Caroline McDermott

An interview in our series, 'Spotlighting Adjudicators'

Caroline McDermott

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

I am a chartered quantity surveyor and worked in main contracting delivering all types of civil engineering, remediation, and power generation projects onsite across Scotland.  The Scottish construction market is a fast-paced environment and due to the nature of the site and the changing climate often means projects face quite complex and challenging ground and site conditions which have to be carefully managed. As a contracting surveyor you must have a strong understanding of construction and alternative technologies so that commercial opportunity and risk can be identified and managed. It is said that the success of a project is determined by whether the earthworks programme was delivered well, and broadly, I think this is about right and why, taking sufficient lead-in time to perform site investigation and exploratory works before commencing construction can really aid management of design, construction and cost for the employer and contractor.

Now, I work in consultancy where my working week is made up of quantum expert appointments,  providing commercial advice on distressed projects, supporting clients to resolve or progress disputes and providing adjudication support services. 

How in your view has adjudication changed over your career?

The introduction of low value dispute schemes has meant that adjudication has, rightly,  become much more accessible to those further down the supply chain who are often the parties most in need of adjudication to resolve issues in the application of contract terms, obtaining payment for works performed and when due.  

There has also been much work done in recent years to encourage people to train as an adjudicator. However, much more needs to be done to encourage greater uptake in the professions, otherwise, diversity in construction and therefore adjudication will be limited. Working in the construction industry is one of the most valuable and interesting careers and yet it faces a real skill crisis.  Improving safety records, investing in promoting the benefits of working in construction and explaining the various roles and professions to those in school and higher education can only contribute to an improved perception of the UK construction industry. Over the course of time, this ought to lead to greater diversity of the skills, characteristics and knowledge of practicing adjudicators and this can only be welcomed. 

What advice would you give to 'new' adjudicators?

I am relatively new to practicing as an adjudicator and part of the cohort of individuals who have faced the challenge of obtaining various qualifications, training, applications and interviews and at significant cost. It can seem, at times, to be never ending. However, it serves a valid purpose – the implications for parties and projects receiving an adjudicator’s decision can be significant and so for the benefit of the parties, adjudicator and the service it is right that those practicing are well tested on their knowledge and experience before being able to materially act. So, my advice would be to keep going and to keep in mind the adage – this too shall pass!