Adrian is a construction disputes resolution specialist and a leading international commercial arbitrator, DAB member and mediator. Qualified both in construction and law, he has first-hand experience of the practical issues in the engineering and construction industries. He has practised in London, Singapore, Hong Kong, Paris and the Middle East. He is ranked in the top tier of all the major directories and has been described as “excellent in arbitration, with a deep understanding of the [construction] industry”.
How has your training as an engineer and quantity surveyor enhanced your construction disputes practice?
Studying engineering and construction and practising as a quantity surveyor prior to becoming a lawyer has given me an invaluable skill set for use when practising as a construction dispute specialist. A youthful belief that I could do better than some of the lawyers I was working with at the time led me to change career with no regrets. Since then, I have found that almost every project, whether a petrochemical plant, tunnel, airport or high-rise building, has its unique commercial and engineering challenges which generate complex and stimulating disputes for resolution.
An excellent understanding of the industry and how it operates, as well as the technologies involved, enables me to get to grips readily with issues between disputing parties. As counsel, this helps to get to the core of issues in dispute quickly and present a case in the best possible light. As arbitrator or dispute board member, such knowledge and experience enable cases to be decided efficiently and effectively and without “the wool being pulled over my eyes”.
What makes King & Spalding stand out from its competitors in the market?
We have construction dispute lawyers of the highest quality who are engaged on the most complex and prestigious disputes. Knowledge sharing and team working benefits both lawyers and clients to achieve the best outcomes. We are also really nice people to work with.
To what extent has covid-19 had an impact on construction arbitration? Are parties willing to be flexible in procedure and approach to get it over the line?
Parties and institutions have been very quick to find practical solutions to working in the covid-19 era. Virtual hearings have been adopted almost universally with a “can do” and a “business as usual” attitude.
Earlier in 2020, we succeeded in obtaining an injunction restraining an expert from acting in breach of fiduciary duty of loyalty in A Company v X, Y, Z  EWHC 809 (TCC) in what is understood to be the first virtual proceeding conducted by the Technical and Construction Court in London. The virtual hearings proceeded seamlessly to the credit of the court system and all concerned.
How do you see the recent instability in oil prices influencing investment in the Middle East? Will oil remain a key commodity in construction projects or do you see the use of renewables increasing?
Oil price instability has accelerated change in the Middle East as countries seek to reduce their reliance on revenue from oil. This has led to many oil-related projects being shelved or restructured together with heightened interest in renewable projects.
Wind and solar projects are on the increase. However, developing technologies or the speed at which projects are brought to market can lead to disputes. Problems arising out of an immature supply chain and ambiguity of contractual obligations are just some of the issues I have recently resolved when deciding disputes on solar projects in Egypt and in Europe.
It has been noted that mediation is increasingly being used to resolve construction disputes. Why do you think it is becoming more popular as a form of dispute resolution?
The time, cost and relationship-saving benefits of mediation are increasingly being recognised. Offering more control over the solution of a dispute than litigation or arbitration alone, mediation is encouraged by many state court systems keen to reduce their caseload or institutions that seek to promote a less adversarial culture.
As a trained and experienced mediator, I regularly guide disputant parties to the benefits that a mediated settlement can bring. Even if settlement is not reached immediately, the enhanced levels of communication that mediation promotes can induce settlement earlier than might otherwise be the case or narrow the scope of issues in dispute.
Professional negligence disputes are among those construction disputes that are particularly suited to resolution by mediation, where the high levels of confidentiality that mediation affords can protect the reputations of those individuals and organisations concerned.
To what extent will covid-19 inform parties’ behaviour when entering into construction and engineering contracts in the future?
While many standard form construction contracts recognise force majeure and or exceptional hardship and provide adequate mechanisms to claim or defend claims for relief from non-performance, this is only part of the story. Without a well-presented case based upon robust evidence founded on contemporaneous records, many parties are likely to fail to demonstrate the necessary level of causation to recover losses that are claimed to arise from events such as the coronavirus pandemic.
You have experience both in-house and in private practice. In what ways does your in-house experience benefit your current practice?
Many lawyers in private practice fail to understand the role and challenges of in-house counsel and accordingly are ill equipped to provide the necessary level of support that will complement an in-house counsel’s role. The business awareness that comes from being part of a large company’s management team has enhanced my commercial acumen that is invaluable in private practice.
You have enjoyed a very distinguished career so far. What would you like to achieve that you have not yet accomplished?
I have been privileged to sit as arbitrator with some of the finest construction arbitrators in the world on some of the most challenging and prestigious disputes. I hope to continue in this capacity and share my learning with younger practitioners as they rise through the ranks, so that we have a diverse and capable cohort of expert construction arbitrators.
“Adrian has a huge amount of experience in the region acting for contractors and energy clients, as well as acting as an arbitrator"
"He has a very good reputation”
“He is phenomenal!”
Adrian Cole is an expert in construction disputes in energy, real estate and infrastructure development, and previously led King & Spalding’s Middle East dispute resolution practice .
Adrian is listed as one of the world’s top 25 construction dispute lawyers; has been selected for inclusion in WWL Global Elite; and is ranked as a top-tier lawyer by Chambers Global and The Legal 500. Chambers Global says, "He's the kind of guy you want with you rather than against you,” and rates “his knowledge in arbitration”. The Legal 500 states that Adrian "stands out as a strong expert in construction-related dispute resolution" (The Legal 500).
As arbitrator, Adrian has decided over 70 significant and complex construction cases sitting with some of the world’s leading construction arbitrators under ICC, LCIA, DIFC-LCIA, DIAC, ADCCAC, UNCITRAL and other rules. A qualified and experienced mediator and adjudicator, he is currently chair of a high-profile DAB on the largest power project in Africa. He practices both civil and common law, and is currently engaged on complex high-value construction disputes in Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
Adrian studied engineering and construction, and qualified and practised as a quantity surveyor before becoming a solicitor. He has first-hand experience of the practical issues in the engineering and construction industries.
A fellow of the CIArb and a member of the CIOB, he is admitted in England and Wales, Ireland and is qualified to practise in the United Arab Emirates.
Adrian has been engaged for his expertise by the EU to provide training in international arbitration to the Republic of Georgia and by the UAE Government to train its judiciary in construction law and arbitration.