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Mike Allen

Mike Allen

SecretariatUnits 301 – 03, 3/F Shui On Centre6-8 Harbour RoadWan ChaiHong KongHong Kong

Thought Leader

WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

WWL says

Global Elite Thought Leader Mike Allen is an established name, with “great experience” and an “astute” and “very professional approach” to contractual claims and project-related disputes.

Questions & Answers

Mike is a chartered quantity surveyor who has over 35 years’ experience in the industry and has worked internationally for many years, with the last 18 years being based full-time in Hong Kong. He has extensive experience in procurement and contract strategy, dispute resolution and providing strategic advice to clients on distressed or problem projects. He acts a quantum expert witness on a number of construction disputes, for both claimant and respondent, working with major firms of solicitors and barristers. He has given evidence in the High Court twice, and in domestic and international arbitrations 23 times and is a CEDR accredited mediator.

What do clients look for in an effective expert witness?

Clients look for a variety of qualities, which can vary based upon particular case circumstances but would likely include an expert who is persuasive, credible knows his (or her) reports and the evidence, and above all is independent and be seen to be independent. In addition to this, clients look for an expert who has the ability to see through large amounts of data to identify the material issues that are relevant to the particular expertise and can identify appropriate and proportionate investigations and analysis.

Underpinning these qualities, effective expert witnesses also tend show and demonstrate the following skills and capabilities: a track record and experience of being involved in formal hearings (arbitration and litigation) and knowing the process; being an effective communicator who is able to clearly and simply convey complex situations; an ability to write clear and structured reports; understands the role of an expert witness and where the duties and responsibilities sit; is able to provide progressive and iterative opinions; and is a team player who can work with different parts of the client and legal team.

How has covid-19 affected expert work and the way in which matters are conducted, and can you see these changes lasting long-term?

Covid-19, has caused a change in the market place and is also influencing other parts of the market. The changes have largely been caused, where international arbitrations have tribunals, counsel, legal teams and experts being based in different locations around the world. The restrictions, quarantine regulations and general health, safety and welfare awareness has caused certainly during the first wave of covid-19, a number of hearings to be postponed or to move towards a virtual process. Hearings have either moved to wholly virtually or partially but were none the less having some parts of the hearing being delivered through an IT hosting platform such as Zoom or MS Teams.

Having been involved in both types of hearings (wholly and partial), it has to be said that the platforms and process came across far better than I had expected. This does mean, however, that IT platforms and support systems do need to be robust to avoid unstable signals and transfer of data. Nonetheless, I do believe that virtual hearings are a welcome development, but not a panacea for all. It would appear to me that certain witnesses in remote locations, or indeed procedural hearings and the like would be well suited to such an approach.

What types of covid-19-related disputes are you beginning to encounter? How are you navigating them?

The covid-19-related disputes that we are starting to be involved in are predominantly within the construction and engineering sectors. Site access issues, labour shortages, material delivery and availability as well as restricted working practices are all matters that would affect any project. It appears that these, among other factors, would have influence on progress, productivity and the cost of delivering any project. Therefore, it appears that we have legacy issues on projects where the contracts were entered into in a pre-covid phase, which would likely materialise in issues, claims and disputes.

There is also a post-covid phase to consider where contracts are entered into where second or third waves have already or are being encountered. Where this fits within the risk profile of the contract and associated insurance provisions as known or un-known events is an issue to be addressed.

Would you say that effectively managing the increasingly vast amounts of data in construction disputes has become more difficult in the past year? If so, why is this the case, and how have you adapted your approach?

Large amounts of data or ‘big data’, does mean that experts need to develop skills in filtering large data sources. This needs to be deployed to ensure that the investigation and analysis is on ‘point’ but at the same time needs to be proportionate. It is an interesting proposition to be relevant, focused and proportionate, when you have received ‘terabytes’ of data that is unorganised and random in its disclosure.

