Quantity Surveyors – Consider a move into Expert Witness Services
Posted by Stuart Hackett Senior Recruitment Consultant on Tuesday, September 21, 2021
As the UK construction disputes sector continues to grow, more and more Quantity Surveyors are making the move into specialist Quantum Consultant roles with Expert Witness Consultancies.
The demand for staff in the construction disputes sector is growing and it’s important that we look to attract new blood into these niche roles to be the next generation of future leaders and experts.
Don’t I need Years of Experience and Lots of Qualifications to be an Expert Witness?
For many Quantity Surveyors who have little to no exposure to construction disputes, it can feel like a bit of a dark art and something which is only for the most experienced construction professionals with lots of letters after their name.
Even the name ‘Expert Witness’ clearly implies that someone should be an ‘expert’ to undertake the role.
Whilst that is true of the ‘Lead expert’, who often is highly experienced and qualified in both construction and law; it is not the case for everyone working in this sector.
Entry Level Roles Available
Like with any profession, you need to earn your spurs at a more junior level and work alongside more experienced colleagues to develop your knowledge and skills before being ready to carry out a management role.
Each expert can have quite a large team of staff assisting and supporting them with each dispute. These roles are often carried out by former Quantity Surveyor with varying levels of exposure to claims and disputes and are called Quantum Consultants.
The typical progression for a Quantum Consultant would look something like this:
- Quantum Consultant
- Senior Quantum Consultant
- Managing Quantum Consultant
- Associate Director
- Director (It would typically be this level or above where you begin to act as the Lead Expert)
Specialist construction disputes consultancies in the UK have been heavily recruiting Quantity Surveyors into Quantum Consultant roles to support an expert witness at unprecedented rates in recent years.
So now, is a great time to consider making this transition.
What Experience and Qualifications are Expert Witness Consultancies Looking for?
Experience and Attributes:
This can vary from company to company, however, here are a few common desirable skills and experiences which specialist disputes consultancies find attractive:
- Enough Quantity Surveying experience, that you have a good grasp of the fundamentals of the QS role. In my experience, this is typically achieved somewhere in the region of 4 – 8 years in the role.
- Highly analytical in your approach to work. Expert Witness analysis is all about reviewing large quantities of information relating to the dispute in question.
- Highly accurate in your analysis and presented work. Much of the analysis you do will contribute to an expert report which could be presented in court or at tribunal as evidence. Any mistakes relating to the analysis, or even spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors are not acceptable.
- Varied and complex project exposure.
- A good knowledge of construction contracts. NEC, JCT and even FIDIC would be particularly useful due to the number of overseas disputes dealt with by hiring companies.
- Exposure to prior claims or disputes is advantageous, however it is by no means essential, and I have seen several successful candidates who had little more experience than managing variations on projects.
- Willingness to learn and continue to personal professional development through training and higher education.
There are certainly several qualifications that can make a Quantity Surveyor more desirable to an expert witness consultancy, however the most desirable is undoubtedly:
- MRICS – This is a very important one and is seen as the minimum requirement to move into a Quantum Consultant role with an expert witness consultancy. It is not always essential, and some candidates will secure work without being chartered, but if you are serious about a role in the sector, becoming chartered should be your number 1 goal whilst still working as a Quantity Surveyor.
Many other courses such as the various MSc / LLM courses in construction law and alternatives course have obvious advantages also. However, all of these can be studied after you make your move into a specialist quantum consultant role. Therefore, my advice would always be to prioritise your Chartership (MRICS).
What else can I do to make myself attractive to employers?
This is a huge one, because there is so much you can do outside of your day-to-day Quantity Surveying role and qualifications to become a more attractive candidate to hiring companies in construction disputes.
These largely centre around your understanding of the role of an expert witness and demonstrating that you have a clear motivation to start and persist in a quantum consultant role.
Hiring companies are not looking for the finished article at this stage of your career. Instead, they are looking for good, professional, ambitious, motivated Quantity Surveyors who are willing to learn and have a clear motivation and passion for construction disputes work.
You may find the following article titled ‘7 Useful Resources to Prepare for a Construction Disputes Job Interview Useful’ to gauge what some of the premium candidates are doing to make themselves more attractive to employers at interview.
I hope this article will help some Quantity Surveyors to see how accessible a new role within construction disputes could be, and prompt them to look further into Quantum Consultant roles for expert witness consultancies.
Whilst the criteria and interview process can be tough to break into construction disputes, it is often not based on the years of experience. You do not need 20 years of experience as a QS and the whole alphabet after your name to make the transition into a quantum role. In fact, due to the likely salary implications of someone with 20 years of experience, I believe it may be beneficial and viable to make a move into a quantum consultant role whilst still in your early career (Circa 4-8 years).
For those who have an interest in construction disputes and quantum consultant roles and want to find out more, please get in touch with your CV to discuss your suitability, and the current live vacancies we have that might be a good fit for you.