Whose interest is it anyway?
And the next hot tip…
Confusion over whose interest you represent is another common trap. When a case involves many parties, it can be far from simple.
An architect instrumental in creating the famous biomes of the Eden Project in Cornwall was involved in a case that hinged on this point. His lawyers set up a charitable trust without explaining that this might defeat any expectations of personal benefit. It turned out the law firm was advising on both the interests of the proposed project and the personal positions of the two co-founders. This created a conflict of interest serious enough to support a negligence claim. Damages of close to £2million were awarded.
What if multiple professionals are involved – who is doing what and does the client know who is doing what? Are you acting as a post box or are you liable? Has there been sufficient delegation of responsibility?
Consider this actual example from one of our cases. A building project in Birmingham involves a client (ie employer), an architect, builders and a structural engineer. Straightforward in building matters. The project is to convert houses into flats. Halfway through the project, part of the walls collapses and building work ceases. There are wasted costs - the roof load has caused the problem and the whole project has to start again.
Our clients can blame the structural engineer, but we may also blame the architect. He oversaw the project, dealt directly with the structural engineer on specifications: he was able to pass on key information to the engineer. He was aware of the risks. Just because he delegated a task will not always exonerate him. He may have assumed responsibility by his actions and conduct, something which he obviously did not intend. He would be horrified to receive details of a claim against him.
As professionals have you thus assumed responsibly to a client or have you delegated it sufficiently?
Professionals do need to instruct others, but care needs to be taken to ensure responsibility is delegated effectively.
If you need any advice or help, contact Karim.
Just in case you missed the other tips: