The adjudication process moves quickly. Whether you are making or defending a claim, it is important to deal with the process efficiently. Using the process efficiently has several benefits, including, producing more robust, focused and cross-referenced adjudication documentation together with time and cost savings.

There is awareness amongst those involved in construction disputes that having contemporaneous documentation is vital. However, it is important that the documentation is accessible and filed in a logical file structure. Many contractors and sub-contractors have very sophisticated document management systems while others may use less sophisticated systems. From our perspective, no matter what system is used, a few basic steps can make the process of reviewing documentation more efficient. Given the tight timeframes in the adjudication process, perhaps documentation management in adjudication is more important than other forms of alternative dispute resolution.

The time to ensure that documentation is safely stored and easily found starts from the very beginning of a project. If a dispute arises time can be saved in retrieving the relevant documentation with efforts directed towards more substantive issues. As you will be aware, the Society of Construction Law published the second edition of the Delay and Disruption Protocol in 2017. Appendix B thereof, sets out the typical categories of documentation that should be kept for a project and the sub-categories of documentation falling within each category. These include:

  1. Programme records;
  2. Progress records;
  3. Resource records;
  4. Cost records;
  5. Correspondence and administration records; and
  6. Contract and tender documentation.

Storing and filing your documentation into the above categories can bring efficiency in the adjudication process. For example, if an independent expert is required to assess an extension of time claim, programme and progress records can be easily located and transferred. Similarly, if a claim relates to prolongation costs, the cost records are available.

When we are preparing adjudication documentation, there are also a few other simple steps that can be taken by our clients during the course of the project to make the adjudication process and submissions more efficient, including:

  1. Providing a brief narrative regarding what the instructing party considers are the central issues together with a brief chronology of relevant events.
  2. When communicating with the other party during the lifetime of the project, it is advisable to start a new email chain for each topic of discussion. For example, if a party sends an email in January regarding topic ‘A’ and the other party replies to that email in May regarding topic ‘B,’ this may cause confusion and takes additional time to reconcile the correspondence.
  3. Each email should contain a clear reference in the subject line regarding the content of the email. Again, this saves time when reviewing correspondence possibly years later.
  4. Sometimes the name given to a file can be confusing and inconsistent. For example, a PDF progress report file might be named ‘January report2024’ while the next month may be named ‘feb progress report’ and so on. Obviously, many organisations have their own internal file naming convention. Whatever that convention is, it is important to use it consistently. A system that we have seen used with good effect is to name files as follows ’24.01.25 Progress Report.’ As the files are named by reference to date in YYMMDD format, the files appear in chorological order in folders, which simplifies the review process significantly. Therefore, from looking at the file name in this example, a reviewer can tell that the document is a progress report dated, 25 January 2024. Similarly, letter correspondence named as follows ’24.01.25 Letter X to Y’ is useful. Further, when a party receives correspondence, it is worth renaming the correspondence into this format so that all correspondence can be easily located.
  5. File names should be kept to a reasonable length. In the past we have seen adjudicators unable to download certain files because they have encountered file path length issues. This leads to additional communications with the adjudicator in question trying to establish, which file has caused the problem. To resolve the issue the file in question must be renamed with the shorter file name.
  6. Where relevant discussion on an issue is referred to in minutes of meetings, progress reports or the like, it is very useful to indicate to us the relevant paragraphs and extracts. In this way time is saved.
  7. If possible, witness statements and exhibits should be finalised and signed in advance of the submission date. We appreciate that this may not be possible. However, on the date of a submission large amounts of email traffic is generated between us, our client, witnesses and experts, all with the aim of finalising the submission to be made. By having witness statements finalised in advance, reduces the risk of human error, for example, attaching a previous version of a witness statement to the submission.
  8. Similarly, having witness statements at an advanced stage helps independent experts prepare their reports allowing them to cross-reference to the witness statement.
  9. Where possible it is advisable that witness statements are not cross-referenced to each other. For example, if witness ‘A’ states that they are in agreement with a particular section of another witness’s statement and later that other witness removes or changes that part of the statement, this leads to a further re-working of witness A’s statement.

If files and folders are structured in the above way (or similar), the process of preparing for or defending an adjudication is more efficient. Further, a more focused submission is possible in the tight adjudication timeframe, which includes the relevant supporting documentation for the issues to hand, thus making the adjudicator’s task easier.

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Photo of Paul Hughes Paul Hughes

Paul Hughes is a senior associate in A&L Goodbody’s Construction & Engineering group. Paul has extensive experience in construction disputes and acts for employers, contractors and sub-contractors across multiple sectors, including, civil engineering, residential, commercial, educational, refurbishment, repair and maintenance and energy. Paul…

Paul Hughes is a senior associate in A&L Goodbody’s Construction & Engineering group. Paul has extensive experience in construction disputes and acts for employers, contractors and sub-contractors across multiple sectors, including, civil engineering, residential, commercial, educational, refurbishment, repair and maintenance and energy. Paul has expertise in disputes concerning extensions of time, loss and expense, defects, variations, payments, final accounts, true valuations, termination and asbestos. Paul has experience of dealing with disputes arising under the standard forms of contract, including, JCT, NEC, FIDIC, PWC & RIAI and ancillary agreements. Paul holds a PhD (Law) and is a solicitor in both Ireland and England and Wales. He is also a Fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (FRICS), the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland (FSCSI), the Chartered Institution of Civil Engineering Surveyors (FCInstCES) and the Chartered Institution of Arbitrators (FCIArb).