ON CONTRACTS AND CONSTRUCTION LAW PRINCIPLES
An appreciation by Phillip Taylor MBE and Elizabeth Taylor of Richmond Green Chambers
There is no question that Cyril Chern is expert Counsel in many aspects of both academic law and what we loosely call `Construction' at least as far as the Bar is concerned when handling disputes.
Even the Preface to `The Law of Construction Disputes' in Informa's `Construction Practice Series' gives the reader a flavour of what is to come with the anecdote from a former Commonwealth colony court (no names!) which sets out the genesis of the book- not just the `rule' but the reasons for the rule when queried by a testy judge which we have all been in front of... and was even prominent in a film 60 years ago - `Brothers-in-Law' - as the old judge does actually help out a new barrister in the formidable Official Referee's Court dealing with a `Scott Schedule' which Counsel (Ian Carmichael) appeared to have never heard of!
Cyril Chern is well known to Informa readers for his expertise and this work handsomely creates in just 600 pages an analysis of the most recurring questions and points of law arising in construction disputes. It's a book which one would often like to have had when a particular point is disputed at the last moment in court. Now we have something which covers the entire spectrum of this area of law mixing the theory and the practice neatly in one volume.
One aspect of dispute work at the Construction Bar is often the short point which requires a quick reason. To fulfil that requirement, Chern has detailed research of a very high standard which is explained with ease for the harassed barrister.
There are 15 chapters and 16 Appendices in this book which is seriously needed by the Construction Bar together with its colleague title `Remedies' recently written by the "ter Haas" team. Chern's statement of practice, with an excellent bit of history at the beginning, contains the practical elements of what we need to tell the clients in a construction dispute- what can I get from this case and is it strong enough? It's especially relevant when negotiating a settlement which can occur quite frequently in this specialist area of law, sometimes when the case is part heard because of the way the evidence has gone.
For the newly initiated, start the book with the excellent glossary at Appendix 1 which is worth turning to first, then take a look at the detailed index for what you are looking for. The sparking commentary throughout is a great bonus for this essential reference book for a Construction Bar set and to refresh one's memory.
The book starts well with a description of what we do at the Construction Bar- in general we cover building, engineering and technology projects with particular detail made to standard forms of contract although most disputes arise out of or in respect of construction projects themselves. The term is quite loose today as it covers a number of linked substantive law areas and the remedies available in them. Chern goes at quite a pace to highlight the common problems and he succeeds.
It's worth looking at chapter 15 on `key issues in dispute resolution' because there are some very handy hints on how the courts may well be viewing the timetable of proceedings in the future. Throughout, the author has useful page sub titles at the top of each right hand page so you can find what you can find what you are looking for.
Chern also sets out a great case for handling the thorny issue of remedies with intelligent use of authorities throughout but the book is not designed to cover or include a whole range of problems in commercial construction projects, but gives a welcome identification to the complexities of the dispute, and much detail to the areas that are likely to be of interest when running all aspects of your case so it's very much Cyril Chern's creative commentary on construction contracts for 21st century.