Working in Expert Witness Services and being involved in construction disputes has always been an appealing and lucrative sector to work in for construction professionals, however this sector seems to be growing year on year. One of the most common needs for Expert Witness Consultancies is for experienced and versatile Planners who could specialise in offering expert opinions in delay related expert work.
What Does an Expert Witness Do?
In very simplistic terms, an Expert Witness is someone who uses their qualifications, experience and knowledge within a specific area of construction to assist the courts or other relevant bodies in providing an independent and just decision on legal matters.
Therefore, individuals from a Planning background are often used to provide their professional opinion on Delay related issues within disputes, as an Expert Witness.
Fully fledged Experts will eventually be required to stand up in court and present their findings whilst also being suitably prepared to be cross examined on the evidence that they have reported.
Most Common Routes into Expert Witness Services
The most common route into Expert Witness work is typically via gaining some exposure to claims planning responsibilities either whilst working as a traditional Planner or potentially working for / alongside a specialist claims consultancy in a delay / forensic planning role.
Whilst working on claims and disputes from a delay perspective, some may get exposure to the Expert Witness role. Often via supporting a legal practice or specialist expert consultancy in preparing and analysing the information and data relating to a dispute in preparation of the Expert writing their report.
This exposure to expert work can often be the trigger to Planners to start exploring work in a specialist expert role. However candidate’s with a versatile Planning background and some exposure to delay related claims issues will find opportunities available to them within specialist expert witness consultancies.
What Qualifications / Experience will you need to move into Expert Witness services?
The desired experience & qualifications will vary from each client and depend on the level of the role on offer, however some common criteria include:
Unlike Quantum roles in the expert witness sector, where all applicants tend to come from Quantity Surveying backgrounds, the delay side tends to be a little less black and white.
Most candidates moving into Delay related roles in the expert sector do tend to come from a Planning background. Most commonly for a main contractor or a consultancy. However in recent years I’ve also seen candidates from construction and project management backgrounds making a move into delay roles.
In these instances, candidates have tended to be actively involved in the Planning process and are familiar with using common planning software such as Primavera and / or Asta Power Projects and have also been responsible for independently dealing with extension of time claims within their current role.
A Planning background does tend to be the most desired background for the clients that I work with, however if you have the desired skills whilst carrying out a more general role, then you may still be considered for a Delay role.
- Strong experience in a Planning role for a main contractor or consultancy
- A firm motivation to have a specialist career in expert witness services. You will be expected to have researched the Expert role and have a reasonable understanding of what is involved as well as a plausible motivation to work in this sector
- Ideally have experience on high value, complex projects.
- Good stability of employment. Clients are turned off by frequent job hopping
- Reputable employers – Ideally have some experience with large, reputable main contractors / consultancies
- Demonstrable skills of using common Planning software’s such as Primavera P6
- 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 speak another language is not essential, but can be highly beneficial. Particularly for businesses who work on international disputes
- Previous exposure to expert work; likely assisting an expert, rather than drafting documents yourself. This would be seen as a huge benefit if candidates were to have this experience. It is by no means essential.
To work within the Expert Witness and disputes sector generally, qualifications and professional memberships are extremely important.
I’ve found employers to be slightly more flexible when it comes to entry level qualifications for Planners moving into Delay roles, compared to Quantum roles which seem to come with a very strict criteria for qualifications.
However if you’re wanting to have a successful career in expert services and disputes then you do need to be the type of person who is willing to invest time and sees the benefit in continuing their personal development.
Essential qualifications for starting position:
- Relevant construction related Degree (i.e. Quantity Surveying, Civil Engineering etc.)
Desirable qualifications for a starting position:
- MSc / LLM or similar further qualifications in Construction Law
- Relevant Chartership -
All of the above will likely need to be completed before becoming a fully-fledged Expert. However the Degree and Chartership are seen as the most valuable for entering into the industry. An MSc / LLM can often be studied whilst working for an expert witness consultancy, with many clients offering to fund such courses.
Therefore it is clear to me that after completing your Degree, working to gain membership to a relevant professional body should be your next goal if you are looking to enter the disputes sector.
What are the challenges of moving into Expert Witness Services?
Steep Learning Curve:
If you are making the move from Planning into expert witness services, you need to be aware that you will have a lot of learning to do within the first 6 – 12 months.
Whilst you may be used to working independently on projects and operating at a senior level as a Planner, this will not necessarily translate to you operating with a similar level of independence within expert services; not for a while at least.
