managers (PMP) as well as members of the Chartered Institute of Building (MCIOB). All of which are respected.

3. Are all construction disputes roles based in London?

Not quite. There’s a healthy amount of construction disputes consultancies operating around the UK. However, London is by far the busiest market in the UK for construction disputes. With London being a major, global arbitration hub, this makes sense.

Other areas of the UK with a healthy number of companies operating in the construction disputes sector include:

  • The North West
  • Yorkshire

You will also find one or two specialist consultancies operating in most areas of the UK, as well as some more mainstream consultancies that offer some construction disputes work as part of their services.

4. What Salaries can I expect in a construction disputes role?

It’s incredibly hard to give a generic answer to this one and I often prefer to answer this on an individual basis.

However, to give you a starting point. Salaries can range anywhere from £35k - £70k for roles at Consultant to Senior Consultant and exact salaries will depend on your experience and qualifications.

What I will say is that first time roles typically pay similar basic salaries to the relevant Quantity Surveying / Planning roles for candidates with the same number of years’ experience. Often with the added incentive of a much larger bonus in the region of 10% - 30% annually, depending on performance.

As a trend, I’ve found that candidates towards the lower end of the 4 – 15 years’ worth of experience often tend to be able to move for a slight increase in salary compared to their current salary. Whereas those at the higher end of the 4 - 15 years experience may have to settle for the same basic salary, or potentially even consider a slight reduction.

This is not an exact science though and specific advice should be sought for your individual circumstances.

5. Will I receive training and support?

Yes, absolutely. Your experience as a Quantity Surveyor or Planner (or similar) is only the start of your development towards becoming a leading professional in the construction disputes sector.

You will need to learn lots of new skills to progress your career in this niche sector. None more so that learning the legal process relating to construction disputes. This will include learning how to write expert reports with the correct content and language to be effectively used in court.

Many Consultancies will support successful employees with internal and external training courses, further education (such as MSc in Construction Law and Arbitration) and membership fees to relevant professional bodies.

6. What are the career progression opportunities?

Roles within the construction disputes sector come with fantastic career opportunities. The end goal for most in the sector is to become a respected lead expert managing arbitration and litigation cases and testifying as the expert in court.

There are many skills that you will need to learn before being ready to undertake the role of lead expert though.

There is a clear hierarchy of roles set out from Consultant to Director within most consultancies in this sector. Each designed to carry more responsibility as you work towards gaining an opportunity to act as the lead expert. The hierarchy typically looks like this in many consultancies (specific job titles will vary for each employer):

  • Consultant
  • Senior Consultant
  • Managing Consultant
  • Associate Director
  • Director
  • Divisional Director

If you are suited to the role and are dedicated to progressing your career within the sector, most capable candidates will find the route to Associate Director reasonably straight forward with hard work.

Making the transition to Director and getting opportunities to be appointed as the lead expert can be difficult though. To do this, you will often need to develop your reputation within the sector sufficiently so that you can either be specifically requested to act as the lead expert by the clients legal representatives or approved to act as the lead expert after being put forward by your employer.

7. Is expert witness work the same as claims?

No. Both are quite different.

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.

8. Are the hours really long?

Not necessarily. Most contracts state circa 40 hours per week.

Like 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.

Summary

Making the move from your traditional role as a Quantity Surveyor or Planner (or similar) into a specialist niche role such as expert witness services and construction disputes is a big decision and should be considered fully before committing to the move.

It can also be an incredibly rewarding transition for those who determine that their skills and career aspirations lie within the construction disputes sector and commit to developing their career.

Salaries and bonuses can be lucrative as you reach the more senior levels within the hierarchy. Careers can offer exposure to some of the largest projects / disputes in the world as well as some international travel.

If your question wasn’t answered or you would generally like to discuss your suitability for a role in the construction disputes sector, I am always willing to review your CV and discuss specific details as part of a confidential chat. So please get in touch if you feel that 2020 could be the year you explore a career in a quantum or delay focused role within construction disputes.

About The Author

Stuart Hackett
Senior Recruitment Consultant, UK

I am based from the Maxim Recruitment head office in Leicester and I specialise in the recruitment of quantum and delay, claims and expert witness professionals in the UK and Overseas.  With over 11 years experience spent recruiting construction professionals, I have an extensive knowledge of the construction industry and an enviable network of reputable clients and contacts, allowing me to find my candidates the right position with highly desirable employers.

Latest UK Quantity Surveying Jobs: https://www.maximrecruitment.com/quantum-delay-claims-and-dispute-jobs 
Email: stuart@maximrecruitment.com

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