After a somewhat slow start, compared to the United States, review boards (or Dispute Avoidance Boards as they are often now known here) are picking up fast in Australia. So far, it seems, there have been boards set up on some 57 projects and, so far, every one has succeeded in avoiding any disputes getting as far as litigation, arbitration or adjudication. That is a remarkable record, which surely cannot last for ever, but which speaks very well of the system.
One of the more interesting papers was by Ann McGough, the General Manager of the DRBF, who presented statistics on the review board record. In the USA, the big change in recent years seems to be a dramatic increase in the use of review boards on relatively small projects, of just $10 million or $20 million, particularly in the road sector. Internationally, the use of boards is generally restricted to head contracts of relatively large projects – $100 million or so and up – and it will be interesting to see if this US trend will spread.
I have always enjoyed advocacy, and my recent move to bar provides a welcome opportunity to do more of it. Less welcome is the inevitable focus at the bar on trials as a way of dealing with disputes, and my instinct remains that disputes are much better managed before they have led the parties into often absurd levels of legal cost. Conferences like this are a great way of catching up with like-minded friends from around the world.