Michael Tonkin BSc PGDipArb FRICS FCIArb FCIOB FDBF MAE CArb is a chartered quantity surveyor, chartered arbitrator, CEDR-accredited mediator, RICS-accredited expert witness and testifying expert witness in quantum with 30 years of experience in the construction industry. He leads HKA’s expert services practice for the Middle East, Asia and Africa, and has been instructed as an expert more than 20 times. Michael has also been appointed as arbitrator on more than 60 occasions.
What do you enjoy most in your current role as a construction expert?
I enjoy the variety that this role offers. I work with a fantastic team of experts, assistants and various support teams, and I have the opportunity to work on a variety of interesting and complex arbitrations around the globe. There is always a new challenge ahead and being able to assist parties in resolving their disputes, often by taking a complex issue and simplifying it, is extremely rewarding.
How has the role of construction expert changed since you started your career?
The role of an expert is certainly evolving. In my view, this is partly because of the desire for self-improvement but also because of criticism from the courts and tribunals. Numerous guidelines such as the CIArb Protocol, the RICS Practice Statement for “Surveyors acting as expert witnesses”, and the IBA Rules on the Taking of Evidence have been published. I think that guidelines such as these have been really helpful in developing an international arbitration culture and providing a common understanding, among arbitration practitioners, of the standard that an expert should achieve.
You have expertise as both arbitrator and expert witness in international construction disputes. How do these roles complement each other and enhance your practice?
I think these roles undoubtedly complement each other. Sitting as arbitrator and considering expert evidence has been hugely beneficial in shaping how I present my expert evidence, and enabled me to better understand how experts can assist the tribunal and parties, in terms of how and when they input.
What are the greatest challenges construction experts face in the next five years?
In general, international arbitration faces a constant challenge to ensure that it can meet users’ expectations in terms of time and cost. This extends to expert witnesses, who face continual challenges in attaining the necessary professional standards while working to restricted budgets and time scales. I often see the demand for experienced experts and witness overloaded work schedules. Experts need to ensure they are not overloaded.
Experts must stay abreast of developments both within their field as well as within international arbitration. New trends are always afoot – take witness conferencing as an example, which has now become almost the norm in international arbitrations, with a set of CIArb Guidelines on the subject recently published. Experts need to be flexible and ready to adapt to the changing demands of the role.
What is the key to success when advising on large, international infrastructure projects?
From an expert’s perspective, the key to successful delivery of the expert role is fundamentally the same regardless of the size or nature of the project. This can be summarised as early involvement of the expert, receipt of clear and timeous instructions, getting information to an appropriate level of detail suitably early in the process, managing relationships with the various parties involved to ensure expectations are aligned, and delivering the role in a professional manner in compliance with international best practice.
Taking a step back from the expert role, I consider that one of the greatest contributors to success in disputes is the maintenance of detailed records throughout the project – the more that can be proven, the less speculation is required, and speculation is not a solid basis for success.
What advice would you give to younger practitioners looking to succeed as construction experts?
I would advise young practitioners to get a solid grounding in their profession and not to be in such a rush to become an expert that you miss out on gaining that vital practical experience. I think experts need to truly be experts, learn about the role of an expert, understand the dispute resolution process and gain relevant qualifications and professional accreditations. Then be an expert.
Finally, I would also emphasise the importance of talking to peers and other practitioners (experts or arbitrators) – get out there and network!
Michael Tonkin is an "excellent" expert with a standout reputation in the region for his skill in quantum analysis, particularly in an international arbitration context.
Michael Tonkin BSc PGDipArb FRICS FCIArb FCIOB FDBF MAE CArb is a chartered quantity surveyor, chartered arbitrator, CEDR accredited mediator, RICS accredited expert witness and testifying expert witness in quantum with 29 years of experience in the construction industry. He leads HKA’s expert services practice for the Middle East and Africa and has also acted on numerous projects in South East Asia.
Michael has provided commercial advice to a variety of clients on a wide range of projects including residential, commercial, hotels, schools, MEP, wastewater treatment works, pipe laying, water, power plant, civils, building, leisure, O&G, regeneration, major sports venues, roads and highways.
He acts, and has testified on seven occasions, as an expert witness in quantum and has been instructed more than 20 times as a party-appointed expert witness, a single joint expert witness and a third party expert evaluator on disputes up to US$4 billion in value. He has given oral testimony in traditional cross-examination as well as concurrent evidence (hot-tubbing). Michael often acts as “coordinating expert” across several disciplines of expert. He is named in WWL: Construction 2018 – Expert Witnesses and WWL: Thought Leaders: Construction 2018.
Michael has been appointed as arbitrator on more than 60 occasions (as sole arbitrator, chairman of a tribunal of three, and co-arbitrator) under the auspices of ICC, LCIA, DIAC, ADCCAC and the TAI. He also acts as dispute resolver in other ADR such as adjudication and DABs. Michael is an “arbitrator” member of the Society of Construction Arbitrators. Michael is a former trustee and honorary treasurer of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators as well as a past chairman and past vice chairman of the UAE branch.
Michael Tonkin is a go-to construction expert for clients who praise him as “very persuasive when giving evidence”.
Michael is a chartered quantity surveyor, chartered arbitrator, CEDR-accredited mediator and RICS accredited expert witness with over 29 years of construction industry experience. He is an effective dispute resolver and has acted as quantum expert on more than 20 occasions.
Michael has extensive experience of commercial negotiations in major projects, particularly where bespoke contracts and innovative methods of procurement have been used. With a background in cost management, he specialises in commercial management, contract management, negotiation, risk management, third party financial reporting and strategic advice. His project experience ranges from major infrastructure and buildings across the Middle East, UK and Asia; power and water in Africa and Europe; and oil and gas projects in the Middle East.
Michael regularly provides commercial advice on formal dispute resolution, dispute avoidance and procurement. He is adept in many of the major standard forms of contract and has been employed by government bodies, large private companies, contractors and subcontractors to advise on commercial matters and procurement.
Michael has been a party-appointed expert witness, a single joint expert witness and a third-party expert evaluator. He has given oral testimony in traditional cross-examination as well as concurrent evidence (hot-tubbing) in international arbitrations, in both Asia and the Middle East. Michael often acts as 'coordinating expert' across several disciplines of expert.
Michael has been appointed as arbitrator on more than 60 occasions (as sole arbitrator, chairman of a tribunal of three, and co-arbitrator) under the auspices of ICC, LCIA, DIAC, ADCCAC and the TAI. He regularly participates in other alternative dispute resolution processes such as adjudication and dispute adjudication boards (DABs). Michael is a former trustee and honorary treasurer of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and a past chairman and past vice-chairman of the UAE branch.