Sean Smylie

An interview in our series, 'Spotlighting Adjudicators'

Sean Smylie

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

My entire career has been spent in construction, working mainly on the contracting side of the industry. I earned my stripes working on site for main contractors in various commercial management roles and also qualified as a chartered quantity surveyor. Ultimately, I progressed to a board position for a national contractor. I was very fortunate to work on some very challenging and interesting construction and engineering projects and with some very talented and dedicated individuals.

My involvement in disputes developed my interest in legal and contractual matters and led to me studying for an LLB and MSc in Construction Law and ultimately a move into dispute resolution. These days I practice principally as an adjudicator and quantum expert. I have always played an active role in the industry and that now includes being Vice Chairman of the JCT, so I know the standard forms pretty well.

How in your view has adjudication changed over your career?

Adjudication had changed significantly since coming into force in May of 1998. In those days it was a new and unfamiliar process with laudable ambitions about maintaining cash flow and envisaged rough and ready justice to secure the same. In those early days everyone was learning, and adjudication was evolving with each and every decision of the courts.

Now 25 years later and with the benefit of literally hundreds of decisions from the courts including the Supreme Court, adjudication is a much more sophisticated process served by experienced practitioners and experts.

Adjudicators have to be much more adept at managing the process, corralling the parties and their advisors to ensure that the process is not derailed or disrupted, with the over-riding objective of providing an enforceable decision within the prescribed time period.

What advice would you give to 'new' adjudicators?

It can be a solitary existence as an adjudicator. The first few decisions will be tough as you're new to the role. Having an experienced mentor is immensely useful and the ability to be able to ‘phone a friend’ to discuss difficult issues and sense check your thinking is invaluable, However, it is your decision, and you have to make that decision on your own. Remember the experience you have gained in the industry and have confidence in your ability to do the job.