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Thought Leaders

Thought Leaders

Roger ter Haar QC

Roger ter Haar QC

Crown Office Chambers2 Crown Office RowTempleLondonEnglandEC4Y 7HJ
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Thought Leader

WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

Questions & Answers

Roger has extensive experience of acting in construction and engineering disputes both within the UK and internationally. Cases in which he has been involved as counsel or arbitrator include disputes relating to projects in Australia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Ireland, Bulgaria, Gibraltar, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Jersey, Kuwait, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Tanzania and the USA. Clients have included governments, local authorities, other employers, contractors, sub-contractors and professionals. Roger sits as an arbitrator and adjudicator in construction and engineering disputes. He sits as a deputy high court judge in the Technology and Construction Court.

What attracted you to a career as a barrister?

I went to university to read law, but with little knowledge then of what practising as a lawyer involved. I enjoyed being introduced to the academic discipline of the law and decided to qualify as a lawyer. I then had to choose between the Bar and becoming a solicitor. In those days law firms were much smaller than they are now, and few had overseas offices. Even so, the City firms were significantly larger than even the largest set of chambers.

The idea of working in a relatively small group of professionals, taking full responsibility for my own work, was attractive. I was still very naive as to what life at the Bar involved. However, I was lucky: I joined a group of welcoming and successful barristers and was exposed from an early stage to a wide range of work, including in my first two years everything from criminal cases in the magistrates’ courts to assisting in the end stages of the thalidomide litigation, and the largest reinsurance case to have been brought in the London courts at that time. This was fascinating and exhilarating.

What unique qualities are required of dispute resolution lawyers specialising in the construction sector?

In general, the skills required in construction disputes are not unique, but involve extremes of particular skills. Thus large commercial disputes outside the construction sector require the ability to analyse large quantities of documentation and to marshall it successfully, but this is very much a necessity in construction disputes. Many cases require an ability to understand complex technical evidence, but again this is a necessity in construction disputes. What marks out the experienced construction practitioners is repeated experience of similar factual situations on site, and applying that experience to understand the technical problems arising on a particular project and why those problems have led the parties to differ.

How does your arbitration experience enhance your litigation practice, and vice versa?

I started with litigation and came to arbitration after several years at the Bar. There is no doubt in my mind that the experience of cross-examining witnesses in a wide range of cases with no connection to the construction sector, as well as many cases involving construction disputes, was invaluable when I came to spend most of my practice in arbitration. Perhaps most of all, cross-examination of witnesses where the primary skill was to understand the personality of a witness without necessarily basing the lines of questions upon a written record was a useful training ground in order to cut through and try to understand what lies behind a written record.

How does your experience as an arbitrator and as a deputy High Court judge influence your approach to construction disputes?

One thing stands out particularly: experience of deciding cases whether as a judge or as an arbitrator makes one realise the value of targeted and concentrated submissions, which seek to make the job of the tribunal easier not harder. Taking every point, whether good or bad, is unhelpful. It delays decisions and makes the risk of a bad decision greater. In most cases, there are usually only a few points on which the decision turns, but in most big arbitrations the tribunal is asked to wade through hundreds of pages desperately trying to sift the good and essential points from the bad and peripheral points.

How does advising governments and government authorities differ from representing private clients? How do their priorities differ?

In a properly run case for a government, the interest of government is to promote good practices in disputes and commercial matters keeping an eye on long-term implications, even if in the short term the financial consequences may be less favourable to the government as a result of taking that approach. However, there are many instances, in cases for both governments and private clients, where the interests of individuals, particularly those whose careers or other financial interests may be at stake, obscure good practice. This is often the reason for cases that should settle not settling. This is a risk in both types of case.

You have practised as a barrister for 40 years. What advice you would share with practitioners hoping to establish themselves in the profession?

Work hard, be open to new challenges, and value your personal integrity and reputation above everything else. It takes years to build a reputation, and that reputation can be lost very quickly. Be willing to admit to mistakes and to accept responsibility for them.

How do you expect the construction field to develop over the next five years?

Not in any dramatically different way: the trend towards more disputes being resolved by adjudication or dispute resolution boards in more jurisdictions will continue.

What do you consider to be the greatest achievement of your career to date?

Not a construction case! It was obtaining damages for a claimant against the solicitors who represented him disastrously in divorce proceedings. The outcome of those proceedings led to my client losing his home totally unnecessarily and led to him attempting, in desperation, to remedy the wrong done to him. Having obtained damages from the solicitors we were able to settle with his ex-wife: he went from living rough and being on a disastrous downward spiral to a stable lifestyle, and finding happiness in a new relationship. The key was persuading a judge that he had always been telling the truth.

