Peers and clients say:
"Mike is very practical and excellent"
"He can easily translate complex concepts into simple language for clients"
"Mike is very thorough and produces work that is highly persuasive"
Mike is a chartered quantity surveyor who has over 35 years of experience in the industry and has worked internationally for many years, with the last 20 years being based full-time in Hong Kong. He has extensive experience in procurement and contract strategy, dispute resolution and providing strategic advice to clients on distressed or problem projects. He acts as -a quantum expert witness on a number of construction disputes, for both claimant and respondent, working with major firms of solicitors and barristers.
What led you to become an expert in international arbitration?
My first case was predominantly a feature of circumstances, where I had been working as an expert advisor on a large infrastructure project and the closer we progressed to the need to prepare an expert report, the barrister on the case encouraged me to be the quantum expert. I was told, “don’t worry” 90 percent of all cases settle before a hearing and yet I subsequently found myself three reports later and two joint statements giving evidence in a four week hearing in front of HHJ James Fox-Andrews QC. It was a fascinating experience, and to be honest not one that I was sure I wanted to experience again.
However, on the Monday morning after the case concluded on the Friday of the previous week, I was contacted by the adverse parties solicitors to enquire about taking instructions on a new matter.
Following experience in the UK domestic arbitration, I then progressed to working on matters in Europe and then further afield in the Middle East. This continued on a visiting basis of undertaking international arbitration, until in early 2003 I relocated full time to Hong Kong and have been undertaking both domestic arbitration and international arbitrations from the Hong Kong base.
How do you effectively prepare for a testifying case?
In the first instance one must assume that every matter you are instructed on will proceed to a hearing, which then means that preparing to testify would require a robust series of reports that address the issues of the case. Following this using the opportunity within the expert meetings to compile a helpful joint statement that addresses the issues for the tribunal, is a very important next step after the production of your reports.
Closer to the hearing, this will require the expert to work closely with counsel in considering the issues to be tested under cross examination. This does require careful scrutiny and is a critical part of preparing to testify. There are some other key activities that I undertake, but aside from that there is no doubt that providing clear and helpful evidence is likely to be a product of some very thorough and considered preparation.
What are the best ways of remaining impartial and independent when providing analysis and testimony?
I don’t believe that there is a single component to this, but I have found that by applying a combination of carefully listening to the question, answering the question in a helpful way as well as providing context to any of your answers helps. Making sure you provide the right context or assumption to any answer is also an important component, and above all else you need to continue to be aware that your duty is to assist the tribunal and so any answers must be directed towards the tribunal and do exactly that.
What is the key to succeeding as an expert across multiple arbitration institutions and courts in a wide range of jurisdictions?
You need to carefully consider your instructions and letter of engagement in the first instance, as these will likely set out any procedural or arbitral requirements. In addition to this a careful understanding is required of the jurisdictional requirements of the expert evidence, such that your duty, any protocols, report requirements, expert meeting process and conduct and the related joint statement will be set out. On the occasion that you are unsure of any of this, then I seek instructions to avoid any surprises.
If you could change one thing about giving testimony as an arbitration expert, what would it be and why?
Whilst it is not something that any expert I assume would typically enjoy, I am not sure that anything requires changing, as the objective is to test your evidence and credibility of your opinions. This can only be undertaken by some form of cross examination, but I do find that some counsel are more effective at putting forward questions more succinctly.
More often than not, I do believe that the use of “hot-tubbing” of evidence is a helpful way for the tribunal to hear the testimony of respective experts.
Looking back over your career, what is the most memorable arbitration you have been a part of?
I have had many memorable moments and some of those are for positive and negative reasons, albeit each hearing gives you a learning opportunity, and I must say you really do never stop learning.
I also believe that you need to be willing to expect and accept the unexpected as there has been something that has materialised in every single arbitration I have been involved in.
I have had experiences where on the morning of the hearing the other side have decided not to call me to testify, to an opposing expert not turning up to the hearing, another falling ill and having to withdraw and go to hospital. However, I do consider that your first arbitration is something that always has a special place in your memories and hopefully for the right reasons.
What underrated skills would you encourage the up-and-coming generation of arbitration professionals to develop?
I believe that many developing experts might consider that to become the best quantum expert, you must excel at being the best professional in that discipline. Of course, that it is a very important component, however in my experience the most important part is to develop what I have heard called “ring-craft”. This is to make sure that you fully understand the process, your duty and how to properly discharge this duty. It does appear to me that it’s not generally opposing expert opinions that cause differences but normally some other aspect that might be caused by a failure in the process. Therefore, to assist an up-and-coming expert, I would strongly recommend that taking the time to be mentored by a seasoned expert is a critical part of the development process of an expert.
What has been your greatest achievement to date?
From a professional perspective I would have to say that it’s a combination of achievements. Which are in no particular order, becoming a fellow of the various professional bodies that I am associated with, being appointed by leading law firms and working with some of the leading barristers on some of the largest and most complex international arbitrations. This has meant that I have and continue to work with some wonderful people, who are extremely talented in their chosen profession. Amongst all else I’d have to say that being recognised in WWL by your peers, lawyers and clients is a flattering reflection of my colleagues and myself and I hope to continue to meet and exceed our clients’ expectations.