To be able to deal with this you may need to deploy software, predictive coding techniques and pilot exercises, which need to be blended with a huge dose of experience. This is because you need to know what to look for, broadly where and why. This can also mean that early discussions with the legal team and on some occasions with the tribunal, to agree to sampling approaches where appropriate, is highly valuable and relevant to sifting through the data and maintaining proportionality.

Sources have noticed more tribunal interference surrounding expert use, work and management. What advantages might this bring?

I wouldn’t necessarily refer to it as ‘interference’ more perhaps active intervention, as it appears to me that tribunals are now actively controlling the interlocutory process and the use and direction of experts.

This appears to be manifesting itself with tribunals now actively setting and controlling the agenda for experts. This means that the expert list of issues are established early, to align the evidence to the case before the tribunal. Also the use of agreed common data sets is frequently identified as a requirement, along with progress monitoring of the deliverables and the use of progressive joint statements which build upon one another, starting with methods and progressing in levels of detail through the issues.

All of this happens ahead of the issuing of any individual reports.

The tribunal interventions do appear to focus and align the expert evidence around the issues, as well as maintain proportionate effort and costs. As with any case, there is not a ‘one-size’ fits all approach, but none the less the general trend and input from tribunals I see as a positive one.

In what ways has the political situation in Hong Kong impacted the construction market and your work? 

The political landscape is continuing to change in Hong Kong, which was always at some stage going to be a feature in the 50-year Basic Law period. The effect while far reaching to many aspects of society and the economy, did also impact the construction industry and the arbitration market. Projects and hearings were stalled or suspended, and it undoubtedly caused some uncertainty. This being further compounded by the arrival and effects of covid-19 across the wider society.

However, Hong Kong is a resilient market and while we are still living day to day with the effects of both the political and covid-19 changes in our lives, the markets appear to be showing strong and sustainable trends which support the established and respected economy of Hong Kong. This is being underpinned by the continuing global reputation of the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre and acting as a regional hub for ad hoc and institutional arbitration, and mediation.

To what extent will Hong Kong continue to thrive as a base for construction dispute work in the future, and why?

Hong Kong as a dispute hub, continues to have a steady throughput of construction-related matters as a result of a number of influences, which includes in particular the large volume of continuing investment in infrastructure projects across the territory. Demands will no doubt also be fuelled by the third runway at the Hong Kong Airport, the MTRC projects and also the Pearl River developments.

The demand will not necessarily be solely arbitration-led disputes, as the government and various bodies continue to explore new or adapted existing forms of contract, along with various forms of alternative dispute resolution.

Therefore, the dispute resolution methods will include a blend of arbitration, mediation, early neutral evaluation, independent reviews, expert determination, dispute resolution advisers and short form arbitrations. 

Combined with a steady volume of construction and engineering works, along with established and new innovative methods of dispute resolution the market perspective looks to be a positive one. 

What traditionally overlooked skills and traits would you encourage the next generation of construction experts to develop?

There are many requirements that contribute to this and of course each individual has their own unique set of circumstances. I wouldn’t necessarily say that these traits are overlooked, but what I have noticed is that successful and developing people have in large parts the following traits, which in no particular order as are: a willingness to learn; an ability to listen; an ability to watch and observe as well as question at the right times; an ability to challenge themselves and seek out others to discuss their experiences; training and clarity on the role of the expert; and have found and are learning from (being mentored) by a respected expert.

I also consider that having shades of these qualities combined with a genuine thirst to develop will mean that there will be times when new approaches should be tried. Mistakes may happen, but are then corrected, such that at the forefront of an individual’s development is performance improvement.

