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Conciliation of Construction Disputes by Brian Bond

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Buy this book.  It is brilliant. Worth every penny.

Brian Bond is a titan of Irish dispute resolution.  He obtained his PhD the year I was born and has been at the heart of resolving disputes since the 1980s.  By virtue of that alone he is worth listening to when it comes to how to resolve a construction dispute.

However, he has now produced what I regard as the best book I have ever read about consensual dispute resolution in construction.  His focus is conciliation.  A process conceived by the Institution of Civil Engineers in the 1980s, and so one might expect it to have grown most in the UK, but which has planted its deepest roots in Ireland.  It is mediation but with an obligation on the conciliator to recommend a solution to the dispute if the parties cannot agree a settlement.  It is mediation with teeth.  My own experience of dispute resolution, particularly in the UK and Ireland for nearly 30 years, has inculcated into me that a well-run conciliation is the best process for resolving construction disputes that there is.  In that I am following Brian’s lead.  However, he sets out why with consummate skill in this book.

Ireland is Brian’s focus.  But the lessons he teaches are universal.  Certainly, they apply to the UK as much as Ireland.

In the UK, mediation is the consensual dispute resolution system of choice.  Even a mediation at the evaluative end of the spectrum (as opposed to facilitative) can fail completely and leave the parties none the wiser on what to do with their dispute.  They come away with nothing for their time and money.  Conciliation addresses that frustration with a recommendation.  The recommendation becomes binding unless one of the parties actively rejects it within a defined time (usually a few weeks).  It is a powerful incentive to reach agreement.  Chapter 5 explains this in depth and, if you are a sceptic, you should read that chapter before you form a concluded view.  I suspect that your mind may well will be changed.

Brian’s book covers every aspect of the process.  Whilst there are aspects that are very specific to Ireland, the book  is awash with practical guidance for those engaged in similar processes in other regions.  For many that will be mediation rather than a process stamped as conciliation.  However, the lessons are the same.  Chapter 10 should be required reading for mediators as much as for conciliators.  The tips and pointers are the same.

Brian does not shy away from examining where conciliation sits within the wider scope of dispute resolution systems available.  Perhaps he does not dwell overly long on the advantages of (especially) adjudication for solving simple highly contentious matters – but he does deal with them.

His timing is excellent as well.  Dispute avoidance is gathering pace in the UK.  I am part of the Conflict Avoidance Coalition whose aim is reduce contentious and destructive disputes in the UK.  As the chair of the ICE Dispute Resolution Committee, I also oversee the Institution’s efforts to find an efficient method of resolving disputes that is less contentious and damaging than adjudication.  Mediation tends to be the option most often considered.  But conciliation is better.  Brian says so.  And I agree with him.  It is very hard not to when a world of experience and research consolidates this view.

His final chapter is a justified call to arms to bring the light of conciliation to other jurisdictions benighted by its absence or decline.  It is a very laudable crusade and, I hope, a bandwagon which will gather passengers.

John Tackaberry KC provides the forward to the book.  His praise is fulsome, and he is a titan himself.  I endorse everything he says.  So, buy this book.  You will not regret it.

Conciliation of Construction Industry Disputes”  was published by Routledge (Taylor & Francis Group) on 31st October 2023.  It can be purchased on-line from the publisher at a price of £120.  There is a 20% discount available until the end of January.

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