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Salary Report 2017Q3: UK Construction Dispute Roles

There are always a few outliers in data when writing a summarised table of salaries against job titles. This being said, it is still possible to provide a fairly accurate guide of salaries in UK construction disputes from the data we have received through various interviews and client meetings.

The following report is in relation to those professionals working in a Quantum or Delay capacity for a Claims or Expert Witness sector consultancy.

QUICK SALARY FACTS

Typical Total Salary Package Earned by a Construction Claims or Dispute Professional in London

  • Consultant in London: £40k - 50k p/a
  • Senior / Managing Consultant in London: £45k - 72k p/a
  • Associate Partner / Director in London: £80k - 105k p/a
  • Partner / Director in London: £110k - 135k+ p/a

How Much More Can be Earned in London Compared to Other Parts of the UK?

In standard technical construction roles such as Quantity Surveying and Project Management, there remains a substantial salary uplift for those working in London as opposed to those in other areas of the UK. In the construction disputes sector, our feedback is varied in that some construction disputes companies tell us that they operate uplifts for staff working from their London office, whereas others distribute pay in relation ONLY to their experience, no matter which office the person is working from. The latter mentioned firms are ones that work on major international construction disputes, and so for instance a Senior Consultant in London would be charged out at the same rate as a Senior Consultant based elsewhere in the UK – hence the logic is they will pay a similar salary to each member of staff for earning the business the same amount of money.

London however remains the hot bed for construction disputes opportunities. It is less common (but not unheard of) for good opportunities to arise with a specialist claims or expert witness consultancy outside of London, despite there being many candidates in other areas with the ability to do this type of work!

Experience Most in Demand?

I have seen a variety of opportunities at differing levels of seniority, especially in the London market over the last 12 months. Maxim Recruitment have had most success with recruiting Senior Consultants and Associate Directors, at this middle-senior level of experience in the construction claims or exert witness sector. This is both in Quantum and Delay on local & international construction disputes. This is not to say that there haven’t been opportunities at the Consultant or Director level – they have just been slightly less common from our view point.

At this stage of the report, I think it’s important to outline exactly what is expected of a Senior Consultant and Associate Director, due to the wide ranging salary bands described.

Senior Consultant

 A Senior Consultant is a broad definition and can identify as an experienced Quantity Surveyor, Engineer, Planner or Project Manager with no experience within a claims or expert witness sector consultancy, or someone with experience of construction claims and adjudications in the market, or writing sections of expert reports for Expert Witnesses who testify. This is why you will see a wide ranging salary band at the top of this report for those at the Senior Consultant level, as it depends how much experience of construction disputes each individual has.

Associate Director

An Associate Director / Partner within a specialist disputes consultancy is someone who at a minimum has had a few years experience on contentious issues in construction, usually within a specialist construction claims or expert witness sector firm as a Quantum or Delay professional. There is also a very wide ranging salary band for Associates in construction disputes, due to the following factors:

  • Team leadership responsibility
  • Business development / winning work
  • Testifying responsibility depending on type of company
  • Years of experience (yearly promotions)
  • Hierarchy within the company (i.e. acting as a lead expert as an Associate Director or acting as a number 2 to a lead expert witness)

Is Being Chartered Advantageous? 

The short answer is that being chartered is more advantageous for Quantity Surveyors as opposed to Engineers or Planners wanting to specialise in construction disputes – however there are always outlying companies who differ slightly in this regard.

We are often told by Quantum Experts that “if a candidate isn’t chartered, their argument for being an ‘Expert’ in their chosen field is instantly diminished somewhat”. In practical terms, we find that as long as someone is on route to becoming a Chartered Member of the RICS (or potentially the ICES), then they will hold an advantage over someone who isn’t. There are more leniencies for those at a more inexperienced level in regards to being chartered, as they may simply have not had as much time to do so – however it may impact on the salary you can demand.

Our friends in the Delay specialism of construction tell us that they find it more important for someone to have a solid on site understanding of construction projects from an engineering, planning or project management perspective, and this is more important than being chartered. Depending on the nature of the firm, speaking a second language can also be beneficial due to the international nature of the construction disputes work flowing into the London Market.