Peers and clients say

"He is without a doubt a thought leader"
"Mike is focused, organised and responsive"
"He is able to understand the wider context in which his evidence will sit and help refine case strategy, and at the same time is fully conversant with the detailed figures and data in support"

Questions & Answers

Mike is a chartered quantity surveyor who has over 35 years’ experience in the industry and has worked internationally for many years, with the last 18 years being based full-time in Hong Kong. He has extensive experience in procurement and contract strategy, dispute resolution and providing strategic advice to clients on distressed or problem projects. He acts a quantum expert witness on a number of construction disputes, for both claimant and respondent, working with major firms of solicitors and barristers. He has given evidence in the High Court twice, and in domestic and international arbitrations 23 times and is a CEDR accredited mediator.

How does your background as a surveyor enhance your current practice?

I believe that the grounding you receive prior to undertaking expert witness commissions, provides invaluable experience. It provides context and a depth of understanding that means when faced with the various issues that are typically in dispute, as well as normally incomplete information, you are able to draw upon this experience to enable you to target your investigation, seek out this missing information and or if required make the appropriate and relevant assumptions.

It also helps, that where required you can provide tribunals with practical examples to break down complex matters into understandable sections and explanations.

How has the approach to quantifying economic damages evolved since you first began practising?

When I first began assessing claims, the nature of the claims and the way they were presented were perhaps of a smaller size and simpler in nature. They were more of the traditional damages assessments that arise on construction projects. However, with the increasing scale and complexity of the projects as well as the complicated nature of risk allocation and contract structures, this does present a very different perspective on the damage’s assessments of today.

Additionally, while as a damages expert you are very careful in navigating aspects of the law and contract construction, invariably there are circumstances where it is helpful to the clients, lawyers and tribunal to provide an opinion as a practitioner. This is typically undertaken in close coordination with clients and lawyers and can involve the identification of the different assessments that can be undertaken, but nonetheless is a growing feature in the role of quantifying complex damages.

Do you think early tribunal involvement with experts has encouraged experts to remain focused on the issues?

I believe that the early intervention of the tribunal is a positive one, which means that the issues to be addressed by the expert are crystallised fairly early on. Document research, investigation and the engagement with the client and legal team reduces the likelihood of experts not being able to assist the tribunal.

This can also directly contribute to the agreement of common data sets, as these data sets will be focused upon the specific issues to be addressed.

What steps can younger experts take to improve their chances of getting testifying appointments? Is there an important role to play here for experienced practitioners?

I believe that training does play an important role in this, and the attendance at any dedicated sessions run by reputable organisations does greatly assist. However, there is no substitute for experience and so working closely with an experienced practitioner is the best way to obtain this. Observing each and every stage, as well as fully experiencing the trial and tribulations of a hearing is also invaluable. Gathering this experience prepares the younger expert to take the next step, which is actively promoted in the right organisation. This is something we promote within Secretariat and have a number of experts who each year have gained their first testifying experience.

Why do you think some parties are moving away from the usual practice of seeking their own individual expert assessment and instead seeking the use of a single joint expert?

There is a suggestion that some parties consider it more cost-effective, albeit I have seen conflicting data on this issue. Generally, it seems to be that rather than traditionally having two experts when each are party-appointed, you could have three experts involved in SJE arrangements. That is the SJE and two separate party-appointed experts.

Discrete issues where there are very narrow parameters perhaps would lend itself to an SJE, but I understand that the more complex and demanding cases would not be set up or have the right environment for such an expert process.

What influence to do you see covid-19 having on trends in the types of disputes going to arbitration?

I believe that covid-19 is going to mean that the CMC and procedural hearings will likely be wholly virtual hearings, whereas the hearings may be a mix of virtual and face-to-face hearings. With regards to the types of disputes, it would appear to me that delayed access, suspension and delay-based claims are highly likely, as well as the resulting impacts on productivity and so disruption claims will likely feature also.

Where suspensions and the wider impacts are being felt on the projects, which perhaps are more terminal and fundamental in nature, I also consider that we will likely see a continuing theme of termination disputes, both lawful and wrongful.

What advice would you give younger experts undertaking their first cross-examination or hot-tubbing process?

