Working in Expert Witness services can provide some of the most lucrative salaries and bonuses within the construction industry. For many Quantity Surveyors, making the move into this niche and lucratively paid sector is an appealing prospect.
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 on providing an independent and just decision on legal matters.
Therefore, individuals from a Quantity Surveying background are often used to provide their professional opinion on Quantum 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 for Quantity Surveyors moving into Expert Witness services is via claims related work. They have often had recent exposure to assisting an Expert; either whilst working for a contractor or consultancy involved in the dispute, or whilst working for a specialist claims consultancy sent in to deal with the dispute.
Many get a taste for the Expert role, research it a further and then decide that it is something they would like to specialise their career in going forward. This background of assisting an Expert is often appealing to Expert Witness Consultancies, as it will have given candidates a firm idea of what is required to work as an Expert and how to carry out some of the processes involved.
However from time to time clients within the Expert Witness field will look to hire out-and-out traditional Quantity Surveyors into the business at a junior level. Often this may require a strong Quantity Surveying background and certain qualifications to be eligible for such roles.
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:
- Strong experience in a Quantity Surveying role; ideally as a minimum candidates will have experience of managing their own projects / packages of work
- Previous exposure to expert work; likely assisting an expert, rather than drafting documents yourself.
- Exposure to claims; ideally writing your own claims
- Exposure to some dispute resolution techniques
- 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
- Ability to speak another language is not essential, but can be highly beneficial. Particularly for businesses who work on international disputes
- 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
- Active Professional membership - MRICS Preferred, others may be considered (Candidates very close to completing their Chartership may be considered)
- Relevant construction related Degree (i.e. Quantity Surveying, Civil Engineering etc.)
- MSc / LLM or similar further qualifications in Construction Law
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.
What are the challenges of moving into Expert Witness Services?
Steep Learning Curve:
If you are making the move from Quantity Surveying 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 running your own projects and operating at a senior level as a Quantity Surveyor, 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 prepared to start learning a 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 and contracts
- Drafting sections of the expert report
Whilst your Quantity Surveying experience will provide you with the tools to eventually carry out the expert role, they will only partly help with many aspects of the role such as report writing, which will be a completely new skill. This 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 Expert Witnesses are paid some of the highest salaries in construction, it may seem confusing to see salaries being listed as a potential challenging factor.
However, entry level roles within expert services can often (not always) pay lower basic salaries than for traditional Quantity Surveying roles. This can be because many Quantity Surveyors price themselves out of making the move into expert services.
Entry level roles in Expert Witness services will vary dependant on a candidates experience and qualifications, however they will typically fit somewhere in the salary band of £50,000 - £70,000 Basic Salary
In addition to considering the basic salary, you will also need to factor in that candidates working within Expert Witness services typically benefit from lucrative bonus schemes. It’s not uncommon for many candidates to receive bonuses in the region of 20% – 30% of their annual salary if they are performing well.
As well as this, salaries tend to rise far quicker and the ceiling for such salaries is much higher in expert witness services compared to traditional Quantity Surveying.
Therefore candidates are urged to consider the medium to long term financial benefits when considering salaries in the Expert sector. Often any disparities in salaries from changing sectors are rectified within 6 – 18 months if you are performing adequately.
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 an Associate Director level.
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 ae 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 using the link https://www.maximrecruitment.com/contact/send-us-your-cv/ 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