Building sound foundations
As the construction industry faces challenging times, developers are keen to negotiate optimal contracts with the appropriate contractors and professionals. Our team wants to ensure that developers’ visions are brought from planning, through procurement and construction, and on to completion for onward letting or sale. Our clients have contractual obligations to complete these projects on time, mindful of protecting their own legal interests as well as satisfying their funders. Due to events of default we are seeing a growth in building contract disputes which in recent years has seen a preference for mediation and adjudication in an effort to resolve contractual disputes efficiently and economically.
Our team relies on the combined strengths of its members from commercial litigation
on the contentious side, and from commercial property
on the non-contentious side, to ensure that our clients receive a seamless service on all aspects of construction projects. We advise on a range of issues and have acted in a number of high profile construction projects. Our expertise has assisted in the negotiation of building contracts and professional appointments at the commencement of developments as well as the establishment of collateral warranties in favour of various third parties. If construction matters go wrong, clients can rely on our experienced litigators to explore all avenues of dispute resolution including mediation and arbitration to ensure their interests are protected throughout any resulting proceedings.
What we do
- Building Contracts: Reviews & Advice
The building contracts team reviews and advises on the terms and conditions of JCT, ICE, NEC and bespoke building contracts. Such services regularly cover the form and reason for the contract chosen and a detailed review of the provisions of contract, for instance employers requirements, standard of care, milestone dates, insurances required and liquidated damages to name but a few. The team has advised on several major developments in Northern Ireland and the UK, advising developers, contractors, sub-contractors and funders on building and sub-contracts and contractors’ bonds.
- Professional Team Appointments
Our team has considerable experience liaising with clients and professional team members in negotiating and settling the terms of appointment for the professionals who have contributed to any aspect of a development. This covers their duty of care, professional indemnity insurance, warranty cover, assignability of their appointment and, in today’s insurance conscious market, financial caps upon liability and net contribution clauses. In our experience, prudent clients are keen to receive expert advice on these issues at the outset in order to avoid spending time apportioning responsibility at a later date.
Collateral warranties are still preferred in today’s construction sector despite the introduction of third party rights legislation. These warranties flow from the building contract and professional team appointments. Our team negotiates these and assists our commercial property department where warranties are required for such third parties, for instance to a bank on the funding of a new development and the tenants who will occupy that development. Of particular importance is the issue of step-in rights in favour of a funder, allowing it the ability to step in and take the place of the employer to an appointment on specific events. Our emphasis in drafting of such rights is always with a view to protecting our clients.
- Dispute Resolution & Mediation
Construction contracts can and will go wrong. When they do we focus on resolving any disputes which arise as promptly and prudently as possible. Our team has long experience of litigation and arbitration which are the traditional methods of dispute resolution in the construction industry. However, we also have developed expertise in adjudication and the enforcement of adjudication awards, as this quicker method of dispute resolution becomes more popular. Furthermore, we have used mediation as the method of dispute resolution, in a number of cases where we have been able to secure a negotiated early settlement on behalf of our client. Our clients for contentious work include public authorities, developers, contractors and members of the professional team.
Expert advice at the commencement of a construction project can be critical to the smooth running of the formation of the development. It is invaluable in obtaining funding, ensuring that the appropriate contractor and professionals enter the correct contracts to construct the development on time and on budget. This helps to ensure that the development reaches practical completion to allow it to be occupied, let or sold. Further, propitious advice can be crucial to promptly allay disputes or to instigate timely proceedings to protect our clients’ interests.
We have combined the legal expertise of our commercial property
and commercial litigation
departments to develop our construction team which is accomplished in the law and the commercial environments in which our clients operate. Our team is jointly headed by Phyllis Agnew, Senior Partner and head of commercial property and Michael McCord, Partner and head of commercial litigation.
Our dedicated construction legal team has the breadth of experience to assist your business in a variety of ways. We are adept at advising on the appropriate form and content of building contract and professional appointments to take your development from the initial stages of planning and procurement, through to build and completion. We will represent your best interests at all times to avoid potentially unnecessary, costly and in some instances commercially embarrassing proceedings. We are confident that we can walk clients through all aspects of the non-contentious construction project, that we will explore all avenues of mediation and arbitration dispute resolution to resolve conflicts that arise and will protect our clients’ interests throughout proceedings if relations between contracting parties break down.
"A large firm with a lot of expertise." The practice offers "a high degree of professionalism and strong legal advice." "The team appears very motivated towards establishing wins, but done within a relaxed and professional culture."
Sources also praise the firm's "innovative approach"
to building client relationships.(Chambers 2013)