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

Questions & Answers

Roger has extensive experience of acting in construction and engineering disputes both within the UK and internationally. Cases in which he has been involved as counsel or arbitrator include disputes relating to projects in Australia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Ireland, Bulgaria, Gibraltar, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Jersey, Kuwait, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Tanzania and the USA. Clients have included governments, local authorities, other employers, contractors, sub-contractors and professionals. Roger sits as an arbitrator and adjudicator in construction and engineering disputes. He sits as a deputy high court judge in the Technology and Construction Court.

What attracted you to a career as a barrister?

I went to university to read law, but with little knowledge then of what practising as a lawyer involved. I enjoyed being introduced to the academic discipline of the law and decided to qualify as a lawyer. I then had to choose between the Bar and becoming a solicitor. In those days law firms were much smaller than they are now, and few had overseas offices. Even so, the City firms were significantly larger than even the largest set of chambers.

The idea of working in a relatively small group of professionals, taking full responsibility for my own work, was attractive. I was still very naive as to what life at the Bar involved. However I was lucky: I joined a group of welcoming and successful barristers and was exposed from an early stage to a wide range of work, including in my first two years everything from criminal cases in the magistrates’ courts to assisting in the end stages of the thalidomide litigation, and the largest reinsurance case to have been brought in the London courts at that time. This was fascinating and exhilarating.

What unique qualities are required of dispute resolution lawyers specialising in the construction sector?

In general, the skills required in construction disputes are not unique, but involve extremes of particular skills. Thus large commercial disputes outside the construction sector require the ability to analyse large quantities of documentation and to marshall it successfully, but this is very much a necessity in construction disputes. Many cases require an ability to understand complex technical evidence, but again this is a necessity in construction disputes. What marks out the experienced construction practitioners is repeated experience of similar factual situations on site, and applying that experience to understand the technical problems arising on a particular project and why those problems have led the parties to differ.

How does your arbitration experience enhance your litigation practice, and vice versa?

I started with litigation and came to arbitration after several years at the Bar. There is no doubt in my mind that the experience of cross-examining witnesses in a wide range of cases with no connection to the construction sector, as well as many cases involving construction disputes, was invaluable when I came to spend most of my practice in arbitration. Perhaps most of all, cross-examination of witnesses where the primary skill was to understand the personality of a witness without necessarily basing the lines of questions upon a written record was a useful training ground in order to cut through and try to understand what lies behind a written record.

How does your experience as an arbitrator and as a deputy High Court judge influence your approach to construction disputes?

One thing stands out particularly: experience of deciding cases whether as a judge or as an arbitrator makes one realise the value of targeted and concentrated submissions, which seek to make the job of the tribunal easier not harder. Taking every point, whether good or bad, is unhelpful. It delays decisions and makes the risk of a bad decision greater. In most cases, there are usually only a few points on which the decision turns, but in most big arbitrations the tribunal is asked to wade through hundreds of pages desperately trying to sift the good and essential points from the bad and peripheral points.

How does advising governments and government authorities differ from representing private clients? How do their priorities differ?

In a properly run case for a government, the interest of government is to promote good practices in disputes and commercial matters keeping an eye on long-term implications, even if in the short term the financial consequences may be less favourable to the government as a result of taking that approach. However, there are many instances, in cases for both governments and private clients, where the interests of individuals, particularly those whose careers or other financial interests may be at stake, obscure good practice. This is often the reason for cases which should settle not settling. This is a risk in both types of case.

You have practised as a barrister for 40 years. What advice you would share with practitioners hoping to establish themselves in the profession?

Work hard, be open to new challenges, and value your personal integrity and reputation above everything else. It takes years to build a reputation, and that reputation can be lost very quickly. Be willing to admit to mistakes and to accept responsibility for them.

How do you expect the construction field to develop over the next five years?

Not in any dramatically different way: the trend towards more disputes being resolved by adjudication or dispute resolution boards in more jurisdictions will continue.

What do you consider to be the greatest achievement of your career to date?

Not a construction case! It was obtaining damages for a claimant against the solicitors who represented him disastrously in divorce proceedings. The outcome of those proceedings led to my client losing his home totally unnecessarily and led to him attempting, in desperation, to remedy the wrong done to him. Having obtained damages from the solicitors we were able to settle with his ex-wife: he went from living rough and being on a disastrous downward spiral to a stable lifestyle, and finding happiness in a new relationship. The key was persuading a judge that he had always been telling the truth.

Global Leader

WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

National Leader

WWL Ranking: Recommended
WWL Ranking: Recommended
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