Q&A

Q1 What factors affect the salaries that can be secured in the United Kingdom for a Dispute Consultant?

  • Chartered status (explained above) for Quantum professionals especially
  • Commuting Cost – however, these companies still like their employees to be within a reasonable commute to ensure longevity of employment with them. Travel to office is not paid, however if there is a significant commuting cost to a new place of work if you change places of work, this can be mentioned at application stage.
  • Experience in this field – if you have experience in the dispute market already this will ensure you can attain a higher salary than those without (obviously!). It is less of a risk for a company to take you on board if they can see examples of work from previous employment.
  • General experience in construction – for instance, a Senior Quantity Surveyor will be able to demand a higher salary than a Quantity Surveyor when joining a claims or expert witness firm, even if neither have much experience yet in construction disputes. The same goes for planners, engineers, and project managers.
  • Location – sometimes firms pay the same to consultants at a similar level no matter where they are based, however some will pay uplifts for London based employees. Most opportunities tend to be in the London market.

Q2 Typically, how do bonus arrangements work?

Bonus arrangements in the dispute sector are tremendous! Bonuses are usually discretionary, however can be as high as 20-30% if you perform exceptionally well throughout the year. This is the case at most levels of seniority, however some firms stagger the potential bonus so that the more senior employees achieve a higher %. This means that the base salary isn’t the only financial aspect you should consider when looking at opportunities in this sector, as a bonus could increase your earning per annum from £45k to £55k, or from £80k to £96k-£100k with bonuses in this sector. There is usually a company annual bonus on top of this (slightly more modest), plus the usual benefits like private health and a pension scheme.

Q3 How are salaries in the dispute sector compared with those within other standard forms of construction services?

Salaries in this sector can reach higher limits at a faster pace than those salaries seen in the standard construction sector – once you prove yourself and are promoted to the appropriate level. Once you have reached the Managing Consultant / Associate Director level, this is where the real difference is seen. An Associate Director in the Expert Witness or Construction Claims field, can range anywhere from £80k up to over £100k in some cases. Then once taking the bonus into account, overall pay can increase substantially further.

Q4 Does being bilingual improve earning power in this location?

It depends on the firm you work for, and the % of international projects they work on as an organisation. Being fluent in English is a must for the UK market as Claims and Expert Reports will be written in English and must be done to a very high standard. However, we have been told by our contacts in the industry that work on major international disputes that speaking a foreign language opens up avenues for business in more areas of the world, and (as common sense would assume) ease the communication factor. Speaking another language is by no means essential and I don’t think will affect your chances too much – however, it will be seen as a bonus if you do.

Q5 What type of previous experience and CV will get me the best salary offer?

A full, well rounded, start to finish project experience, combined with good longevity at a large player in a sizable Main Contracting or Consultancy organisation, as a Quantity Surveyor, Engineer, Project Manager or Planner. (We see Expert Witnesses from other backgrounds such as building surveying, however we tend to focus on purely Quantum and Delay specialists). You will be well qualified, and be able to back up the experience mentioned with a clear motivation to specialize in disputes. Your CV should highlights the project value and the time spent on the project, and at what stage you were involved in the project. On site experience is also seen as positive, but not essential.

Q6 What factors will reduce my salary offer and employability?

Lack of chartership/qualifications, reduced longevity, and no clear motive of why you want to move. You must have had solid grounding in your discipline as well.

Q7 Will proven management experience increase my salary and employability?

Not necessarily – it depends what level you are going in at. If you are at an Associate Director level with dispute experience – then yes, management experience will be seen as useful so you can take pressure of the Directors of a business and manage staff whilst working on disputes. If you are coming in at a Senior Consultant level without dispute experience, then you will not be able to manage staff in this sector to start with anyway. So even if you are a Commercial Manager and have managed Quantity Surveyors, this may be irrelevant for your entry role within an Expert Witness organization – hence, not much leverage to negotiate salary using this information. Negotiation will be stronger when talking about project experience when coming in to the dispute sector for the first time.

To discuss the possibility of working in London or anywhere in the UK in a construction claims or dispute role, please submit your CV here.

 

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Adam Cadwaladr
Recruitment Consultant

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