Trevor Pettigrew-Smith

An interview in our series, 'Spotlighting Adjudicators'

Trevor Pettigrew-Smith

What were you, professionally, before you started work as an Adjudicator?

I worked as a quantity surveyor from the first day I left school, working my way up from a trainee in a professional quantity surveying practice to becoming a project quantity surveyor for a national contractor.  

My interest in dispute resolution started in the 1990s when the project I was working on finished up in arbitration. This was my first time in the witness box. From then on, I have been working on construction claims. I decided my first dispute as the adjudicator in 2003.  To further my interest in construction law I completed the LLM in Construction Law in 2005. I now act as both an adjudicator and quantum expert.

How in your view has adjudication changed over your career?

From the early days, when a lack of understanding of adjudication resulted in the Referring Party before me wrongly thinking it was the Responding Party that served the Referral Notice, and I had to explain the adjudication process to both Parties, adjudication has come a long way. Parties are knowledgeable about adjudication and there is a wealth of case law that has refined adjudication. 

Adjudication has evolved to become the method of choice for resolving both simple and complex disputes within the construction industry. Though adjudication is quick, and the decision is only temporarily binding, most adjudicator’s decisions are not challenged in arbitration or court, and the adjudicator’s decision becomes the final determination of the dispute. Therefore, it is important that the parties have confidence in their adjudicator.

The exchange of documents electronically has made the adjudication process quicker and environmentally friendly. The downside is that it is too easy to add more electronic documents, making submissions voluminous. Care needs to be taken to ensure that submissions are focussed to maintain the speed of the adjudication process.  

‘Smash and Grab’ adjudications, where the Referring Party seeks payment of the sum applied for because the Responding Party has failed to serve a valid payment or payless notice, and failed to pay the sum due, have added to the number of adjudications now taking place. They were not part of the original purpose of adjudication, but stemmed from changes to the payment provisions in Section 143 of the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009.

The real benefit of adjudication remains the quick resolution of disputes.

What advice would you give to 'new' adjudicators?

Getting your foot on the first rung of the ladder is always the hardest part of becoming an adjudicator. Once you get your first adjudication the real learning begins, and we are all still learning.

I now mentor new adjudicators, which is a good way for new adjudicators to gain experience without being on the front line of an adjudication.  

Learning to work with the Parties is the best way to make an adjudication run smoothly.  But remember, as an adjudicator you are in charge and ultimately have to make a decision.