What it is like to be a Diales technical expert and some tips for potential new experts?


The Diales technical division has been in existence for just over five years and helps complement Diales’ comprehensive portfolio of quantum, delay and project management expert services.   The technical division works internationally and currently comprises fourteen experts and four associates with experience in the many facets of construction work including offshore, power, natural resources and the built environment, and related industries.  Our technical experts are assisted by three full-time researchers.  The experts have recourse to a technical library, an extensive suit of design software and other resources to help with the analysis, interpretation and explanation.

Those of us who have been through the birth and growth of the technical expert division have enjoyed the relative freedom offered by Diales that has allowed the technical experts to develop specific and targeted methodologies, systems, tools and training, which in turn has allowed our considerable growth to occur.

Where the matters in dispute concern (sometimes complex and interwoven) technical issues, the Diales’ technical experts assist the court, arbitrator(s) and other decision makers to understanding these issues.

The experts are encouraged to remain engaged and up to date with their respective discipline and industry by undertaking commissioned work (e.g. design work), to retain a currency of contemporary knowledge.  This work is often of signature status and has merited awards.

The quality of all outputted work is constantly reviewed and evaluated.  A continual process of feedback and improvement is in place to ensure that the quality of the work is fully focussed on the client’s requirements.

The close-knit technical division work as a coordinated team, scaled to suit the task at hand.  Researchers are an important and valued part of the Diales technical experts’ team, ensuring consistency in the team members outputs, reducing the overall costs of the work to the client by undertaking work that does not require expert consideration, and can therefore be delegated to the researcher under the expert’s direction and control.  Researchers are lay members of the team, in that the researcher does not have the technical education of the expert, which benefits the quality of the expert’s work, by ensuring that it can be read and understood by a lay audience and is suited to the purposes of the courts and other decision making fora.  The researchers will also help to organise the evidence and ensure the report is formatted correctly with the appropriate content.

The expert team also includes associates familiar with the work and competent in the expert’s technical discipline.  The associates help to filter the relevant detail from received documentation and undertake mathematical evaluations for the expert, to assist the expert in developing its views.  Associates are tomorrow’s experts in training.

For the most part, the work of the Diales technical experts is to undertake investigations and provide expert opinion for the purposes of litigation.  The intention of such commissions is to provide an independent analysis of the issues in dispute so that court, arbitrator or other decisions makers can apportion responsibility or liability.  The nature of the commissions is varied and may relate to a failure of a system, component or structure or the alleged failure of a consultant or contractor to perform in accordance with its contractual and/or tortious obligations.

The Diales expert will work in different countries with different legal systems.  Diales sets minimum standards for its experts, to ensure the independence of the expert is beyond reasonable question, irrespective of the legal system and jurisdiction in which the expert is operating.  The performance of the experts is constantly reviewed and assessed to ensure that the required high standards are maintained.

Given the depth of support and quality of the assistance available to a Diales technical expert, it is likely that working in the Diales technical team is as good a place for an expert to work as is possible.  There is certainly a sense of ‘esprit de corps’ within the Diales expert division and a mutual pride in the range and developing quality of the work undertaken.


Some tips for new experts.

It is important that any expert is well supported and can seek counsel and challenge from fellow experts on controversial or difficult matters.  This support is doubly important for any new expert.  Any expert, however new, must be proficient in their discipline.  It is also important that the technical argument and issues are understood, well researched, clearly explained and are relevant to the issue being considered.  Any contrary factors to the opinion expressed must be given or where a range of opinion is possible this must be explained.

A new expert is most likely to require assistance in developing a clear and relevant argument and require support and training to ensure that they are a reliable witness before being put on the stand and cross examined.  The new expert may also need help with the organisation and digestion of mountains of documents to be researched for evidence.  There is nothing so frustrating as finding relevant evidence only to lose it because the provenance and the document from which the evidence was derived was not properly recorded.

There are boundaries that experts must not cross, most of which are included within the critical summary of the expert’s role by Mr Justice Cresswell in the case of the “Ikarian Reefer.”  The new expert will also need to be familiar with the standards applied to the consideration of negligent actions by Lord President Clyde in “Hunter v Hanley” and Lord Hoffman in “South Australia Asset Corporation v York Montague” and give opinion that is measured to meet these standards.

The onerous standards that condition an expert’s work must be achieved within court or client-imposed timescales and costs.  The report must include a statement of truth and the expert needs to be familiar with the means for caveating a report that may be limited because of insufficient time or a lack of available information.

Written by, Messrs Stuart Holdsworth and Stuart Macdougald-Denton of Diales Technical