Lee Baker has extremely “good analytical skills” and has an adept ability to solve “complex issues” using his “robust knowledge”.
Lee Baker is a planner, delay analyst and a Managing Director at FTI Consulting. He has multiple appointments as an expert witness and has testified in the High Court of Singapore. Lee has 15-years’ industry experience across many sectors, including: power generation, aviation, rail, high-rise buildings; oil & gas; and commercial developments. He is a Fellow of the CIArb, Practising Member of the Academy of Experts, a frequent speaker at regional events and a trainer for the RICS.
What do you enjoy most about working in the construction industry?
Like other industries, construction is varied, international and technically challenging.
What differentiates it is the output. Construction projects result in tangible assets — ones that are designed to last lifetimes. These projects directly shape their communities. That influence is nearly always positive, particularly in South-East Asia where the large power and infrastructure projects are key factors in national and regional development.
On what types of interesting matters have you worked on recently?
An interesting recent trend I have seen is an increase in disputes between joint venture partners. Although these disputes are legally more challenging; it is my experience that the experts are more likely to arrive at similar opinions. I expect this is because the parties have common contemporaneous records relating to the project and issues in dispute.
What might recovery of the construction industry look like in a post-covid-19 environment and what could this mean for the disputes landscape?
We have seen in the lockdown periods that the fixed working patterns can be effectively replaced with more flexible arrangements. I can see working remotely becoming more prevalent, if not the norm. This will not only transform companies’ office needs, but how we interact with our homes and leisure spaces.
This social change will influence future construction projects. For example, our infrastructure, power and transportation needs will change to reflect changes in commuting habits.
In regard to disputes, I foresee more virtual hearings, particularly for international arbitrations where the cost to fly in the participants can be significant.
How do you see the downturn in the economy leading to an increase in disputes?
For large projects, viability is often determined by macro-economic factors. When projects are no longer financially viable, some employers will, inevitably, decide to terminate and this is a very fertile ground for disputes.
Construction projects operate on low margins and are particularly vulnerable to cashflow issues. In poorer economic times, maintaining that cash lifeblood becomes even more significant. For that reason, referrals to statutory adjudications are likely to increase, where available.
Economic downturn means fewer projects and increased competition for contractors. This means that contractors will need to realise as much profit from each project as they can. They will not be able to supplement poor performing projects from more profitable ones. This increases the likelihood that disputes will arise where contractors need to realise their full entitlement.
Likewise, financial pressures on employers decreases their ability to come to commercial settlements, which increases the likelihood of disputes.
In your opinion, how will the-covid-19 pandemic impact China’s Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) to forge new silk roads by land and sea via construction projects?
I think it may positively impact the BRI and I would not be surprised to see the initiative accelerated.
Throughout Asia the demand from growing populations for infrastructure remains strong. With a potential economic slow-down, it may be difficult for governments to privately finance these projects, so access to BRI (or other regional development funding) is attractive. Furthermore, with other industries struggling, the BRI projects offer significant employment opportunities for local populations over both short and longer-term periods.
What challenges will clients face as financing for construction projects diminishes due to the downturn in the global economy?
I do not think that finance itself will be more difficult to obtain. Instead, it is more likely that few projects get past the concept stage, as reduced demand means that it is more difficult to show the project is financially viable.
What role do you think third-party litigation funding might play in the disputes landscape?
Construction disputes are expensive, often with large sums in contention. That may be appetising to some third-party funders. But the reality is that construction disputes are complex and often turn on technical matters that are the subject of expert opinion. This makes them difficult for a funder to assess the likelihood of success without extensive, and expensive, due diligence. For that reason, construction disputes may not be a preferable investment for third-party funders.
What advice would you give younger practitioners undertaking their first cross-examination?
Know your report and your role.
“Lee possesses very good analytical and presentation skills, which put him in a very good position in communicating his findings”
“He has sound knowledge which enables him to articulate his reasoning well in court”
Lee is a widely experienced planner and delay analyst with nearly 15 years of experience in the construction industry. He has acted as named delay expert on eight occasions and assisted the named expert on numerous other disputes.
Lee has extensive experience of high-value mega-projects in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East across a range of sectors including aviation, buildings, infrastructure, oil and gas, process engineering, and power. In addition to planning and delay-related support, Lee provides various commercial services from contract management, to change management and dispute avoidance. Lee also performs quantitative schedule risk analysis (QRSA) and has provided procurement assistance for several public private partnerships (PPP) within the UK and Europe.
Lee’s named expert commissions relate to buildings, power generation and infrastructure projects in the Southeast Asia region. He has assisted in the preparation of expert reports for arbitration, adjudication and mediation in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
Lee is a regular presenter for the Building and Construction Authority in Singapore. He regularly speaks at seminars and conferences, including CIArb and SCL conferences, and has been published in an industry journal on the subject of project finance and construction risk.