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WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

WWL says

The “extraordinary” Meera Wagman is a market leader in quantum and delay issues, with interviewees celebrating her “exceptionally strong work ethic and good mind for detail”. She is consistently commended as a “very personable expert” and “great to work with”.

Questions & Answers

Ms Wagman is managing director of Secretariat and has over 20 years of experience in the construction industry, focused on the areas of dispute resolution, delay and disruption analyses, and scheduling. She has provided independent expert services to owners, contractors, and designers on complex construction disputes across all sectors including heavy civil, oil and gas, infrastructure and transportation, and vertical construction. Ms Wagman has a BS in civil engineering from Cornell University.

How has your background as a project engineer honed the skills you are able to bring in your role as a construction expert?

Early in my career, I gained a lot of practical experience working on site as well as developing and overseeing project controls – scheduling, job cost reports, change orders, RFIs, etc. With that experience, along with the different types of projects I was fortunate to work on, I came away with a deep understanding of the necessity and importance of project controls and its role in bringing in a project on time and within budget. I believe that having a foundation in the “on the ground” logistics of a project bolsters my role as a construction expert in working through the significant amount of project documentation that is created on a project. It helps me seek the right facts through a complicated maze. 

Why did you choose to specialise as a construction expert?

I like to describe my career to people as the mid-point in a Venn diagram of three subjects: engineering, construction and law. Being able to stay connected to all of these areas – each important, interesting and rewarding – makes this the perfect career for me. One of the aspects I enjoy most is the technical nature of the work. Each project is different with unique and sometimes obscure issues. Learning about these issues provides for an ongoing stream of education and refinement of my knowledge base. 

How do you prepare for a testifying case?

I think. I think about the facts. I think about the decision points I took. I think about the steps the opposing expert may have undertaken and how they link to my analysis. I think about all the possible reasons the opposing expert could have reached a different conclusion. If these thought processes are fresh and present in my mind, I am best prepared to articulate my analysis to the tribunal and handle any questions during cross-examination.  

What do clients look for in an effective testifying expert?

At the most fundamental level, the answer lies within the question itself. Clients of course look for an expert who can conduct a sound analysis, present that analysis in a cohesive report, effectively testify and stand up to rigorous cross-examination. However, I have found that clients find value-add from an expert who can properly challenge the client in order to develop a sounder and fully vetted analysis which, in turn, brings the true risk assessment of the dispute to light.

What benefits accompany introducing experts early in the dispute resolution process?

With the complexity of projects and magnitude of damages in current disputes, it can be challenging (and expensive) to perform a robust forensic analysis. Engaging experts early can help streamline the process, understand the true risks and avoid the high cost of litigation down the road. I am also seeing more success with interim dispute resolution processes, which can improve the success of the project.

What challenges do you face with the increased volume of data being used in disputes?

As technology has advanced, it has brought with it a dramatic increase in the amount of data that is kept on projects. With the sheer volume of data available on complex projects, one of the things that can often be most helpful to both clients and tribunals is to identify some baseline-level facts, figures and dates around which some of the more complicated portions of the analyses will then be centred. This is one reason why I am finding joint expert processes and even expert teaming more desirable – any facts that can be agreed upon can bring value to the dispute.

Why do you think some parties are moving away from the usual practice of seeking their own individual expert assessment and instead getting a collective assessment for a dispute?

Although this may not be the most enjoyable choice for any party, or one that can easily be executed successfully, as noted above, streamlining the facts and issues in dispute can save time, expense and possibly even the project. Unfortunately, some disputes end up as a battle of the experts. In my view, this does not serve to help the tribunal or the parties because the risk of losing the battle can mean all or nothing. A collective assessment aims to allow both parties positions to be evaluated in a balanced and independent manner.

What skills and values would you encourage in the next generation of construction experts?

Take pride and ownership in your work. Being an expert in your field is your responsibility – and your name. Significant decisions will be based upon your analysis. It is therefore critical that experts present facts and opinions clearly, effectively and independently.