To make sure as with any hearing that you are as prepared as you can be, which means knowing your report and the associated evidence related to the issues. Knowing the joint statement and all its features is also very important. I would use your team, assuming you have colleagues who have assisted you, to explore scenarios and typical areas of interest, which will be self-evident from the joint statement.

When the day comes, make sure you have carefully planned all of the day, so that you control all that you can control. At the hearing make sure you answer the question (and only that), make sure you take a note of the questions so that it’s not a memory test and above all continually remind yourself that you are there to assist the tribunal, albeit it may not feel like that with counsel’s cross-examination. Being independent and being seen to be independent, should help lift you away from some of the typical behaviours that accompany a partisan expert.

What professional challenges are you expecting to encounter in 2021, and how do you expect to navigate them?

Covid-19, unfortunately, will continue to present us all with day-to-day challenges. There are many defining examples around us each and every day, of how human endeavour can assist and give us inspiration to provide context and also assist in overcoming our professional challenges.

I believe that the growing use of remote hearings does mean that we need to adapt our practices and establish ‘new norms’, which will include the use of technology, breakout rooms and working at strange hours, as well as flexibility in connecting with other participants involved in the matter around the world. I also believe that a willingness and mindset of being flexible and adaptable to change will greatly assist in navigating the seen and unseen challenges that we are likely to face in 2021.

Finally, having a strong and united team that has a collective and combined goal of achieving excellence and striving for continuous improvement will also be a critical component.

Thought Leaders - Construction Experts 2020

Q&A

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

WWL says

Global Elite Thought Leader Mike Allen is an established name, with “great experience” and an “astute” and “very professional approach” to contractual claims and project-related disputes.

Questions & Answers

Mike is a chartered quantity surveyor who has over 30 years’ experience in the industry and has worked internationally for many years, with the last 18 years being based full-time in Hong Kong. He has extensive experience in procurement and contract strategy, dispute resolution and providing strategic advice to clients on distressed or problem projects. He acts a quantum expert witness on a number of construction disputes, for both claimant and respondent, working with major firms of solicitors and barristers. He has given evidence in the High Court twice, and in domestic and international arbitrations 22 times and is a CEDR accredited mediator.

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

This requires you to not only be proficient with the capability to deal with and process large amounts of electronic data, but ever more so, you require a clear sense of direction around what you are looking for and what you want to achieve from any investigation. This also promotes the requirement to use innovative techniques to sift through large amounts of data, as well as a clear perspective on the requirement to be proportionate in what you review.

An uptick of PPP’s in Hong Kong has been highlighted recently. What do you think the reasons for this are and what impact will this have on the construction industry? 

The industry as a whole is looking for new and innovative ways to stimulate the economy and seeking outside investment is one such measure. I don’t consider this as over-taking government or owner investment but see this as one of the components required in order to stimulate the economy and industry as a whole.

Why is it becoming increasingly important to carefully manage conflicts of interests when appointing expert witnesses in international construction disputes? 

Conflicts of interest have always been an important feature, when accepting appointments as an expert witness. Although it does appear that with larger scale disputes and perhaps a fewer select group of experienced, capable and available experts, the desire to retain those experts can sometimes present challenges within that smaller pool. Also, as organisations in terms of both expert firms and parties expand their international presence the issue of conflicts is on occasions becoming more complex to assess. 

In what ways has the political situation in Hong Kong impacted the construction sector and your practice? 

The protests that started more recently in mid-2019 have undoubtedly caused a blip in the construction sector. There is no doubt that the legacy projects have continued throughout this period, but for various reasons it certainly appears that some of the government programmes planned for debate and approval in this financial budgeting term, will be delayed. It is however worthy of note that the HIAC in particular has maintained a steady stream of arbitrations and mediations, which still perhaps points towards a solid core of work, which may well continue unaffected by recent events.

With the Hong Kong government looking to rebuild the country’s image as a travel destination, where do you think the future of the construction industry lies? 

