Adjudication for low value disputes
I usually blog on mediation but as a construction lawyer, I frequently get involved in adjudication as a quick method of resolving construction industry disputes. Adjudication is VERY quick for a process in which the parties will get a binding decision from a third party (the adjudicator) - only 28 days. It is also supposed to be cheap and accessible to parties who don't have legal representation.
But during the 20 years that adjudication has been around (at least on a statutory basis for the construction industry), the process has morphed from a quick and dirty, rough and ready, type process. It is now common for parties to instruct solicitors, sometimes even barristers, together with a team of experts. This clearly comes at a cost, and those costs aren't generally recoverable in adjudication, even for the winning party.
Added on to those costs are the costs of the adjudicator him/herself (to be honest, it's usually a 'himself' - this is a topic I will return to in the future!) which are, according to recent research, on average around £10,000.
This is where TeCSA's (the Technology and Construction Solicitors' Association) comes in. TeCSA runs a well-respected panel of adjudicators and has recently run a pilot scheme for adjudicating low value disputes - defined under the pilot as a liquidated sum of less than £100,000 - for a (low) fixed fee.
On Thursday 14th November, I attended the annual TeCSA adjudication conference and was very interested by the summary of this scheme pilot. TeCSA received 23 requests for nomination during the pilot so there’s clearly a ‘market’ for it.
It seems to me like a good way of broadening access to justice in the construction industry but there are obviously potential complications such as the complexity of the disputes referred. Nevertheless it’s good to see a body such as TeCSA trying something new. CIC are introducing a similar scheme next year - the popularity of that will be interesting to see.