Thought Leaders - Construction Experts 2020

Q&A

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

WWL says

Meera Wagman is an “extremely intelligent construction expert”, widely regarded by sources as the “top name in the field”.

Questions & Answers

Ms. Wagman is managing director of Secretariat and has over 20 years of experience in the construction industry focused in the areas of dispute resolution, delay and disruption analyses, and scheduling. She has provided independent expert services to owners, contractors, and designers on complex construction disputes across all sectors including heavy civil, oil and gas, infrastructure and transportation, and vertical construction. Ms. Wagman has a BS in civil engineering from Cornell University.

Why did you choose to specialise as a construction expert?

I like to describe my career to people as the mid-point in a Venn diagram of three subjects: engineering, construction, and law. Being able to stay connected to all of these areas – each important, interesting, and rewarding – makes this the perfect career for me. One of the aspects I enjoy most is the technical nature of the work. Each project is different with unique and sometimes obscure issues. Learning about these issues provides for an ongoing stream of education and refinement of my knowledge base. 

What is the most challenging aspect of your role?

This answer lies within the answer of the previous question. Being able to dig into the details of a myriad of technical issues can be challenging; however, I see “challenging” as a positive.

How does your background in civil engineering enhance your current practice?

After graduating, I realized that what I was taught in my engineering curriculum was much broader than calculating structural loads or concrete mix design properties. What I learned was how to think – how to analyse – how to problem solve. My engineering and construction management background directly helps my ability to understand complex projects; however, it is the critical thinking skillset that I developed from those experiences which enhances my ability to understand the complex issues that are associated with these projects. 

How is the appointment of a single expert in arbitration proceedings beneficial to the parties involved?

Although this is not yet a common practice, or one that can easily (or not easily) be agreed between parties, I have recently seen more discussion around the concept of expert teaming. Unfortunately, some disputes end up as a battle of the experts. In my view, this does not serve to help the Tribunal or the parties as the risk of losing the battle can mean all or nothing. Expert teaming aims to provide a vehicle for both parties positions to be evaluated in a balanced and independent manner.

What steps do you see being taken in the construction industry to prepare for a second wave of the coronavirus?

The construction industry is trying to quickly get its arms around the impact stemming from the initial outbreak while at the same time working diligently to prepare for a potential second wave. I am seeing firms invest in technology to help navigate these changed environments. Technology such as drones and 360-degree cameras are being used to record and document projects in order to limit the number of on-site visits. Other technology, such as automated temperature readers, are being used to monitor the wellness of workers on site. 

I am also seeing contractors developing more extensive action and prevention plans, and assembling covid task forces, in order to deal with a second wave, especially since impacts may not be viewed in the same unforeseen manner as the first wave.

What do clients look for in an effective testifying expert?

At the most fundamental level, the answer lies within the question itself. Clients of course look for an expert who can conduct a sound analysis, present that analysis in a cohesive report, effectively testify, and stand up to any level of cross-examination. However, I have found that clients find value-add from an expert who can properly challenge the client in order to derive a more sound and fully vetted analysis which, in turn, brings the true risk assessment of the dispute to light.

What is the greatest piece of career advice you have received?

Tell it like it is. As an expert, it can be challenging to be the bearer of bad news. In my view, an expert’s job is to provide independent analyses and opinions to the trier of fact. This includes informing the client of its strengths, and more importantly, its weaknesses. Laying down the actual risk that they are facing may sting for a moment; however, in my experience, the client is more appreciative down the road when the facts are presented up front and in a clear, supportable way.

Global Leader

WWL Ranking: Recommended

Peers and clients say

"Meera’s blend of tenacity, critical acuity and clear-sighted communications and prose are particularly impressive"
"She excels in the fundamental technical skills necessary to her role while seeing the forest, not just the trees, and wraps it into clearly communicated and drafted insights and analysis, readily understandable to clients, counsel and tribunals"
"Meera is the total package"
"Meera is very good on delay matters, and great at programming and scheduling issues"
"One of the best delay experts"
"Period"

Biography

Ms Wagman is managing director of Secretariat based New York and leads the Northeast practice. Secretariat specialises in providing independent expert advice on construction projects in the areas of programming/scheduling (delay and disruption), contract review, cost/damages and productivity/inefficiency.

