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Thought Leaders

Thought Leaders

Mike Saulsbury

Mike Saulsbury

SecretariatOne Central - The Offices 5Level 1, Suite 106Sheikh Zayed RoadDubaiUnited Arab Emirates

Thought Leader

WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

WWL says

Mike Saulsbury is “very knowledgeable, experienced and practical”, with one impressed client stating that he is “the best delay analyst I have ever worked with”.

Questions & Answers

Mr Saulsbury is a managing director of Secretariat International. He specialises in providing consultation on construction and engineering projects and has principally been appointed by clients, or clients’ legal counsel, who are involved in large capital projects or other construction-related matters. He is frequently appointed as an independent expert and has testified several times as an expert witness. Mr Saulsbury has lived and worked in the United States and abroad. His professional experience includes working with US, UK, UAE and other international owners, developers, engineers, contractors and stakeholders to consult on matters related to project management, project controls, scheduling/programming, contract disputes and claims.

Describe your career to date.

I always had a strong interest in math and problem solving. I was also fascinated by the science that went into some of the world’s largest engineering and construction projects. I pursued those early interests, attaining degrees in civil engineering and beginning my career as a project engineer and assistant project manager for various small and medium-sized construction projects. My desire to expand my experience and apply my love of problem solving to different types of construction projects led me to work at large, international consulting organisations where, after working with a number of world renowned experts, I acted for the first time as an expert witness. Since its founding 10 years ago, I have worked at Secretariat International, where I act as expert witness on large, high-profile construction disputes. I am very proud of Secretariat’s reputation for bringing objectivity and quality to expert services, especially in the area of construction disputes where I work. 

What motivated you to specialise in construction disputes?

I discovered early on that construction projects pretty much never go exactly as planned. When I was working on live projects early in my career, I often found myself dealing with things that did not go as expected. In addition to adapting to changes in the field on a day-to-day basis, I also became increasingly involved with some of the more complex project management issues such as claims and extensions of time. I enjoyed the challenge of taking what I saw first hand happening in the field, relating it to the schedule, the budget and the contract, and presenting the results in a way that people understood. I found it even more fulfilling when my work resulted in a positive outcome for the project. As a result of those experiences, I decided to pursue opportunities to build my career as an expert on even more challenging projects.

What particular skills are required of experts specialising in delay and scheduling disputes?

While it is frequently very helpful to be able to draw upon first-hand experience with specific types of construction projects, in many ways the same or similar skills apply to most construction disputes from a scheduling programming perspective. First, an expert needs to be able to understand, and visualise, how a project was planned to be executed. This oftentimes involves analysing a large, complex schedule/programme in sophisticated computer software. Second, an expert needs to be able to review and take in the vast factual matrix of what actually happened on a project. This requires putting together a jigsaw puzzle where the pieces are the thousands of contemporaneous project records. Third, on most construction projects only certain issues matter and an expert must possess a combination of technical experience and judgement to be able to identify the relevant activities and/or issues which were responsible for delaying the project. This is referred to as the critical path. Fourth, an expert must be able to explain his or her analysis in a clear and concise manner. While an expert is of course expected to be thorough, an analysis which is understood only by the expert that produced it is of little use to anyone in the dispute resolution process. Lastly, and most importantly, an expert must understand his or her role in the dispute resolution process. In many dispute resolution forums (especially those in which I practise), the expert owes his or her duty to the arbiter of the dispute. This means that objectivity, integrity and independence overarch everything that an expert does.       

What is your perspective working as an expert in the Middle East?

The Middle East is a fascinating place to live and work. Take Dubai – few places in the world have experienced the same pace of growth over such a short span of time. To anyone involved in the construction industry, the extent and scale of construction projects has been exciting to watch, and even more exciting to be a part of. The growth in construction has resulted in a melting pot of expertise from across the globe, including from scheduling/programming experts like myself.

How do you expect the construction market in Dubai, and in the Middle East more broadly, to develop over the next five years?

