DoE project searches for ADR answers

A senior London university lecturer commissioned by the Government to examine the highly adversarial construction industry has accused lawyers of preferring courtroom battles to alternative dispute resolution.

Nicholas Gould, a senior lecturer in Westminster University's Construction, Housing and Surveying department, says that lawyers often take disputes out of their clients' hands. This, he claims, can result in expensive court battles that can last several years.

“The big question is whether perhaps ADR is something the legal profession would rather ignore,” he said.

Gould is working alongside Phillip Capper, a partner at Masons, and Giles Dixon, a partner at Nabarro Nathanson, in a Department of the Environment funded project to be completed by December 1997.

Thousands of construction bosses and lawyers will be sent questionnaires, and a range of dispute resolutions will be examined to see which are the most efficient in saving time and money.

Simmons & Simmons partner Robert Bryan said that while there was a growing support for ADR there was still a lot of ignorance about it in the legal community.

He added that while ADR could mean less time for lawyers in the courtroom it would mean happier clients who would want to use the same firm in the future.

The Housing Grants Construction and Regeneration Act, which comes into force next year, signals the beginning of ADR implementation, with every party involved in a construction contract having the statutory right to seek mandatory adjudication.