Level 3, Three Pacific Place, 1 Queen's Rd East, Hong Kong
Graham McNeill garners widespread plaudits as "a very pragmatic and intelligent expert" who impresses peers with his extensive experience in commercial management and risk analysis.
Graham McNeill is a managing director and global head of the expert services practice for Kroll. He has broad experience in quantity surveying, dispute management, dispute resolution and litigation support across multiple sectors, working internationally. Graham is recognised by WWL as a Quantum Expert “Global Elite Thought Leader” and “top-class expert who is highly respected in the international markets”. He is also cited for his “very comprehensive and well-reasoned report” and his “excellent performance on the stand”.
How have your early career experiences influenced your practice in the present day?
I was very focused on gaining well-rounded experience as early and quickly as possible. This meant working for contractors, employers and then subsequently consultancies to ensure that I was then able to offer my clients a balanced opinion. Being able to advise clients either as an independent expert or advisor with “hands on, live” experience has been invaluable when developing my own profile and indeed that of the wider practice.
You are widely acclaimed as one of the world’s premier accounting construction quantum experts. What have you done differently to earn this reputation?
I think I would rather consider this as doing something correctly, as opposed to differently. Behaving in an independent and impartial manner and acting with integrity in my work and indeed when managing the various practices I have been responsible for has most certainly helped. To act as a credible expert witness you simply have to know your report and ensure that the opinions you have drawn are genuinely your own. All too aften experts view their roles as “points scoring” over their opposing expert. The best preparation for a hearing is to work collaboratively with your opposing expert and ensure you collectively provide the tribunal or the judge with your opinion. Before submitting my report I will challenge my own opinions to ensure that what I am saying is independent, and that I am not simply advocating my appointing solicitor’s case. My support team is also invaluable in the preparation for any international commission. They assist in document review and ensure I have visibility of all relevant information from both parties.
In your spare time, you have actively contributed to several consulting expert forums and been chairman of the Society of Construction Law (Hong Kong branch). How important are these forums for the exchange of knowledge and skills between practitioners?
I have always been an advocate of any forums which bring together practicing professionals with a view to developing best practice. Any profession (or professional) that stands still is in essence moving backwards. I have always found it helpful to collaborate with others and explore how we can improve as a firm and/or industry.
You are reputed for your ability to distil complex ideas to tribunals. What is your key to communicating clearly without unnecessary loss of precision?
It is a given that an “expert” must know his/her area of expertise from a technical perspective. Conveying that in a succinct and easily understood manner is an essential skill. Less is more in many instances. As an expert I try and focus on the real areas of dispute between the parties and ensure I provide a balanced opinion on those issues I am instructed on. I think experts tend to over complicate certain issues, which in turn leads them to straying from their area of expertise. Keep it simple.
What leadership skills are key to succeeding as a managing director at leading institutions like Kroll and the Big Four firms? How best can younger practitioners go about starting to hone these skills
Being ahead of the curve and open to new challenges are two key areas that future leaders need to focus on. To succeed as future construction leaders the young practitioners must differentiate themselves and upskill to address the challenges above. Practitioners must be familiar with the new digital age, AI, commercial software systems, 3D printing, modular construction, BIM etc are our future. Current practitioners are by and large unfamiliar with this new technology. The next generation will develop a different skill set which reflects the digital transformation we are experiencing. Gone are the days of the scale rule, thankfully!
Practitioners often cite the importance of being calm and direct during cross-examinations. Why is that difficult to pull off and what methods do you personally use?
We all have our roles to play in arbitration / litigation. The client and legal team are there to “win” their case. I am always mindful of my role and duty which is to the tribunal or court. Whilst we all of course want to secure a positive result and do our very best for our clients I feel that honesty and integrity when giving your opinion will allow you to stay calm and limit the opportunity for aggressive cross-examination. If counsel identify a mistake, accept it as just that and move on. Do not try and justify an error, but equally be strong enough to have conviction in your own opinion. Experience in the box also enables an expert to react (or not) appropriately. Experienced counsel will often try to unsettle you. They will pick on the smallest of errors or issues within your report to try to criticise you. I always ensure that I know my report and that all findings and opinions are indeed my own. Whilst counsel can criticise or attack your opinion, as long as it’s based on the correct factual matrix it cannot be “wrong”.