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Thought Leaders

Thought Leaders

Meera Wagman

Meera Wagman

Secretariat381 Park Avenue SouthSuite 801New YorkNew YorkUSA10016

Thought Leader

WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

WWL says

Meera Wagman is “an extraordinary, focused and client-oriented professional” as well as “an outstanding strategist and exceptional analyst” on delay matters.

Questions & Answers

Ms Wagman is managing director of Secretariat International and leads the north-east practice. She has over 20 years of experience in the construction industry, specialising in dispute resolution, delay and disruption analyses, scheduling, claims, cost analyses, project controls, and construction and project management. She has advised on a range of projects including oil refineries, airports, petrochemical plants, power/nuclear plants, medical facilities, distribution centres, government buildings, military projects, commercial and high-rise residential buildings. She has consulted on many high-profile project disputes, such as the Panama Canal and the Burj Khalifa.

Describe your career to date.

With a degree in civil engineering, I initially wanted to be hands-on in the field instead of behind a drafting table – to learn the “trade”. I spent five years working for a construction management firm onsite at several large-scale commercial projects in the north-east US. While being a part of building something tangible was exciting, I yearned to be challenged in different intellectual ways. When an opportunity arose in delay analysis consulting, I made the change and have loved it ever since. Since joining Secretariat, I was able to develop my expert career while also helping grow the firm in the role of COO for several years. My current focus is as a testifying expert on delay and disruption matters, which is my true passion.

What attracted you to a career as a testifying expert?

I often 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 – is what is most attractive to me. As my career in consulting developed, I knew that my ultimate goal was to become a testifying expert as, along with the technical nature of the work, I thoroughly enjoy synthesising, presenting and defending the information.

What qualities make for a successful testifying expert?

At the forefront, I believe a good expert must be objective and independent in considering the facts of the matter and executing the analysis. Moreover, I think that success stems from one’s ability to quickly grasp facts and concepts, and to be able to distil them into a clear and concise analysis, report and, ultimately, testimony. With regard to cross-examination, it is imperative to understand the opposing position in order to be equipped to think steps ahead and properly, professionally and effectively address the issues.

What is it about your role that you enjoy most?

There are two distinct aspects to my answer on this. I enjoy learning about new projects and issues, which allows me to continually enhance my knowledge base and be able to apply strategic thinking skills in varied situations. I equally enjoy mentoring and developing up-and-coming team members, as seeing each of them grow and succeed is extremely rewarding.

How does your firm distinguish itself from the competition?

The people. I feel inspired and motivated each day to come to work and be surrounded by hard-working, intelligent, team-oriented people who take pride in the quality of work that they perform (and that the firm is founded in) and who, on top of all of that, are fun to work with! The culture that exists at Secretariat is something unique that we strive to promote and maintain as we continue to grow.

What developments have you seen with regard to non-traditional construction matters since you started practising?

I have seen clients seeking delay analyses on non-traditional construction matters more and more often. I view delay analysis as more of a science that can be applied to any type of work that has a performance-against-time component. Recently, I have been involved with shipbuilding and wreck salvage matters, which is an interesting departure from more traditional construction projects.

How do you see your practice developing over the next five years?

More recently, I have been involved with more and more disputes involving designers. I see this area of the industry growing as more complex projects are being pursued and design firms are getting pulled into increasingly larger-scale disputes. I see my practice becoming more evenly spread across owners, contractors and designers, whereas in the past it has been predominately pertinent to the first two.

How has the market changed since you first started practising?

When I started it was long days of sorting through boxes of paper to gather and analyse information. This was trying at times, but fairly straightforward. Over the years, I have seen technological changes – both with regard to the projects I’ve been engaged in, and the way information is gathered and analyses pursued. As a result, I have found that I have had to adapt to new technologies in order to perform my job effectively and efficiently. This includes project advancements such as BIM, drones and automated construction, as well as learning new software skills for computerised data compilation. The days of bankers’ boxes in a storage closet seem to be (thankfully!) in the past.

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: 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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