Profession

Partner, Fladgate

Biography

Frances has over 25 years' experience working in construction law, advising employers, contractors and consultants. Her work spans all aspects of construction, from advising on procurement strategy to resolving contract disputes or defects claims.

Procurement

Frances has advised the procurement strategy on several major projects. She has particular experience in insurance provisions, and in contracts for work at nuclear sites and wind farms. She has drafted bespoke contracts for consultants and contractors, amended standard forms of contract, including FIDIC, JCT, NEC, the RIBA appointments, the PSC and ACE conditions, to suit particular projects, and has negotiated contract terms. Either before or immediately after a contract has been entered into by a contractor or consultant, Frances will carry out a risk analysis with advice on how risks can be managed, for example with insurance or by ensuring that particular actions are carried out or monitored to minimise risks.

With the increasing use of the New Engineering Contract, Frances is frequently requested to conduct one-day workshops, attended by all participants to the contract including the employer, project manager, contractor and design consultants. The aim of the workshops is to ensure all parties are familiar with the provisions of the contract and more importantly, understand the benefits of working in a co-operative and partnering fashion.

Contract administration

Frances has been instructed by contract administrators, contractors and/or employers during the course of construction projects for advice on how any difficulties which have arisen should be resolved under the contract. Her advice is valued because it is above all practical. Once the contractual provisions which apply have been checked, so that all parties understand who bears contractual responsibility, a solution can generally be found which recognises legal liability, represents a fair and sensible solution and attempts to avoid matters escalating into a formal dispute.

Dispute resolution

Where instructions on a dispute have been received in time, Frances will always advise whether a negotiated settlement, or mediation, would be the best means of resolving the dispute if the client's main requirement is a speedy and cost-effective resolution. She has participated in many negotiated settlements, and in many mediations. The mediations have been by a variety of mediators, encompassing a very wide range of types of dispute. All but one mediation was successful in reaching a settlement acceptable to the client.

Increasingly construction disputes are referred to adjudication, which gives little or no time to attempt a negotiated settlement. Frances deals with many adjudications every year, either representing the referring party or the responding party. She is familiar with the need for speed, the necessity of collating documentary, witness and expert evidence quickly, and the importance of clearly worded documents for the benefit of the adjudicator who is given little time under the statutory adjudication rules to reach a decision.

Frances has also conducted arbitrations under the JCT contracts and the RIBA Standard Form of Agreement, and been involved in many High Court cases. These are frequently multi-party, and have included recently professional negligence claims acting for both employers and consultants, a consultants' partnership dispute, claims in respect of defects in buildings and claims in respect of contaminated ground.

Other work

Frances is the author of the chapter on Contractors/Builders/Repairers in Insurance Disputes (edd. Mance, Goldrein & Merkin). She is one of the contributors to the new ICC Major Projects Turnkey Contract. Frances also supervises the dissertations of students taking the MSc in construction law at Kings College, London.

Frances lectures widely, on construction law generally, and on insurance provisions, the NEC contract and nuclear law in particular. Recent engagements have involved a one-day workshop for all participants in a local authority project for the design and construction of a school, using NEC contracts; and several lecturing and workshop presentations for tier one contractors carrying out nuclear decommissioning.

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