Hong Kong, firstly as an aviation and transportation hub has a unique geographical location which uniquely positions the city between, North, South and South East Asia. The investment into the Hong Kong Airport and its new terminal and 3rd runway will further cement Hong Kong as a uniquely located travel hub, that will also allow and enable efficient transiting where required. Therefore, with a major construction spend attached to this development, further MTRC rail development and the associated leisure developments will place the industry with a strong pipeline of work.

How does Secretariat stand out from its competitors in the market? 

We pride ourselves on “Experience above all”. That means that we have centred the firm’s market position, development and any associated growth around having experienced experts, which in turn drives quality. To enable this to happen we only recruit the very best in their respective fields and so to have an outstanding complement of experts listed in WWL. We are also ranked second in GAR’s global expert power index, demonstrating that our strategy is delivering results and being recognised by the market. 

In what ways has covid-19 impacted your work as an expert? 

Covid-19 has caused some hearings and procedural deadlines to be delayed, but work has continued and likewise hearings. Some of those hearings have switched over to being virtual hearings, which I have been pleasantly surprised at how effective they have been run and evidence adduced. It also appears that from the early signs that I see in enquiries and appointments that the consequences of covid-19 on construction and engineering sites is also going to become a source of work in relation to the cause of future disputes.

What advice would you give to younger experts hoping one day to be in your position? 

To gain as much practical experience as you can, as early as you can. 

Make sure you are part of an active mentoring, learning and development programme, that is real and gives you the opportunity to learn off each other and senior experts. 

Seek and be willing to listen and receive active feedback. Above all else be willing to invest the time and effort into your own career.

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

Global Leader

WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

Peers and clients say

"He is without a doubt a thought leader"
"Mike is focused, organised and responsive"
"He is able to understand the wider context in which his evidence will sit and help refine case strategy, and at the same time is fully conversant with the detailed figures and data in support"

Biography

Mike is a chartered quantity surveyor with over 30 years' experience in the industry. He has worked internationally for many years, spending the past 18 years based full-time in Hong Kong. He has extensive experience in procurement and contract strategy; dispute resolution; and providing strategic advice to clients on distressed or problem projects.

Mike works on numerous disputes and live projects for employers, contractors and subcontractors. He provides contract advice, and has prepared claims and rebuttals; assisted in negotiations; and appeared in many different tribunals. Mike is experienced in a wide range of civil engineering, building, M&E and process plant contracts, including the ICE sixth edition; Engineering Construction Contract (NEC); I Chem E Red and Green Book; G90; JCT; and GC Works and Sub Contract Forms, which also includes bespoke, simple and situations of no written contract. He also has extensive experience of FIDIC and various standard and ad hoc forms of contract in various countries in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Australasia.

Mike’s experience includes building, civil engineering, mining, infrastructure, LNG facilities, marine civil engineering and process works. This has been in both project-related and arbitration environments, where the work has involved the analysis of large amounts of data to produce independent valuations related to a range of claims including delay and disruption, prolongation and variations.

Mike has been appointed as a quantum expert witness on several construction disputes, acting for both claimants and respondents, working with major firms of solicitors and barristers. He has given evidence in the High Court twice, and in domestic and international arbitrations 22 times.

Mike is also a CEDR-accredited mediator.

WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

Peers and clients say:

“Mike is my go-to quantum expert for the most complicated cases"

"He is head and shoulders above all other experts in Hong Kong”

“He brings unrivalled expertise and you always know his work will be of the highest quality”

Biography

Mike is a chartered quantity surveyor with over 35 years' experience in the industry. He has worked internationally for many years, spending the past 18 years based full-time in Hong Kong. He has extensive experience in procurement and contract strategy; dispute resolution; and providing strategic advice to clients on distressed or problem projects.

