Colin Byford listed as a Global Elite Thought Leader in our guide this year and is widely regarded as “one of the best” and a leading expert in the space.
Colin is a founding member and senior partner at gb². He is a fellow of the RICS and has over 30 years’ experience of advising on major construction, engineering and marine projects around the world.
Colin has been appointed as the quantum expert to court and international arbitrations on numerous occasions. He has testified on over 15 occasions including the TCC, London and arbitration hearings in London, Paris, Rotterdam, Dubai, Qatar and Singapore.
What do you enjoy most about your role as an expert witness?
The broad range of work undertaken on landmark projects in different sectors worldwide provides constant variation and an intellectual challenge. However, the most enjoyable element is working within the client’s team to solve complex issues and ultimately assist in the settlement of a dispute.
What did you find most challenging about specialising in the construction sector?
The diversity of our work is vast, from ship building to roads, power stations to trams, each with their own specialities and while the methodology adapts to each case, a detailed knowledge of each project is essential. However, undoubtedly obtaining suitable records remains the most challenging aspect of my work. They are so important in every aspect of the analysis typically undertaken by a quantum expert. The type and quality of records which are available will determine the types of analysis that may be undertaken and have a direct impact upon the reliability of a valuation and/or opinion.
What qualities make for an effective testifying expert?
The expert role is very demanding and can be very intense, so the team is important and this requires a good leader and a team player. Being organised, patient and having an appetite for hard work are essential quantities. The size and complexities of the dispute also mean that the expert must be analytical, anticipate the opposing argument and be open minded. They must also be a good communicator and listener and this is growing in importance with ever greater use of presentations and witness conferencing at hearings. However, the overarching requirement of an expert is to provide independent and honest opinions. Therefore, the expert has to have integrity and be prepared to provide truthful opinions at all times.
How has the market changed since you first started practising?
My first expert appointment and testifying experience was in 2006 and since then I have seen a lot of changes. The issues and analysis have become more complex over time. This in part is a result of the ever-increasing number of documents disclosed with each matter and the greater functionality and sophistication of the analysis that can be performed by spreadsheets. The focus on experts’ performance and costs has also changed and intensified over the years. A lot of money can be spent on experts, which can be massively frustrating for clients. Therefore, it is only right that greater focus is placed on the efficient production of the opinion. Another key change is at the hearing. It has become much more common over the years for the expert to distil and present the opinion at the hearing and be subject to witness conferencing in addition to traditional cross examination.
How much disparity do you notice between expert opinions and why might this be?
This can vary case to case. The experience and approach of the opposing expert can influence this. Certainly, if the expert does not understand their duty to the Tribunal or Court this can lead to significant disparities. Equally, the state of the documentation and the extent to which the opposing expert has undertaken the necessary investigations and analysis can contribute to disagreements where the issues have not been significantly narrowed and/or agreed.
How has covid-19 affected expert work and the type of matters conducted? Can you see these changes being long term?
Covid-19 has had a considerable impact upon the way my work is undertaken but it has not affected the type of matters conducted. I very rarely used video conferencing before the pandemic but now it has become part of everyday life and document sharing platforms have helped remote working. This applies to external meetings with the client and legal team and internal meetings with other members of staff. It has also affected how hearings are conducted and I will have my first video hearing within the next couple of weeks. I expect there to be some long-term changes, as certainly in my experience, it has shown that working remotely can be very effective. Furthermore, as most of my work involves projects outside of the UK, the greater use of video conferencing can only be a good thing with the potential cost savings and the environmental benefits from less flights.
Where, in your opinion, does the future of the practice area lie?
The way projects are procured and risk allocated in construction contracts means that there is likely to be a continual supply of construction disputes. Therefore, the demand for experts will remain. However, the way in which the expert role is undertaken is likely to come under greater scrutiny. This may potentially include measures to make the expert process more efficient, ultimately resulting in reduced costs. For example, greater control of the experts by the Tribunal through pre-hearing conferences to standardise approaches or assumptions may be used, thereby helping to avoid unnecessary disparities, as this can be a source of great frustration, not least for the Tribunal.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Always care about what you do and strive to achieve your best.
“Colin is a very well-regarded expert”
“He is an outstanding quantum expert, very good at breaking down complex cases and making them easy for tribunals to understand”
Colin is a founding member and a senior partner at gb². He is a chartered quantity surveyor and a fellow of the RICS. He has over 30 years’ experience of advising on major construction, engineering and marine projects around the world. He specialises in commercial management, quantity surveying, cost engineering, measurement, procurement advice, valuation of works, variations, prolongation, disruption, acceleration and forensic investigations. Colin has worked for clients, contractors and private practice in most sectors of the construction and engineering industry. Colin has also acted as an online tutor and marker for the College of Estate Management for their measurement module (civil engineering QS practice) as part of the BSc for quantity surveying.
Colin has experience of most forms of contract including FIDIC, JCT, ICE, NEC, GCWorks, IChemE, LOGIC and various bespoke forms of contract. He has experience of most forms of procurement including traditional, design and build, management, cost reimbursable and turnkey contracting.
Colin has been appointed to provide independent expert quantum advice to court and international arbitrations on numerous occasions. He has testified on over 20 occasions in the Technology and Construction Court, London and arbitration hearings in London, Paris, Rotterdam, Dubai, Qatar and Singapore. He has considerable experience of witness conferencing / hot tubbing. Colin has acted as quantum expert under the following arbitration rules: ICC, LCIA, SCMA, SIAC, DIAC and NAI.
Colin Byford is a "very well-regarded expert" with "a superb reputation" thanks to his top-notch valuations and damages work.