What is the Route to Winning Your Own Expert Work within Construction Disputes?

Posted by Steve Thomas , Construction Recruitment Director, UK & Canada on Sunday, April 28, 2024

I was recently asked by a potential candidate what the career path is to become a Quantum Expert. I’m confident that I managed to provide a satisfactory answer, although it was more complicated to explain than I had initially assumed; hence this article trying to think it through fully. The points that follow also apply to those considering working towards becoming a Delay Expert.

A working definition of a Quantum Expert is that it is a construction industry expert who in the context of an arbitration, adjudication in particular, provides advice relating to the quantification of financial damages or claims.  They provide either or both expert reports or in person Expert Witness Testimony to assist the court in the arbitration or the adjudicator in the adjudication. A Quantum Expert would provide a carefully prepared dispute specific technical explanation quantifying damages, while a Delay Expert would focus their report or testimony on the causes of delays.  Both types of experts may be required in large or complex disputes.

So just as a Commercial Manager could chart their career from Graduate QS to Intermediate QS, to Senior Quantity Surveyor to Project Quantity Surveyor and eventually to Commercial Manager or Commercial Director, what is the route to becoming a Quantum Expert or Delay Expert?

 It’s Not Just Qualifications but they Help

Looking at the profile of many leading construction experts that we know, they have followed the path of gaining a degree at a ‘good’ university and going on to be ‘dual qualified’ with both Chartership and an LLM in Construction Law. You can see a previous blog about LLM options here. Strong qualifications are important – although some great calibre experts have picked up qualifications progressively, while others have returned to study later in their career to pick up important qualifications so there is no single ‘right way’ to become qualified although being an expert does almost always require appropriate qualifications.

 It's Not Just Good Quality Early Career Experience but it Helps

Perhaps stating the obvious, to be an expert in something you need to know and learn about it first before you can profess to be able to provide expert opinion to others.  Good quality experience gained within construction contracting or engineering consulting is a great way to build this experience first-hand.  Recent early career dispute placements we have made into dedicated dispute consultancies have had experience of major projects such as HS2 or Thames Tideway which has allowed them to understand first hand major cost, claim, engineering, planning and delay issues.  This valuable experience has also been gained working within or alongside premium construction organisations (national/international contractors and consulting engineers/large client employers) that have had high quality procedures in place and who have implemented them in order to understand and mitigate the cost, time and risk challenges that participants in any major project face.  This is fantastic preparation for working in disputes later in your career.

It is worth noting that while having worked on a railway isn’t essential to be a Quantum Expert or Delay Expert on a rail dispute, the experience of comparable projects and comparable common issues of the same magnitude is the thing that is invaluable to build a career profile of someone capable of being, when the time comes, the chosen expert needed to work on a particular dispute.

 It’s Not Just Working with Other Experts but it Helps (or can hinder)

Some people ask me whether they should join a large or a small dispute consultancy and whether working in an expert-only environment or a broader claims, dispute and contracts/commercial management consultancy would be better for their career.  This depends on their preferred career path (either within claims or within expert work or to hedge their bets until they decide) but also on what they most enjoy and are best at.  These issues can be discussed as a part of an initial consultation with Maxim and these options can be discussed and decided between. 

What can be noted here is that if your explicit intention is to become an expert in your own right, you should definitely aim to work as an ‘understudy’ to a named expert or certainly their No.2 in the pecking order initially.  This usually needs to start within a defined career time frame and salary expectation in order to be possible – and this is outlined and explained in a previous blog here.

Once you are working as a Quantum Senior Consultant or Senior Associate Quantum, you will be exposed to the methodology and issues relating to either quantum or delay work and will gain experience (and be able to apply your previous experience obtained working more broadly within the industry) working to gather information and issues that will shape the eventual report and testimony that the expert you are working with will write.

Later in your experience and career, it becomes important to evaluate whether the expert and the employer you are working with is promoting you and positioning you as a potential expert or whether they are holding you back in purely a supporting role for too long.

But it is important not to be ‘over-promoted’ into a role beyond your experience and capability and be too impatient for a senior role before you are ready – but it is also important to maintain your career trajectory and the timeline for your progression.

A good employer will provide regular career reviews and agree objectives and milestones to help you achieve your ambitions and grow your value to the business.  A less good one will obfuscate this and will delay such meetings in the hope that you continue to provide valuable contributions to the expert team without full reward and recognition when promotion and progression is actually justified.  This is the point at which your further growth and progression is being hindered and limited and other career options can be considered.

 Is a Quantum or Delay Expert Employed or Self Employed?

An interesting question about expert work and therefore the route to becoming an expert, is that of whether it is the employer or the individual expert that is being asked for when invited to become an expert on a particular case.  While very large arbitrations often require a large team of people that only a larger expert organisation can provide, many arbitrations and certainly adjudications may only require a single expert and they are usually asked for by their name – irrespective of which dispute consultancy they are working for.  Also, on large cases, an expert is requested by name and if an expert were to move employer during the course of the case, the work will usually move with the expert themselves to the new employer indicating the work is really ‘theirs’ not the companies, unless contractual agreements confirm otherwise.

There are clearly advantages to working for a respected expert organisation although these are not to be overrated – especially if the incoming work that this generates is passed to the established experts rather than to the ambitious individual ready to do their own expert work. 

So, assuming an individual has the qualifications, early career experience and has worked in an expert environment supporting quantum or delay expert work, and is ready to perform the role of expert themseves, how can this finally become a reality?

 It’s the Networking Stupid!

The biggest single thing that seems to differentiate the capable ‘wannabe’ expert from the ‘live and active’ expert who is delivering expert work is that the latter has established their reputation, and this reputation has permeated through a network of contacts that can (and do!) give them expert work.

In relation to arbitrations at least, developing a network of contacts that offer expert work is a proactive exercise of meeting and building relationships with the particular legal professionals who require this service to be provided to them.  These are the people that have it in their power to offer this work to those capable of providing quantum and delay experts services in order to deliver the work they are involved in for their clients. 

One piece of advice I have heard is that intending early career quantum and delay experts should network with their contempories within the major construction law firms so that by the time they are ready to offer expert quantum or delay services the lawyers they now know well will be themselves in a position of responsibility to offer this work to them.  This can be done at the same time as making themselves known to the current senior lawyers that pass work to their senior contempories.


Winning your own expert work within construction disputes is clearly a long and complicated process and is an apex of a triangle of seniority that not everyone will reach.  Just as not every Graduate Quantity Surveyor will become a Commercial Director, not every Quantity Surveyor, Engineer or Planner who wants to become a construction expert will succeed in doing so.  However, the rewards for successfully climbing the ‘greasy pole’ to become a quantum or delay expert are substantial and are very attractive to many construction professionals looking for a long term and financially rewarding career in the industry.

This article has aimed to map out some of the key factors that influence success factors to take you to the position where you can win your own expert work.  I have suggested that both strong technical skills and strong social skills and relationship building and management skills are all essential to become an expert that is in demand from the construction law profession. In the last analysis, it is the construction lawyers that are the ‘customers’ requiring expert reports and testimony for their clients on and they are the people and profession upon which a successful career in construction expert work depends.

Steve Thomas
Steve Thomas
Construction Recruitment Director, UK & Canada
Maxim Recruitment

Steve is responsible for Maxim Recruitment in the UK. He is based in the Maxim head office in Leicester, Leicestershire and regularly travels to meet employers, job seekers and to attend construction industry networking events all over the UK. With over 20 years' experience in construction and property recruitment he works with a number of repeat clients and engages in search and headhunting assignments for a range of premium UK and international clients.