I am very excited about what’s yet to come for Dubai and the Middle East, and can’t wait to be at the forefront. While oil and gas will remain a key driver of the region for the foreseeable future, a wide variety of other industries round out what Dubai and the region have now become. One example of that transformation is reflected in the large, state-of-the-art airports which have been built around the region over the past decade. Those working in the region can look forward to more projects related to the tourism, real estate, entertainment and the commercial industries. One only needs to open the newspaper to read about the next mega-project.

Thought Leaders - Construction Experts 2020

Q&A

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

WWL says

The "very capable" and "excellent" Mike Saulsbury is deemed "highly knowledgeable and experienced" in construction and engineering projects. ​

Questions & Answers

Mr Saulsbury is a managing director of Secretariat. He specialises in providing consultation on construction and engineering projects and has principally been appointed by clients, or clients’ legal counsel, who are involved in large capital projects or other construction-related matters. He is frequently appointed as an independent expert and has testified many times as an expert witness.

What have some of your greatest career highlights?

I have had the privilege to live and work in the United States, the United Kingdom, and now the United Arab Emirates. While that naturally involved some professional and personal transitions, it has given me the opportunity to meet and work with people, and work on exciting projects, that I might not have had the opportunity to do otherwise. 

Why did you choose to specialise as a construction expert and what do you enjoy most about this role? 

Construction projects are by their nature challenging and dynamic, and rarely go exactly as planned. Early in my career I was exposed to some of the more complicated project management issues such as dealing with claims and extensions of time. I found the necessary forensic investigations that I was doing to be interesting. As a result of those early experiences, I decided to pursue opportunities to build my career as an expert on even more challenging projects.

What do clients look for in an effective testifying expert?

A dispute exists because the parties do not see eye to eye. If things were perfectly clear to everyone involved, then there would be no need for an expert. In those circumstances, clients want, and need, an expert who provides objective, impartial, and well-reasoned opinions in order to bring more clarity to the dispute. Tribunals demand the same. Unless experts are able to do that effectively, the value they bring to the process is minimised.

How do construction litigation and arbitration proceedings differ? Which do you prefer?

I have experience in both construction litigation and arbitration. Most of my work in the Middle East is in the arbitration arena. It is not so much of a preference, but the reality of how most complex construction disputes are resolved here, especially with the dynamics of what are often international stakeholders.

What can independent experts offer in the market?

For a long time, the Middle East was dominated by claims consultants. As the dispute resolution market has matured, that has since changed and there are now a greater number of locally based experts specialising in construction disputes and arbitration. In arbitration environments, the most effective experts assist the Tribunal by providing clear, independent opinions on the issues in dispute within their particular expert discipline.

Which types of projects are resulting in the most disputes at the moment? Why do you think this is?

Going back a decade or more, Middle East countries invested heavily in brand new or expanded airport infrastructure. With those projects completed, there has been a subsequent investment in metro projects across a number of major cities. As large projects with multiple stakeholders and complex delivery and supply chains, those projects have led to some disputes. 

What are the greatest challenges the construction industry faced with the advent of covid-19?

The impacts from covid-19 have been felt by everyone in their personal and professional lives. This is especially true for the construction industry as it has inevitably led to challenges in maintaining what were otherwise tight schedules and budgets for major projects. The consequences of covid-19 on project delivery in terms of time and costs is something that will need to be quantified and resolved in some way between the contracting parties.

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

I have had the privilege of working with many construction industry professionals, lawyers, and other experts, many of whom I owe gratitude for their mentorship and development in my career. While it is hard to pinpoint a single piece of advice, a number of people have instilled upon me the benefits of lifelong learning. It is a process that enables continued growth and adaptation to changing times throughout one’s career. You certainly can teach a dog of any age new tricks.

Global Leader

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Mike Saulsbury is a “very good delay expert” who “always gives an independent view to the tribunals and works very hard to tight deadlines”.

Biography

Mr Saulsbury is a managing director of Secretariat International. He specialises in providing consultation on construction and engineering projects and has principally been appointed by clients, or clients legal counsel, who are involved in large capital projects or other construction-related matters. He is frequently appointed as an independent expert and has testified several times as an expert witness.