Instead, you will need to be prepared to work alongside senior members of staff and be prepared to start learning completely new skills and processes. Initial tasks will often include generally assisting an expert in the preparation of reports. Specific duties will include:
- Gathering records and data from various parties involved in the dispute
- Forensically analysing documents, contracts and the programme of work relating to the dispute
- Drafting sections of the expert report
Whilst your Planning experience will provide you with the tools to eventually carry out a Delay focussed expert role, they will only partly help with many aspects of the role such as report writing; which will be a completely new skill to many. It will take some time to learn how to write reports in the correct language and manner that they are required to be written to become a successful Expert.
Given that the Expert Witness sector is well-known for relatively lucrative salaries and bonuses, it may come as a surprise to see that salaries are listed as a potential challenge of entering the market.
However starting basic salaries in this sector can often be less attractive than what similar candidates can earn in traditional Planning roles for a main contractor or Consultancy. Therefore often creating a situation where candidates may be required to take a cut in basic salary to move into construction disputes.
For candidates with no previous experience of working on the preparation of expert reports, the maximum salaries on offer tend to be anywhere between circa £50k - £60k.
When you also consider that expert roles tend to be office based roles and packages do not come inclusive of cars and travel allowances, then candidates with packages including such perks, can find themselves priced out of the entering the market.
The good news is that salaries do tend to rise quickly in the expert witness sector and within a short number of years in the sector, many good candidates will be promoted to the Associate Director level, where salaries tend to range from £90k - £110k.
On top of this, bonuses whilst working for an expert witness consultancy range between 10% - 30% per annum, which tends to be considerably better than working for traditional contractors and consultancies.
For candidates earning marginally higher than the entry level salaries in the expert sector, you may need to consider a small reduction in salary to enter the market, however I would be confident in saying that if you prove to be successful in this sector then your salary will rise quickly and there are fantastic career opportunities once you have 6 – 18 months experience in this sector.
Career Progression Opportunities: Consultants and Senior Consultants
Candidates moving into this sector will likely join at one of two levels; Consultant or Senior Consultant. Specific job titles will vary from client to client.
Once candidates have mastered the techniques of analysing records and documents and adequately documenting their findings, they will often be charged with drafting sections of expert reports.
Salaries and promotions will rise in accordance with candidates demonstrating the ability take on more and more independent responsibilities. The next promotion from Senior Consultant would likely be to the Associate Director level. Some companies do have a Managing Consultant between these two grades.
Next would come Director and eventually Partner / Managing Director.
Candidates will be encouraged and trained to possess the necessary skills & experience to independently act as an Expert. Once candidates have demonstrated their capabilities in such a role, they will likely become well known to Solicitors and begin to create a network within the legal arena.
When candidates have such a network and are capable of not only carrying out work as an Expert, but are also bringing new work into the business based on their network of solicitors and capabilities, then salaries can get incredibly lucrative. In some instances figures in the hundreds of thousands of GBP have been proposed as achievable salaries.
What type of person would Expert Witness work suit?
As well as the experience and qualifications required to enter expert witness services, there are some valuable personality traits that would suit such work:
- Analytical and methodical approach to work
- Ability to critically analyse documents and records
- Confident with excellent communication skills
- Dedicated professionals
- Honesty and integrity
- Consistent in their approach
- Thorough and accurate in their work
Expert Witness services is a very niche, lucrative and desirable industry to work in. However achieving a successful career in this industry does not come easy. Candidates can often be expected to work long hours and the rates that Expert Witness Consultancies charge to their clients for their services are incredibly high. Far higher than claims consultancies. Therefore working hours can be more intense than some are used to.
There is a steep learning curve involved in entering the sector and for some traditional Quantity Surveyors who have come from a very senior level on project based work, it can be a difficult transition moving into a profession where you are starting from the bottom of the hierarchy again.
This can lead to a reasonably high number of candidates entering the Expert Witness sector and leaving back into claims or traditional Quantity Surveying, as they feel expert services is not for them.
However good Quantity Surveyors with a clear motivation and passion for moving into Expert work, and whom are willing to work hard and dedicate their time to becoming a fully capable Expert; a very rewarding career awaits!
The best way for me to give further advice, would be for Quantity Surveyors with the aspiration to become an expert witness, to submit their CV on our website to allow me to review their experience and be able to give more detailed personal career advice.
About The Author
Senior Recruitment Consultant, UK
I am based from the Maxim Recruitment head office in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire 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