Helmut K Johannsen
Office:
925 West Georgia Street
Suite 1200
V6C 3L2
City:
Vancouver
State:
British Columbia
Country:
Canada
Tel:
+1 604 673 7431

Questions and Answers:

Who's Who Legal Thought Leaders - Construction

Helmut Johannsen, associate counsel at Singleton Urquhart Reynolds Vogel LLP, is a lawyer, licensed professional engineer and chartered arbitrator. He is co-chair of the IBA’s international construction projects committee and fellow of the American and Canadian Colleges of Construction Lawyers and Chartered Institute of Arbitrators. His practice focus is law relating to construction and engineering, including strategic advice, risk mitigation, procurement processes, contracts, insurance, bonding, acting as counsel and as a mediator, arbitrator and adjudicator.

Describe your career to date.

While working as a professional engineer I became interested in law. I then worked as a consulting engineer while in law school and, after graduating, worked for 36 years at what became an international law firm where I was head of its construction and infrastructure practice group. I moved to Singleton Urquhart Reynolds Vogel LLP in 2016 to reduce numerous conflicts, which also allowed me to accept more appointments as mediator, arbitrator and adjudicator. I have worked as counsel on many large complex litigation and arbitration cases, as well as a transaction lawyer on procurement of major national and international infrastructure projects with values in excess of US$10 billion. My practice is now split almost equally between counsel work, transaction work and acting as mediator, arbitrator and adjudicator.

What did you find most challenging about starting out in construction law?

As I was already able to read and understand drawings, specifications and expert reports, what was most challenging when beginning as a lawyer was dealing with the enormous volume of documents produced in litigation, particularly before the days of desktop computers and litigation support software.

How has the growth of international arbitration affected the construction industry during your career? Is arbitration now the favoured form of dispute resolution for international construction matters?

The growth of international arbitration has created a pool of arbitrators who both understand construction projects and have considerable expertise in construction law. Arbitration is the favoured form of dispute resolution for international projects as it removes the dispute from the domestic courts, results in decisions by arbitrators knowledgeable in construction, and most importantly facilitates the international enforcement of an award.

How has your background as an engineer benefited your legal practice in construction?

My engineering background is in geotechnical engineering, civil/structural engineering and municipal engineering, with an exposure to metallurgy and hydrology. This, combined with experience in design and supervisions of construction, has been invaluable throughout my legal practice, both as counsel and as a transaction lawyer. The ability to read and understand drawings, specifications, technical studies, claims and expert reports without assistance from an expert has proven extremely beneficial. As counsel, it has enabled me to review documents without assistance from experts explaining them to me, and even to cross-examine opposing technical experts without the aid of my own expert when a client is unwilling to engage additional experts. As a transaction lawyer, it has enabled me to review the statements of work, drawings and technical specifications for consistency with each other and with the commercial terms of contracts. My background as an engineer, counsel and transaction lawyer representing all sectors of the industry has often assisted in achieving settlement of claims and disputes early in the litigation or arbitration process. As a mediator, arbitrator or adjudicator it has enabled me to review and understand drawings, technical documents and issues without wasting time for parties to explain commonly understood engineering terms and principles.

What do the parties look for in an effective arbitrator?

Parties look for an arbitrator who is recognised as having considerable experience in both construction law and arbitral processes, who has a reputation for acting impartially and without favouritism, who gives the parties a fair opportunity to present their case while vigilantly trying to keep costs under control, and who renders well-reasoned awards in a timely fashion. In appropriate cases, they also seek an arbitrator who has some familiarity with legal and cultural differences between civil law and common law jurisdictions.

How does Singleton Urquhart Reynolds Vogel distinguish itself from the competition?

The firm distinguishes itself from its competition by focusing on the construction industry, including providing cost-effective excellent representation of contractors, suppliers, manufacturers, architects, engineers, insurers and sureties. Many of our lawyers are recognised for their expertise in this area and the firm’s reputation of excellence is demonstrated by its recognition as Canadian Construction Law Firm of the Year in 2018 by Benchmark.

Looking back over your career, what is the most memorable case you have been a part of?

On the litigation side, a lengthy complex ICC arbitration at the very outset of my legal career. It had numerous interesting design, manufacturing, construction, operation and maintenance issues, as well as an unsuccessful challenge before the ICC Court in Paris by the opposing party to remove the arbitrator for bias mid-way through the hearing.

On the transaction side, that would be a design-build contract for a hydroelectric power project. I was involved in the early planning stage, developed the procurement process and contracts, negotiated the final contract, and was a member of the owner’s project oversight committee meeting monthly until completion of the project, which was completed ahead of required contract schedule with less than 2 per cent in change orders and no claims.

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

Obtain a good grounding in basic contract law and contract drafting, join industry groups to learn about the industry, avoid representing only one sector of the industry, and regularly tour construction sites with clients as work progresses, even if the site tours can’t be charged. In short: get out of the office.

Biographies:

Who's Who Legal Canada - Construction

Helmut Johannsen is an associate counsel and a member of the alternative dispute resolution, construction and infrastructure law and co-chair of the international construction projects group at Singleton Urquhart Reynolds Vogel LLP.

