Varied clients Many construction cases can broadly be categorised into disputes over defects and regulatory work, as she illustrates: “In the former category, my recent cases have been about electrifying power lines and defective compaction of ground on housing developments. On the regulatory side, I recently had a toilet case about the compliance of pans and cisterns withwater regulations – I think I must have read six different definitions of what toilets are for, whenmost peoplewould say their purpose is quite obvious,” she laughs. “Clients vary,” she continues, “but can range frommultinational listed construction companies that are themain contractors for very international large projects, right down to a domestic householder who has had an extension installed into their property that has become defective.” In any construction project, there is a chain of people involved, as Katie explains: “At the top of the chain are often the developers financing the project, for example, a 20-storey hotel. This requires a development agreement, which is then essentially subcontracted out, perhaps to a person or organisationwith an interest in the landwho then becomes the employer on the project. The employer typically hires amain contractor to design and build the project and the contractor, in turn, will engage architects. Works will then be further subcontracted to specialists who provide plumbing, heating, electrics and all the other elements of the development. With somany contractual levels and parties involved in any given project, there is high potential for disputes to arise.” Despite the complexity of the contractual arrangements needed to bring projects to fruition, Katie says the causes of disputes are oftenmore prosaic: “Oftenwhat happens is that someone involved at the bottomhasmessed up and thematter gets passed up and up the chain. This can be a serious problembecause there is
Contentious constructionwork involves the resolution of disputes byway of litigation, mediation, adjudication or arbitration. Non-contentiouswork involves drafting and negotiating contracts and advising on projects, insurance, health and safety, environmental matters and insolvency. Clients range from industry associations, insurers, contractors, architects, engineers, public authorities and government bodies to major companies and partnerships. When her first set didn’t take her on as a tenant after pupillage, KatieLee took the routeofmany junior barristers andmoved to a newchambers todo a third six. This time, tenancy followed and she set about developingher practice.Within a coupleof years, shewas headhuntedby Gatehouse, a leadingLondon set specialising in construction andcommercial work, aswell as related fields such as insurance andproperty law. Today Katie is growing in seniority and her practice consists of around 80%construction lawand 20%general commercial work. “In construction, the nature of your practice depends on your level of seniority, as well as the chambers you are at,” she explains. “When I was starting out at my first chambers, a large proportion of my work was in teams led by senior barristers on large international arbitrations and domestic cases. At my next chambers, I did a lot of my own small cases, whichwas good because I couldmakemy own early successes – andmistakes. You develop an understanding of the courts, the judges and how it all works, and gain experience of cross- examinationmuch earlier than youwould by working on larger cases as a junior. I was a bit more senior by the point that I moved across toGatehouse; now I am in court around once amonth and spendmuchmore time on paper- based advices and pleadings. There is a large amount of adjudication, for example, which is a specialist construction dispute resolution procedure that operates almost exclusively on paper.”
For more chambers that work in this practice area, please use the ‘Pupillage index’.
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