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David Mathieson: Law

Taking on a new challenge is a major incentive says David Mathieson, senior project manager for Turner & Townsend. Since September 1997 and for the next two years that challenge will be to complete an MSc in construction law and arbitration at Kings College in London.

My study is partly driven by my interest in the subject and partly by the benefits that it will lead to for myself and my employer, he says.

Mathieson is studying part time for the qualification by attending the Centre of Construction Law at Kings College three evenings a week fortnightly.

The first year of the two year programme is split into two parts. During the first term, held between September and December, the construction professionals attend lectures on the English legal system and the fundamental principles of contract and tort while lawyers studying for the qualification attend a programme on construction and construction techniques to give them an insight into the industry.The second term is attended by all and covers construction law in detail. This includes study on the many standard forms of contract that exist and how these have evolved from contract law. The second year involves study on developments in construction law and management and the principles of arbitration and other methods of settling disputes.

Mathieson says the breadth of content of the course is unique and the wide range of people attending the lecture programme is a particular advantage.

About 80% of those attending the lectures are construction professionals from various backgrounds, of which about 20% are engineers. There are also a fair number of solicitors on the course. One of the major highlights is the wide range of both legal and construction related professions that are represented. This provides many different perspectives to problem solving.

The lecture programme gives a good foundation of general law and standard contracts and covers all aspects of construction law including the general principles, environmental law and construction related legislation such as the Housing Grants Construction & Regeneration Act.

Mathieson already has an MEng degree in civil engineering which he attained from Southampton University and is a chartered civil engineer, professional status being gained while working for Taylor Woodrow. He joined Turner & Townsend in September 1996 and is now heavily involved in providing project management services.

Turner & Townsend was originally purely a quantity surveying practice but now about half of its work is in the field of construction project management. As part of the overall project management service the company offers specialist legal expertise in the development and management of contracts.

It is critical that the firm has a great deal of expertise in construction law because the effective procurement and management of any project relies on a proper understanding of the legal principles underlying the standard forms of contract. This is particularly important in the light of the rapid development of case law and of course the issue of new statutes and regulations.

Mathieson says the course content has been immediately applicable to his responsibilities at Turner & Townsend.

At the moment I am involved in a project for General Accident which involves carrying out a monitoring role for a leisure park development at Surrey Quays in Londons Docklands. We are overseeing the scheme for General Accident to make sure that they get the quality they expect from the developers.

My new found knowledge in tieing up the legal and construction aspects of a project and the understanding of legal principles gained from the course is enabling me to give good advice to General Accident about the procurement of the scheme and the provision of appropriate and effective warranties.

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