Once at the office, the working day must begin with starting up the computer and coffee. A good day is when you work your way through your To Do list and complete all tasks by five o’clock with no interruptions. When was the last time that you had such a good day? We all know what happens, even to the best laid plans!
Today I was giving a breakfast meeting presentation to the members of Quantity Surveyors International (QSi), a professional body, on the practical issues for the construction industry working together through Covid-19.
Zoom/Teams have proved to be a wonderful platform to deliver talks or attend meetings with people across the globe, but one has to be sensitive to time zones. As I recently found when teaching the construction law module on an MSc course for Birmingham University, what may be lunchtime here can be dinner time in China and breakfast time in North America and Peru.
Having fielded the questions at the end of my talk, it was time for more coffee and to look at emails. There were some regarding my own live matters, some prospective matters that I needed to allocate to others in the team and the usual administrative issues.
A substantial proportion of my time is spent ‘sitting’. This needs a little more explanation. I sit both as an arbitrator and an adjudicator to decide construction industry disputes as the Tribunal. Both are forms of alternative dispute resolution (ADR). Arbitration is an alternative to court proceedings and adjudication is a time limited, specialist form of ADR specific to, and very popular with the construction industry; I am on a number of panels of adjudicators.
Today, on one of the two adjudications I have running at the moment, I have to work my way through the claimant’s request and supporting documentation, including for payment of a substantial number of variations to the contract works and the value of each variation. I must also take into account the respondent’s equally compelling evidence as to why the claimant is due nothing at all.
Each party’s representative writes its version of the story – an arbitrator/adjudicator has to assimilate both halves of the story (and on occasion the two halves appear to have very little connection at all!) and reach the correct answer by applying the law and the terms of the parties’ contract.
This calls for time to be set aside to absorb large amounts of information (I have had up to 35 files of supporting documentation to consider). As any award or decision has to be the work of the tribunal alone, I type up my findings myself. It is time consuming, but I find it helpful, giving me time both to think and to be sure I have considered all the information.
During the day I had to break off to attend a Teams meeting with the President and Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) and the Singapore Committee, as I am a trustee of the CIOB and a trustee champion for Asia. I find that these responsibilities enable me to keep up to date with industry issues both in the UK and overseas.
I also took phone calls from both parties’ representatives to discuss the arrangements for the day of a commercial mediation, and to ask for their approval to have a trainee in the team attend the mediation with me, the mediator. It is interesting for the trainee to attend a mediation with a mediator rather than an individual party to understand how I meet with the parties separately and privately to help them to move towards a settlement of their dispute.
With people spending more time in the office, during the day there are more opportunities to have those conversations with colleagues who have interesting issues in their own work, which can be aired in an open forum where we can provide support to one another, often starting in the kitchen.
Each day ends with a final round up of emails received, either dealing with them, making phone calls or scheduling them for future action.
The last job of the day is to prepare the To Do list and to go home in the hope of another good day tomorrow!