460 Alexandra Road, 22-05 mTower
119963, Singapore, Singapore
Top-class practitioner Jon Prudhoe is described by commentators as “a leader in his field” who is “knowledgeable, very experienced, and well regarded by other experts”.
Jon Prudhoe has over 35 years of professional experience in the construction and engineering sectors. Based in Asia for over 20 years, he is one of the few experts, worldwide, equally capable of opining on matters of quantum and delay. With an extensive portfolio of expert appointments, including many of the Middle East's, Australia's, and Asia’s most high-profile and complex disputes, Jon’s experience in numerous sectors has made him one of the most highly sought-after construction expert witnesses in those regions.
What do you enjoy most about your role as a testifying expert?
What I enjoy most about being appointed as an expert is the variety of disputes that I have the opportunity to be involved with. Currently I’m appointed on matters arising on large infrastructure projects, power and process plants, retail developments, and resource projects, as well as ship repair and conversion disputes.
I also find that analysing and finding a way to present complex issues in a clear and concise manner often brings the most satisfaction. My role allows me to make observations and offer opinions on technical matters that provide the decision maker with the best opportunity of reaching the “right” answer to the dispute. In contentious proceedings, this will involve working with the opposing expert to reach agreements based on well-explained, reasoned conclusions. A robust analysis that is thorough and well-presented always assists the process of reaching agreement.
Since you began participating in arbitration proceedings, how would you say the role of the expert witness has developed?
A change I’ve noticed over the years is the use of the terms “dirty expert” and “clean expert” in some regions of the world. A dirty expert is someone who has assisted a party by preparing a claim and is therefore partisan. It’s another label for a claims’ consultant. “Clean expert” is the term being applied to the independent, non-partisan expert. The problem with this terminology is that there is an overuse of the term “expert” or “expert appointment” in individuals’ CVs making it difficult for clients and lawyers to determine who truly has the experience required to provide independent opinion.
An area that doesn’t seem to have changed as much as I would have expected is the diversity of experts. It is true that are more female expert witnesses now than a decade ago, but there’s scope for there to be more appointments. There are three excellent female quantum expert witnesses in our Singapore office (and less then 50% of my team is male). I’m trying hard to ensure they have the appropriate opportunity to progress their careers as experts.
What are the qualities that, in your opinion, are important in an arbitration expert witness?
In addition to obvious qualities such as honesty, integrity, and tenacity, the expert must have sound technical knowledge and specific experience relevant to the dispute.
To be effective, the expert must be open minded and ready to consider alternative methodologies to those on which their own opinions are based. After having taken into account opposing opinions, the expert needs to be confident in his or her findings in order to deal with the intense scrutiny of cross-examination. An effective expert needs to be able to remain calm when giving evidence and this is only possible if they are well prepared before the hearing and know every aspect of their report thoroughly, so they aren’t caught off guard.
Finally, the expert must be fully aware of and comply with their duty to the tribunal to be independent. Some experts still fail to adhere to this and an experienced tribunal can usually recognise biased opinion.
What are the advantages of having diverse geographical and sector experience? What benefits does it deliver to clients?
Clients often have a preference for an expert that has experience of projects in particular locations or involving parties from specific countries. This is because there are nuaunces and ways of working that would not be immediately obvious to those without this background knowledge. Sector experience is understandably a requirement for most clients. There are inherent problem areas that can be specific to a particular type of project. A sector-experienced expert knows where to look and can more easily identify when an opposing expert is focussing on less relevant issues in an attempt to “muddy the water”.
In what ways is arbitration becoming greener? Do experts also have a role to play in this transformation?
Obviously virtual meetings and hearings have become much more the norm during the Covid-19 pandemic. I have even undertaken site inspections by drone, so my carbon footprint has certainly reduced in the last two years. Whether or not an expert needs to travel during the course of an arbitration is usually dictated by the counsel or client.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in advisory and dispute resolution services?
In the construction arena, they must first of all have several years experience of working in the industry before moving into an advisory role or pursuing a career as an expert. Dispute resolution experience can, and often is, initially gained whilst working in industry. This gives the individual a taste of what is to come should they decide to move into an advisory or consultancy role.