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Lawyers demand graduate contract law knowledge boost

ICE news

LEGAL EXPERTS have called for an overhaul of the ICE's core objectives, saying that in their current form they leave graduates with a shallow understanding of contractual and legal matters.

They also accused the ICE of being slow to keep up with the changing role of the civil engineer.

'An adequate knowledge of law is essential to making informed decisions, ' said independent consultant and lecturer in construction law John Barber.

'Thirty years ago, contracts were drafted by engineers and looked at by engineers. But today, lawyers are involved and dispute and adjudication has become a regular part of the business, ' continued Barber, speaking at a meeting of the Association of London Graduates & Students (ALGS).

'The speed of adjudication leaves no time to start learning the law once the dispute is referred, ' he added.

Barber said the solution is to amend the ICE's core objective E4 as a precursor to including a separate legal exam as part of the professional review.

The new look E4 would demand that graduates obtain an 'understanding of the relevant law and forms of contract'.

Graduates would have to demonstrate 'knowledge' in the formation of contracts and the consequences of breach of legal obligations.

The proposal has already won backing from the ICE legal affairs panel and has also been endorsed by the ICE industry practices committee. The training and professional reviews panel will examine the proposal this month.

Barber believes that the existing ICE law and contract procedure exam - a compulsory step for engineers wishing to become adjudicators or arbitrators - could be sat as part of the professional review. 'It is the perfect example of a comprehensive assessment of what civil engineers should know.'

Core objective E4: as now and as proposed

Now

Objective: Manage contractual issues by having practical experience of administration of forms of contract

Range: Responsibilities of parties.

Procedures defined by contract.

Events or Claims Proposed

Objective: Manage contractual issues by having understanding of the relevant law and forms of contract and practical experience of administration of forms of contract

Range: Responsibilities of parties.

Formation of contracts.

Procedures defined by contract.

Events or Claims. Consequences of breach of legal obligations.

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