His practice includes all aspects of law relating to construction, engineering, procurement and infrastructure including strategic advice, risk mitigation, negotiating, drafting, tendering and interpreting contracts, insurance and bonding, mediation, arbitration and litigation. He has acted as counsel on complex civil litigation cases and arbitrations involving construction, engineering and procurement. He has prepared procurement documents and contracts for infrastructure projects, including hydroelectric, rapid transit, LNG and gas pipeline projects.

He is a chartered arbitrator (ADR Institute of Canada) and has acted as sole arbitrator, arbitration tribunal member, and chair of arbitration tribunals on a number of construction and engineering disputes.

Helmut is a lawyer, registered professional engineer, chartered arbitrator (ADR Institute of Canada) and a fellow of the Canadian College of Construction Lawyers, American College of Construction Lawyers and International Academy of Construction Lawyers. He is chair of the IBA’s international construction projects committee and vice-president of the Society of Construction Law (North America). 

WWL says: Helmut Johannsen is a standout construction law practitioner who is widely respected in the Canadian market for his expertise in construction arbitration.

This biography is an extract from Who's Who Legal: Canada which can be purchased from our Shop.

Who's Who Legal Construction: Lawyers

Helmut Johannsen is an associate counsel and a member of the alternative dispute resolution, construction and infrastructure law and co-chair of the international construction projects group at Singleton Urquhart Reynolds Vogel LLP.

His practice includes all aspects of law relating to construction, engineering, procurement and infrastructure including strategic advice, risk mitigation, negotiating, drafting, tendering and interpreting contracts, insurance and bonding, mediation, arbitration and litigation. He has acted as counsel on complex civil litigation cases and arbitrations involving construction, engineering and procurement. He has prepared procurement documents and contracts for infrastructure projects, including hydroelectric, rapid transit, LNG and gas pipeline projects.

He is a chartered arbitrator (ADR Institute of Canada) and has acted as sole arbitrator, arbitration tribunal member, and chair of arbitration tribunals on a number of construction and engineering disputes.

Helmut is a lawyer, registered professional engineer, chartered arbitrator (ADR Institute of Canada) and a fellow of the Canadian College of Construction Lawyers, American College of Construction Lawyers and International Academy of Construction Lawyers. He is chair of the IBA’s international construction projects committee and vice-president of the Society of Construction Law (North America). 

WWL says: Helmut Johannsen is identified as a Global Elite Thought Leader in the field and is described as “an exceedingly good construction lawyer”, who is “particularly good in transactional work”.

This biography is an extract from Who's Who Legal: Construction which can be purchased from our Shop.

Who's Who Legal Canada - Government Contracts

Helmut Johannsen is an associate counsel and a member of the alternative dispute resolution, construction and infrastructure law and co-chair of the international construction projects group at Singleton Urquhart Reynolds Vogel LLP.

His practice includes all aspects of law relating to construction, engineering, procurement and infrastructure including strategic advice, risk mitigation, negotiating, drafting, tendering and interpreting contracts, insurance and bonding, mediation, arbitration and litigation. He has acted as counsel on complex civil litigation cases and arbitrations involving construction, engineering and procurement. He has prepared procurement documents and contracts for infrastructure projects, including hydroelectric, rapid transit, LNG and gas pipeline projects.

He is a chartered arbitrator (ADR Institute of Canada) and has acted as sole arbitrator, arbitration tribunal member, and chair of arbitration tribunals on a number of construction and engineering disputes.

Helmut is a lawyer, registered professional engineer, chartered arbitrator (ADR Institute of Canada) and a fellow of the Canadian College of Construction Lawyers, American College of Construction Lawyers and International Academy of Construction Lawyers. He is chair of the IBA’s international construction projects committee and vice-president of the Society of Construction Law (North America). 

WWL says: Helmut Johannsen is a highly talented and experienced practitioner in the government contracts field, recognised for his impressive work on bidding and procurement matters.

This biography is an extract from Who's Who Legal: Canada which can be purchased from our Shop.

Who's Who Legal Canada - Mediation

Helmut Johannsen is an associate counsel and a member of the alternative dispute resolution, construction and infrastructure law and co-chair of the international construction projects group at Singleton Urquhart Reynolds Vogel LLP.

His practice includes all aspects of law relating to construction, engineering, procurement and infrastructure including strategic advice, risk mitigation, negotiating, drafting, tendering and interpreting contracts, insurance and bonding, mediation, arbitration and litigation. He has acted as counsel on complex civil litigation cases and arbitrations involving construction, engineering and procurement. He has prepared procurement documents and contracts for infrastructure projects, including hydroelectric, rapid transit, LNG and gas pipeline projects.

He is a chartered arbitrator (ADR Institute of Canada) and has acted as sole arbitrator, arbitration tribunal member, and chair of arbitration tribunals on a number of construction and engineering disputes.

Helmut is a lawyer, registered professional engineer, chartered arbitrator (ADR Institute of Canada) and a fellow of the Canadian College of Construction Lawyers, American College of Construction Lawyers and International Academy of Construction Lawyers. He is chair of the IBA’s international construction projects committee and vice-president of the Society of Construction Law (North America). 

 

WWL says: Helmut Johannsen is a prominent figure in the construction market and is well known for his expertise in resolving sophisticated sector-related disputes.

 

This biography is an extract from Who's Who Legal: Canada which can be purchased from our Shop.

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