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Top 5 Tips to Transfer into Construction Disputes

Claims, Disputes and Expert Witness opportunities are plentiful in the UK construction market currently. I have opportunities not only in London, but also in the Derbyshire and South Yorkshire regions also for Quantity Surveyors and Planners that want to transfer into the construction disputes market. I also have opportunities for those with a wealth of experience in the claims and Expert Witness sectors who want to work for some of the leading consultancies in UK / International disputes.

For those who are looking to get their break into the disputes market for a leading disputes company, I have written out 5 top tips to help you become more employable.

1)  Motive

Fairly self explanatory, but one of the main things employers will look for is a clear motive to specialise long term in the construction disputes sector. If you enter into an interview half heartedly “testing the water”, without having done your research or assessed your own motives properly, you will get quickly found out and the application will probably be cut short. Individuals with a very analytical mindset and a good eye for detail are often suited to the construction disputes sector. This is because you will be analysing documents at an Expert Level and using intricate detail in documents to prepare and defend claims.

2)   Qualifications and Memberships

Quantum (Quantity Surveyors)

Qualifications and Memberships for Quantity Surveyors can be proof of a clear motive, and are usually essential when seeking a transfer to a construction disputes job. A degree is usually sought after, and many specialist disputes companies will also demand Membership to the RICS as this will stand out when their clients use your services. Some disputes companies are able to support APC progression; however there are also some that prefer a Quantity Surveyor to have attained this already to employ them. Further qualifications in Construction Law are also beneficial; however in my experience the RICS membership seems to get more positive attention initially. This is especially the case in the Expert Witness sector, as to be an “Expert” in your field you should be a Member of the front running professional body in your profession.

Delay (Planners)

Construction Planners / Engineers are often sought after for their onsite programme management / engineering skills rather than their memberships to professional bodies, though of course these can also help. My clients tell me that they would often employ a consultant with better all round planning / engineering experience on site rather than someone with an extra qualification. If you have solid programme management / planning experience on a major project, and are also degree qualified with a clear motive, your profile may be the type that could land a job with a leading company in the disputes sector.

3)  CV Amendment

If you want to transfer into a construction disputes job, you need to make it clear on your CV why you want to make the move. If you apply to a construction disputes job without tailoring your CV, employers may not see a clear motive and may not pick up the phone. You need to make yourself stand out but either:

- Highlighting your motive in your personal profile
- Highlighting any claims or disputes experience you have gained in house already

This will instantly become more attractive to a perspective employer. As a recruiter, I can ask questions which are geared around those points however it will still help if you show a little initiative yourself.

4)  Flexibility

A little flexibility can go a long way when considering a disputes sector opportunity. One negative is when a candidate expects a pay rise for transferring into the disputes sector. The reason this happens could be that they have heard the financial elements are more lucrative in disputes. The potential earnings are much larger in the disputes sector; however this is as you progress into more senior roles.

Sometimes a Quantity Surveyor / Planner can expect the same overall salary as what they are currently on, depending on the experience you have and current salary level. However sometimes, a candidate must be willing to take a little less and earn back the difference in the following ways:

  • A construction disputes company will often pay for further qualifications in Construction Law
  • In the Expert Witness sector in particular, bonuses can be very lucrative (often 15%-25%) and take your yearly earnings over and above what you are currently on, however you have to believe in your own abilities to perform well and attain that bonus
  • Long term salary increments – as you progress, the difference in salary increases rapidly

5)  Current Seniority

We usually find most success at finding Quantity Surveyors and Planners a fresh start in disputes at the Consultant / Senior Consultant level. These are the levels of candidates that can transfer into the disputes market without taking too much of a salary drop (if at all) when finding an opportunity.

“Consultant” – This would be a Quantity Surveyor or Planner that has enough experience to work fairly autonomously, and has progressed from the Assistant level.

“Senior Consultant” – This will be a Senior Quantity Surveyor or Planner that has more responsibility and a larger amount of experience under their belt to put to use in the disputes market.

I have managed to find Commercial Managers and Associate Directors jobs in the disputes sector; however they often have to take a slight initial hit on salary. This is because you will most likely start off at the Senior Consultant level in a specialist disputes business due to the transfer over. For candidates with the right qualifications and motives this usually isn’t a problem and the difference can be earned back very quickly in either bonus or quicker progression due to the wealth of construction experience.

Conclusion

These are my 5 tips for transferring into the disputes sector of construction. If you feel your profile doesn’t tick all of the boxes, don’t worry – we often get niche opportunities that require some and not all of the above points. We encourage anyone with a motive to work in the disputes sector to apply via our website as we have a range of jobs available in this field.

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Adam Cadwaladr
Recruitment Consultant – UK

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