Construction mediation guide from South West's top lawyers wins major award

A practical guide to using mediation to avoid costly and lengthy construction disputes has won the prestigious Innovation Award at the 2018 South West Built Environment Awards.

The free guide was created as a result of bringing together a number of the UK’s leading law firms specialising in construction disputes, including BPL, Trowers & Hamlins, Michelmores and Ashfords. 

Working together and pooling their construction sector dispute resolution experience, expertise and knowledge on mediation, these firms have co-authored a definitive guide that sets a new standard for how mediation can work.

“This Mediation Guide presents the combined advice and guidance of some of the UK’s leading law firms.  It is a fantastic piece of innovation and could help save construction clients, contractors and their supply chain a significant amount of time and money by avoiding litigation and adjudication when it comes to disputes over projects”, said Christopher Reeves, a RICS-accredited mediator, solicitor and chartered builder, founder of Mediation for Construction (mediation4construction.com), and one of the Guide’s authors.

Mediation is a collaborative method of resolving disputes or differences.  A key factor in mediation is that the process is entered into voluntarily and both parties agree to work with an independent and experienced mediator, who helps the parties to work out how to resolve the dispute. 

Unlike litigation, adjudication and arbitration where a decision is imposed on the parties by the relevant tribunal, mediation firmly puts the decision-making power to resolve the dispute in the hands of the parties involved.

The Guide’s authors believe that mediations are likely to result in a settlement because of the mediation process. It is widely accepted that the success rate is well over 75%.

“We know that around 38 per cent of disputes are between subcontractors and their main contractors, and around 35 per cent are between employers and their main contractors. Taken together, these two categories account for over 70 per cent of all construction related disputes. 

“Published research estimates the cost of construction disputes in the UK to be around twenty-six million pounds.  That is a huge amount of money going to waste.  We believe that mediation is a pathway that construction clients, contractors and their supply chains should sign up to.  We hope this Mediation Guide will start conversations that mean less construction disputes end up in court, adjudication or arbitration”, said Alan Tate, Partner, Michelmores.

The Mediation Guide sets out a clear seven-stage process; from referral and agreement to mediate, through to final agreement of issues or a way forward.  It allows all parties to preserve on-going working relationships and provides more flexibility than other pathways for dispute resolution, including taking issues to court. Uniquely the Guide contains a “toolbox” of documents that help to get the process underway and offers a model form of settlement agreement.

The Guide’s authors are Christopher Reeves, plus Chris Hoar - partner at Michelmores, Stephen Homer - partner at Ashfords, and Alan Tate - then partner at Trowers & Hamlin (now partner at Michelmores). The Guide has also received support from Bevan Brittan, Blake Morgan, Clarke Willmott, Foot Anstey, Osborne Clarke, Royds Withy King, Stephens Scown and Veale Wasborough Vizards.

The Guide was created following an initial collaboration between Christopher Reeves with Jackie Gregory-Stevens, who is Head of Commercial – Major Projects at Babcock International Group.  Jackie shared her own research, including the published paper, “Mediation in construction disputes in England”.  The project was then presented to Construction Excellence South West, who agreed to support the Guide. 

Constructing Excellence South West supports and encourages the use of mediation as a process of resolving disputes.

For more information please contact Alan Tate, Partner in the Construction & Engineering team, on alan.tate@michelmores.com​ or +44 (0)117 906 9313.