Jonathan Brooks is a partner in the law firm, Osborne Clarks. In this quick interview, he gives us the benefit of his 15+ years experience of advising on NEC.
How did you first get involved in NEC ?
About 15 years ago as a legal practitioner when the government was promoting its use.
We initially acted for some public authorities, getting real hands-on experience. These days we act for energy utilities and contractors doing public sector work and a significant volume of our work is under the NEC. It has got far greater traction and use than many expected.
What do you love about NEC3 ?
In terms of what I do for a living, the NEC creates a disproportionate number of issues because people still don’t understand it and how to use it properly. I don’t understand why, but people still seem surprised by, or have limited experience of, what NEC requires them to do and make the same mistakes !
Personally, I like the fact that it is easy to read and very proactive.
What is your best war story ?
I have quite a few, but actually all of them come back to what is not written in the NEC (which I think is understandable and self explanatory), but what is in the Works Information. It comes down to the Works Information not being prescriptive enough about what is to be built or how it is to be built or inconsistences within the WI – and that is human error.
What would you say to an NEC3 newbee practitioner ?
Think very carefully before you use it: there seems to be a lot of employers using NEC3 because they think they ought to or because they think it sends out a good message to the supply chain that they will be cooperative, trusting and proactive etc. That’s brilliant, if you have actually thought what that means for your business in terms of resources, in terms of programming, the quality of the team and the need to adequately resource your team.
As an example, I gave seminar for a contractor bidding for a four year NEC3 Term Services Contract. The commercial team hadn't thought through the requirements of the programme and the ability to set out what information was required by certain dates. Their commercial director’s face lit up when he realised therewas an opportunity to safeguard the contractor's position but adding in caveats, and requirements in their plan. , However, in the end, they didn’t put a tender in because they didn’t have the resource to prepare that plan !
What would improve on your next project ?
See the previous answer! I can guarantee on a failing NEC project that the programme is not comprehensive and that’s both because the Contractor has not submitted a programme that contains the original information let alone updated it to show early warnings and implemented compensation events and the Project Manager might well have accepted it. The project then goes off the tracks, because the commercial guys on each side can’t see what the parameters are for delivering the project efficiently or for doing a deal.
What change would you most like to see in NEC4 ?
Not much actually, because it does work if people work it.
How would others describe you in ten words ?
Very commercial, thinks outside of the box and irreverent … I suspect. I know I have a dry sense of humour: I couldn’t imagine being anything apart from a construction lawyer. In the construction sector you can have a bit of fun.
What is the best bit of advice you have got in your career so far ?
Always take advice !
Jonathan Brooks is a partner in the law firm Osborne Clarks, with over 20 years construction law experience. He acts on behalf of employers, contractors, sub-contractors and consultants doing advisory work and dispute resolution, including arbitration, adjudication and mediation procedures. Most of his work is related to NEC in some way. He can be contacted on +44 117 917 3462 / +44 7785 950070 or at email@example.com