Mike works on numerous disputes and live projects for employers, contractors and subcontractors. He provides contract advice, and has prepared claims and rebuttals, assisted in negotiations and appeared in many different tribunals. Mike is experienced in a wide range of civil engineering, building, M&E and process plant contracts, including the ICE sixth edition; Engineering Construction Contract (NEC); I Chem E Red and Green Book; G90; JCT; and GC Works and Sub Contract Forms, which also includes bespoke, simple and situations of no written contract. He also has extensive experience of FIDIC and various standard and ad hoc forms of contract in various countries in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Australasia.

Mike’s experience includes building, civil engineering, mining, infrastructure, LNG facilities, marine civil engineering and process works. This has been in both project-related and arbitration environments, where the work has involved the analysis of large amounts of data to produce independent valuations related to a range of claims including delay and disruption, prolongation and variations.

Mike has been appointed as a quantum expert witness on a number of construction disputes, acting for both claimant and respondent, working with major firms of solicitors and barristers. He has given evidence in the High Court twice, and in domestic and international arbitrations 20 times.

Mike is also a CEDR-accredited mediator.

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Mike Allen is singled out as the “best in the region” by sources who note he “performs very well in the quantum arena”.

Biography

Mike is a chartered quantity surveyor with over 30 years' experience in the industry. He has worked internationally for many years, spending the past 18 years based full-time in Hong Kong. He has extensive experience in procurement and contract strategy; dispute resolution; and providing strategic advice to clients on distressed or problem projects.

Mike works on numerous disputes and live projects for employers, contractors and subcontractors. He provides contract advice, and has prepared claims and rebuttals; assisted in negotiations; and appeared in many different tribunals. Mike is experienced in a wide range of civil engineering, building, M&E and process plant contracts, including the ICE sixth edition; Engineering Construction Contract (NEC); I Chem E Red and Green Book; G90; JCT; and GC Works and Sub Contract Forms, which also includes bespoke, simple and situations of no written contract. He also has extensive experience of FIDIC and various standard and ad hoc forms of contract in various countries in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Australasia.

Mike’s experience includes building, civil engineering, mining, infrastructure, LNG facilities, marine civil engineering and process works. This has been in both project-related and arbitration environments, where the work has involved the analysis of large amounts of data to produce independent valuations related to a range of claims including delay and disruption, prolongation and variations.

Mike has been appointed as a quantum expert witness on several construction disputes, acting for both claimants and respondents, working with major firms of solicitors and barristers. He has given evidence in the High Court twice, and in domestic and international arbitrations 22 times.

Mike is also a CEDR-accredited mediator.

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

The "very professional" Mike Allen is "calm under cross-examination" and thoroughly impressive for complex damages claims according to sources.

Biography

Mike is a chartered quantity surveyor with over 30 years' experience in the industry. He has worked internationally for many years, spending the past 18 years based full-time in Hong Kong. He has extensive experience in procurement and contract strategy; dispute resolution; and providing strategic advice to clients on distressed or problem projects.

Mike works on numerous disputes and live projects for employers, contractors and subcontractors. He provides contract advice, and has prepared claims and rebuttals; assisted in negotiations; and appeared in many different tribunals. Mike is experienced in a wide range of civil engineering, building, M&E and process plant contracts, including the ICE sixth edition; Engineering Construction Contract (NEC); I Chem E Red and Green Book; G90; JCT; and GC Works and Sub Contract Forms, which also includes bespoke, simple and situations of no written contract. He also has extensive experience of FIDIC and various standard and ad hoc forms of contract in various countries in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Australasia.

Mike’s experience includes building, civil engineering, mining, infrastructure, LNG facilities, marine civil engineering and process works. This has been in both project-related and arbitration environments, where the work has involved the analysis of large amounts of data to produce independent valuations related to a range of claims including delay and disruption, prolongation and variations.

Mike has been appointed as a quantum expert witness on several construction disputes, acting for both claimants and respondents, working with major firms of solicitors and barristers. He has given evidence in the High Court twice, and in domestic and international arbitrations 22 times.

Mike is also a CEDR-accredited mediator.

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