Mr Saulsbury has lived and worked in the United States and abroad. His professional experience includes working with US, UK, UAE and other international owners, developers, engineers, contractors and stakeholders to consult on matters related to project management, project controls, scheduling/programming, contract disputes and claims.

Mr Saulsbury has been appointed as an independent expert on matters of scheduling/ programming and project delay on construction disputes in arbitration, litigation, adjudication, mediation and formal contract negotiations and has testimony experience on large high-profile international disputes. He has extensive expertise in critical path method (CPM) scheduling/programming, concentrating on claims and disputes arising from project delays. His deep experience includes analyses relating to delay, disruption, productivity, time impacts, acceleration, and other project management and construction issues. Mr Saulsbury has also consulted on matters and disputes related to insurance claims on construction projects, construction operations and cost estimating.

Prior to his consulting and expert witness experience, Mr Saulsbury’s background and experience includes general contracting, engineering design and planning, and construction management. He has held project management responsibilities for the construction of various public and private projects in the US.

Mr Saulsbury received a degree in civil engineering from Virginia Tech and an MS in civil engineering from Stanford University.

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

The "very capable" and "excellent" Mike Saulsbury is deemed "highly knowledgeable and experienced" in construction and engineering projects. ​

Biography

Mr Saulsbury is a managing director of Secretariat. He specialises in providing consultation on construction and engineering projects and has principally been appointed by clients, or clients legal counsel, who are involved in large capital projects or other construction-related matters. He is frequently appointed as an independent expert and has testified many times as an expert witness.

Mr Saulsbury has lived and worked in the United States, the United Kingdom, and the United Arab Emirates. His professional experience includes working with global owners, developers, engineers, contractors and stakeholders to consult on matters related to project management, project controls, scheduling/programming, contract disputes and claims.

Mr Saulsbury has been appointed as an independent expert on matters of scheduling/ programming and project delay on construction disputes in arbitration, litigation, adjudication, mediation and formal contract negotiations and has testimony experience on large high-profile international disputes. He has extensive expertise in critical path method (CPM) scheduling/programming, concentrating on claims and disputes arising from project delays. His deep experience includes analyses relating to delay, disruption, productivity, time impacts, acceleration, and other project management and construction issues. Mr Saulsbury has also consulted on matters and disputes related to insurance claims on construction projects, construction operations and cost estimating.

Prior to his consulting and expert witness experience, Mr Saulsbury’s background and experience includes general contracting, engineering design and planning, and construction management. He has held project management responsibilities for the construction of various public and private projects in the US.

Mr Saulsbury received a degree in civil engineering from Virginia Tech and a master's degree in civil engineering from Stanford University.

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Mike Saulsbury is highly sought after by clients for his meticulous work handling large capital construction projects and contract disputes.

Biography

Mr Saulsbury is a managing director of Secretariat. He specialises in providing consultation on construction and engineering projects and has principally been appointed by clients, or clients legal counsel, who are involved in large capital projects or other construction-related matters. He is frequently appointed as an independent expert and has testified many times as an expert witness.

Mr Saulsbury has lived and worked in the United States, the United Kingdom, and the United Arab Emirates. His professional experience includes working with global owners, developers, engineers, contractors and stakeholders to consult on matters related to project management, project controls, scheduling/programming, contract disputes and claims.

Mr Saulsbury has been appointed as an independent expert on matters of scheduling/ programming and project delay on construction disputes in arbitration, litigation, adjudication, mediation and formal contract negotiations and has testimony experience on large high-profile international disputes. He has extensive expertise in critical path method (CPM) scheduling/programming, concentrating on claims and disputes arising from project delays. His deep experience includes analyses relating to delay, disruption, productivity, time impacts, acceleration, and other project management and construction issues. Mr Saulsbury has also consulted on matters and disputes related to insurance claims on construction projects, construction operations and cost estimating.

Prior to his consulting and expert witness experience, Mr Saulsbury’s background and experience includes general contracting, engineering design and planning, and construction management. He has held project management responsibilities for the construction of various public and private projects in the US.

Mr Saulsbury received a degree in civil engineering from Virginia Tech and a master's degree in civil engineering from Stanford University.

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