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The BEST Qualifications to pursue, to specialise in Construction Disputes

Which type of disputes companies like which qualifications?

Staff at specialist construction dispute firms attain and retain various qualifications and memberships. The further qualifications they acquire vary depending on a few reasons.

Qualifications and memberships vary depending on various factors, including:

  • Personal preference
  • Company preference
  • Specific area of disputes
  • Relevance to your trade specialism (i.e. Quantity Surveying).

This article will be related to those specialists with a technical construction background, such as in Quantity Surveying, Project Management, Planning, Engineering and Construction Management.

In the following sections this will be expanded upon and hopefully provide an insight into which of the above to attain in order to get where you need to be.

Which further qualifications and membership bodies are professionals who are dispute specialists often associated with?

I often see the following further qualifications and memberships next to people’s names who specialise in this sector:

As well as obtaining a university degree in quantity surveying, construction management or similar in most cases, those who progress within this specialism often attain one or more of the above qualifications.

So which qualifications should you strive towards from the above? This is a subjective question, and one that may invite a few debates if asked to a room full of construction dispute experts. However, from my experience I have found that there can be a slight difference in what companies wish to see, depending on what they specialise in.

I will be focussing on Expert Witness practices, Claims Consultancies, and Legal Construction firms full of solicitors and barristers.

For Expert Witness Companies

Quantity Surveyors at Expert Witness firms are much preferred to have their MRICS / FRICS status, and in some cases ICES, rather than an MSc or further qualification in construction Law. The whole point of this niche area is that you are an expert in Quantity Surveying – not necessarily construction law. That is left for contracts and claims consultants and those who are legal specialists. Expert’s in Quantity Surveying are called upon to give their opinion on what actually happened on site, to assist the legal professional in making a final decision at the end of a formal dispute. RICS membership is important as it states that you are indeed an expert in the field of Quantity Surveying. Without the membership, your opinion has more chance of being doubted by those legal savvies who argue a case in court. Even at the assistant level (i.e. not testifying), it is seen as important that you have your membership as an ideal.

Planners, Engineers, and construction managers in this field tend to have less specific qualification requirements. In my experience, solid on site experience in either of these disciplines, or strong programming experience is more important than a chartership or extra qualification. This being said, most of those working for the top end practices have at least attained a university degree as well as being motivated to complete further qualifications in construction law.

For Claims Consultancies

Quantity Surveyors at claims consultancies tend to have less strict adherence to the RICS membership – although many still have this membership. The claims consultancies I work with at least, don’t always ask for Membership of the RICS – in fact in most cases they say it is not so important. They will pay for an MSc/LLM in Construction Law though as an option and having an MSc in Construction Law and Adjudication / Arbitration also shows a clear motive to specialise in construction disputes as well as just saying you want to do so. This qualification can also give you automatic MCIArb status – which is also seen as a bonus here.

Planners, Engineers, and construction manager profiles for claims consultancies follow a similar pattern to within the expert witness firms I find. The “Senior Delay Analyst” seems to be a rare find in today’s UK dispute market, as well as overseas in the Middle East and elsewhere, so solid experience with delay techniques on complex issues will be the most sought after attribute for this type of role as opposed to the qualification. This being said, if you can go the extra mile by attaining a PGDip, LLM, or CIArb Membership it will of course stand out.

For Solicitors / Barristers Firms

The qualifications that are seen as important for these types of firms are the LLB (a second degree after a first!), PGDip, Grad Diploma in Law (GDL), and the BPTC if you want to take the Barrister route.

We have recent experience of finding Quantity Surveyors and Engineers with further qualifications like these work within a fantastic legal firm in the UK. Having a technical background as well as one of these qualifications can make you an invaluable, multi-skilled member of the construction industry.

What other aspects are important related to memberships?

Not taking forever to do get APC or other Memberships, if relevant

For Quantity Surveyors, I’d say to do your APC and to do it within a reasonable timescale. There is certainly a correlation between those who complete the APC within a 2 (ish) year period of starting it and being successful of attaining a role in construction disputes. Get the experience you need to complete this and take it forward in a positive manner in interviews, and explain at interview stage that you completed it within a reasonable time scale. This will show commitment which is a big factor in the construction disputes world – the hours can often be long, but very rewarding, via personal satisfaction and financially.

Don’t let it lapse

What it says on the tin. Don’t let your Membership’s lapse! Be proud of your achievement and ensure continuance of the memberships at all times as an embedded member of this specialism. Attend the necessary annual events and keep up to date as an expert member of your professional body.

What’s the correct ratio of experience to qualifications?

It is of course important to be experienced enough to specialise in construction disputes. From my experience recruiting in this sector, my general advice would be to gain 4/5 years of experience in Quantity Surveying, Engineering or Construction Management before making the step in the construction disputes so you have a solid base of knowledge to rely on when considering claims and disputes at the highest level. It’s also the case that disputes companies often want this level of experience before extending any offers for opportunities.

Your employment record is equally as important as qualifications as well. Try to ensure you have worked for reputable companies on large projects as a preference, as this will be the most transferable in the future and stand out on the CV. However, it isn’t all about “size” (no pun intended) – it is of course about quality and experience of the often microscopic issues and a good eye for detail, however the big players work on disputes on major projects so there is a link here.

Summary

Maxim remains the UK specialist in recruiting construction disputes professionals, and those who want to make their first step into this exciting and rewarding area. I hope this article provides an insight and some guidance on which qualifications you might want to consider to achieve your future dream of becoming a claims consultant, expert witness or solicitor / barrister!

 

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Adam Cadwaladr
Recruitment Consultant

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