Rémi Sala took the leap from planning to consulting, and hasn’t looked back since. Here, he talks about the world of dispute resolution, and how it opened up his working world.

Tell me about your background.

After qualifying as a Civil Engineer in 2009, I started on the New Tyne Crossing project in Newcastle as Environmental Officer. When the planner left for another project, I was offered the opportunity to take over his role. I then worked on multidisciplinary turnkey projects and civil engineering projects as planner and project controls engineer, until 2016, when I decided to move to consultancy.

What inspires you in your job?

I am inspired by the people I work with and the projects we get involved on. I find working with Delay Experts interesting and stimulating. I have had the opportunity to work with different experts since I joined last year, and I am always impressed by their skills and the quality of their work.

All experts use different approaches to answer the questions put before them, so there is always something to learn.

We get involved on a variety of projects including highways, power stations, commercial and residential buildings. We cover a wide spectrum of projects and disciplines, so as a consultant, it always feels like working on something new, there is no sensation of ‘project fatigue’ that can be experienced on long-term construction projects. I find professional satisfaction in realising that our work has a direct impact on the outcome of the dispute for our client. Considering the ‘eye-watering’ amounts at stake in large construction disputes, an expert report can make a significant difference towards resolution in the fairest possible way.

Describe a typical day in your role.

It is difficult to describe what a typical day looks like because changes happen at very short notice in the world of dispute resolution. When we are commissioned to work on a new project, there is usually an initial meeting with our client and their lawyers, followed by handover of documentation and a period of analysis. Sometimes, a site visit is also required to get a good understanding of the project. Within a few weeks, the preliminary findings are discussed with the client before the final report is produced. However, disputes can settle as quickly as they arise, so our involvement on projects often changes at very short notice.

When not involved on a project, we are encouraged to take part in business development activities such as informal gatherings and business meals with contacts within the construction and construction law industry. I also regularly attend training courses, seminars and conferences, they are great opportunities to learn and meet new people.

What is your speciality, and how did it become so?

From my experience as a planner on a variety of construction projects, I gained skills in using planning softwares, such as Primavera P6 and Microsoft Project. I am also able to understand construction sequences and analyse causes and effects of delays using my previous experience on live projects.

What do you think has been the reason for your success?

I always endeavour to be thorough and consistent. I believe it is key in order to enable the expert I am assisting to rely on work provided as an input for the overall analysis and for the report. I am always mindful of leaving an audit trail and presenting information and data in the clearest possible way.

The ultimate goal is to provide maximum clarity on a complex and technical matter, and assist in the resolution of the dispute.

What advice would you give to Planners looking to make the move into dispute resolution?

Before moving into dispute resolution I was told that it would not be the right time and I needed more experience as a planner before considering forensic analysis. I have had the opportunity to confirm that it is not the case.

In fact, it is quite the opposite. I believe the opportunities to develop are much greater in dispute resolution and forensic analysis. I often felt like I was ‘stagnating’ in my roles as planner and project control engineer, with no perspective of evolution in the short to medium term. As a consultant in delay analysis, I am always looking forward, I need to be creative and find new ways to analyse problems and find answers. Because experts delegate part of the analysis to their assistants and they rely on their input in their reports, there is a great sense of responsibility and exposure.

My impression is that the delay analysis and construction law community is quite exclusive. It is a ‘small world’ that many project planners are unaware of. Working with lawyers, developers and contractors is a very different experience compared to working on a live construction project on a daily basis. I would recommend anyone to experience it given the opportunity.

Forensic analysis may require a certain mind set, but the qualities needed are similar to the ones required to be a good project planner. I strongly believe all project planners should have a degree of awareness of delay analysis and dispute resolution because it is highly likely they will face time-related disputes at some stage during their career as planners. Moving to dispute resolution is a great opportunity for a planner at any stage of their career, and should one decide to return to project planning, the forensic analysis skills acquired are very desirable and they would allow them stand out among project planning professional. So, in any case, moving to dispute resolution is an opportunity and not a risk from a career development perspective.

Interested in a Career at HKA?

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Laura Forbes
Global Communications Executive

Filed in Our People by Laura Forbes. 1 comments
  • Justin James
    January 5th, 2018 at 8:20 am

    Spot on. This is what all planners need to know. The dispute resolution awareness is the need of the hour for all.