Ms Wagman has over 20 years of experience in the construction industry focused in the areas of dispute resolution, delay and disruption analyses, scheduling, claims, cost analyses, project controls, as well as construction and project management. She has provided services to owners and contractors across a wide range of projects including heavy civil, oil and gas, airports, infrastructure and transportation, vertical construction, petrochemical plants, power/nuclear plants, and medical facilities. Ms Wagman has consulted as an expert on many complex construction projects throughout the world including high profile disputes such as the Panama Canal Expansion and the Burj Khalifa.

Ms Wagman has been appointed as an independent expert on matters of delay and disruption on complex construction disputes in arbitration, litigation, adjudication and mediation.

Prior to consulting, Ms Wagman worked as a project engineer for construction management firm Gilbane Building Company working on large commercial projects in the US. Ms Wagman received a BS in civil engineering from Cornell University. Ms Wagman is also a fellow of the Project Management College of Scheduling.

WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

WWL says

Meera Wagman is an “extremely intelligent construction expert”, widely regarded by sources as the “top name in the field”.

Biography

Ms Wagman is managing director of Secretariat based New York and leads the Northeast practice. Secretariat specialises in providing independent expert advice on construction projects in the areas of programming/scheduling (delay and disruption), contract review, cost/damages and productivity/inefficiency.

Ms Wagman has over 20 years of experience in the construction industry focused in the areas of dispute resolution, delay and disruption analyses, scheduling, claims, cost analyses, project controls, as well as construction and project management. She has provided services to owners and contractors across a wide range of projects including heavy civil, oil and gas, airports, infrastructure and transportation, vertical construction, petrochemical plants, power/nuclear plants, and medical facilities. Ms Wagman has consulted as an expert on many complex construction projects throughout the world including high profile disputes such as the Panama Canal Expansion and the Burj Khalifa.

Ms Wagman has been appointed as an independent expert on matters of delay and disruption on complex construction disputes in arbitration, litigation, adjudication and mediation.

Prior to consulting, Ms Wagman worked as a project engineer for construction management firm Gilbane Building Company working on large commercial projects in the US. Ms Wagman received a BS in civil engineering from Cornell University. Ms Wagman is also a fellow of the Project Management College of Scheduling.

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

The “extraordinary” Meera Wagman is a market leader in quantum and delay issues, with interviewees celebrating her “exceptionally strong work ethic and good mind for detail”. She is consistently commended as a “very personable expert” and “great to work with”.

Biography

Ms Wagman is managing director of Secretariat based New York and leads the Northeast practice. Secretariat specialises in providing independent expert advice on construction projects in the areas of programming/scheduling (delay and disruption), contract review, cost/damages and productivity/inefficiency.

Ms Wagman has over 20 years of experience in the construction industry focused in the areas of dispute resolution, delay and disruption analyses, scheduling, claims, cost analyses, project controls, as well as construction and project management. She has provided services to owners and contractors across a wide range of projects including heavy civil, oil and gas, airports, infrastructure and transportation, vertical construction, petrochemical plants, power/nuclear plants, and medical facilities. Ms Wagman has consulted as an expert on many complex construction projects throughout the world including high profile disputes such as the Panama Canal Expansion and the Burj Khalifa.

Ms Wagman has been appointed as an independent expert on matters of delay and disruption on complex construction disputes in arbitration, litigation, adjudication and mediation.

Prior to consulting, Ms Wagman worked as a project engineer for construction management firm Gilbane Building Company working on large commercial projects in the US. Ms Wagman received a BS in civil engineering from Cornell University. Ms Wagman is also a fellow of the Project Management College of Scheduling.

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