Cleaver Fulton Rankin Construction Mediation Masterclass

September 23, 2014

Leaders from the province’s construction industry have been urged to consider mediation as an alternative form of commercial dispute resolution at a special seminar hosted by a leading Belfast law firm.

Over 30 prominent representatives from the local construction sector attended the Mediation Masterclass at Clever Fulton Rankin’s recently opened offices in the city’s Bedford Street.

Leading Barrister Michael Humphreys QC facilitated the event and outlined his views on the benefits of mediation as opposed to what can be a lengthy and costly litigation process through the courts. The Mediation Masterclass was opened with an address by the Commercial Judge, Mr Justice Weatherup, and included a live mediation demonstration aimed at giving attendees an insight into how the process works in practice.

Cleaver Fulton Rankin’s Construction Directors, Patrick Fleming and Lisa Boyd, along with Solicitor, Julie-Ann McCaffrey also spoke on their experiences of mediation and representing parties in the mediation process.

Patrick Fleming, Head of Construction in Cleaver Fulton Rankin commented: “We are delighted that Mr Justice Weatherup was able to attend our event. Over the last number of years the judiciary in Northern Ireland has been enthusiastic in their promotion of mediation. Cleaver Fulton Rankin are actively ensuring that our clients and contacts understand that the mediation process can not only provide imaginative solutions to disputes but can also greatly reduce the costs of litigation.”

Director in Cleaver Fulton Rankin’s Construction team, Lisa Boyd, was delighted to see so many of her clients attend. She said: “When involved with mediation, clients feel the pressure of the day.  I hope that by attending our Construction Mediation Masterclass that, if faced with a mediation in the future, they can concentrate on settling the dispute rather than worrying about the procedural aspects of the day.”

Construction is one of our major sectors here in Northern Ireland with more than 30,000 people employed across around 9,000 firms.

“In a UK-wide construction context last year the average value of disputes hit a record high of £16.7 million with the length of time to resolve a dispute in 2013 averaging at 7.9 months,” said Lisa Boyd.

“Clearly an inability to resolve a commercial dispute in any sector can have major implications which is just one of the many reasons we believe disputing parties should consider mediation when appropriate.”

Within the UK construction sector the main causes for commercial disputes include:

–      Failure to comply with contractual obligations

–      Failure to properly administer the contract

–      Incomplete design information or Employer requirements.

According to a report on Global Construction Disputes by Arcadis:

–  In the UK a third of all Joint Ventures end in dispute. This is just below the global average.

–  Half of construction disputes in 2013 had a greater value than £250,000 while 13% had a value of more than £5m.

In Northern Ireland there were 949 writs received into the Queens Bench between April and June of this year.  In January 2013 Commercial Judge, Mr Justice Weatherup, introduced a pre-action protocol that encourages a meeting of the parties before proceeding to litigation.  Mediation should therefore be considered in the context of “appropriate” rather than “alternate” dispute resolution.

The Construction focussed Mediation Masterclass was the latest in a series of such events run by Cleaver Fulton Rankin across a wide range of sectors including Charity and Banking.

Cleaver Fulton Rankin is planning further sessions over the next few months. Anyone interested in attending one of the future Mediation Masterclasses, please email mediations@cfrlaw.co.uk