Andrew Rush, a former civil engineer, leads the construction and engineering team at Birketts
The construction and engineering team at Birketts is one of the biggest outside of London, with three partners, 17 fee-earners and four paralegals. The team is led by Andrew Rush, a former civil engineer. The team is based in all four of our East Anglian offices, and works for all parties involved in the construction and engineering industry, from funders and developers through to main contractors, trade contractors, suppliers, manufacturers and professionals. It is one of the few areas of law where solicitors can be involved in both transactional and dispute work.
Construction and engineering law divides into two basic types.
Firstly, legal advice relating to development or engineering transactions, where our involvement is the drafting of and negotiation of contracts, funding agreements, and all other forms of ancillary documentation that sit alongside such transactions, such as guarantees, sub-contracts, professional appointments and collateral warranties to name but a few.
Secondly, legal advice relating to all forms of dispute resolution. This covers litigation, arbitration, adjudication (see below), mediation in all levels of the court system from County Courts, High Courts and on rare occasions the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court.
The team acts for a range of funders and developers from mainstream lenders and large regional developers to more bespoke funding bodies and one-off developers. Around 40% of the team’s work is on the non-contentious side, with the team over the last few years building a reputation for working with mid-size developers in London as well as in the Eastern region. Trainees are encouraged to get directly involved in the drafting of contract documents and negotiating such documents, while being supervised by one of the more experienced members of the team.
All commercial construction contracts in England and Wales are subject to adjudication. This is a quick-fire form of dispute resolution (often referred to as rough and ready) where the time taken for an enforceable decision to be reached is typically just over a month. As a team we specialise in this form of dispute resolution, now being by far the most typical way parties to construction contracts resolve payment disputes. It involves intense periods of work over a short period of time where every person involved (including trainees) is liaising with the client, experts (where appropriate) and generally working to tight deadlines. It relates to all types of construction dispute. As well as adjudication the team is involved at any one time in a number of High Court proceedings and/or arbitrations,
where trainees can be expected to get involved in all aspects of the dispute resolution process.
Overview of the team
The team has an ethos of grafting hard and laughing hard. There is a fantastic spirit in the team, with everyone constantly looking to go that extra mile for the client while enjoying the ride. Over the past five years, six trainees have qualified into the team straight from completing their training contracts. This shows the ethos of the team.
What makes a good construction lawyer?
So what makes a good construction lawyer? As ever, attention to detail and organisation. To be a non-contentious construction lawyer you need great organisational skills and an ability to get the deal done. To be a contentious construction lawyer, a willingness to argue hard – perhaps even at times being a good actor – can always come in useful. Above all, law is all about clients. All lawyers (construction is no different) need to be able to develop client relationships by being personable, genuine and easy to get on with.
Birketts is a Top 100 law firm, based in East Anglia, with over 680 staff including 68 partners. We advise businesses, institutions and private individuals across the full range of legal services. While we are based in East Anglia, we have a national reputation for several areas of our practice. In 2019 we were awarded Transport Firm of the Year (outside London) by the Legal 500 Awards; won the Law Firm of the Year: The Independents – Regional Award at the Lawyer Awards; and have been shortlisted for out of London Firm of the Year by the Chambers High Net Worth Awards.