John Farage O’Brien is recognized as a top dispute resolution practitioner by peers in Ireland and the UK, with a talent for strategic analysis in resolving complex construction disputes. His adeptness lies in discerning core issues amidst distractions, enabling focused attention on case entitlements rather than aspirational goals. John emphasizes the inherent complexity of construction matters, spanning technical, commercial, contractual, and legal realms, with an additional dimension he terms the ‘political’ field. This dimension involves strategic decision-making by company directors aimed at long-term benefits, akin to “losing the battle to win the war.”

Notably, John has dedicated himself full-time to dispute resolution since 2003, a rare commitment in the field. This tenure underscores the depth of knowledge, extensive experience, and strategic insight he brings to each case. His company’s track record of balanced, expert consultancy across these fields has been pivotal to its exceptional success in resolving construction-related disputes since its inception.

John is one of the few dispute resolution consultants to have been in full-time practice for over 20 years

John emphasizes the importance of providing clients with balanced advice across all key fields, as placing undue weight on any one aspect can distort the emphasis and impact dispute outcomes. His expertise stems from practical experience as a project manager across major civil engineering, railway infrastructure, and building projects in Ireland and Britain, both traditional and design/build. Since 2003, he has consistently honed his skills as a dispute manager, advocate, conciliator, and practicing arbitrator.

In his experience, John notes a prevalent reliance on trust rather than contracts among many subcontractors and main contractors. While this approach may have sufficed during periods of continuity and construction booms, the Irish construction industry crash has led to widespread disputes. Parties are often forced back to their initial contractual positions or the understandings at the time of contract, underscoring the necessity for clear contractual agreements.

‘Cases are doomed from the outset because parties fail to consider if an entitlement really exists under contract’

John emphasizes that a contractual claim is a standard procedure under any contract and shouldn’t automatically escalate into a dispute. He notes that many cases fail because parties neglect to assess whether an entitlement exists under the contract. Instead, they may pursue payments without merit, leading to wasted resources.

He acknowledges that his words might seem harsh but stresses the importance of establishing entitlement at the outset of a dispute to avoid futile pursuits. If at fault, he advises admitting it, accepting losses, and moving forward. John attributes the success of his firm to its methodical approach of verifying entitlement and building cases on solid evidence, ensuring effectiveness in resolving disputes.

John is a Fellow of The Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (FCIArb, Dip.Arb.Law) and a practising CIF Arbitrator. He is a fully accredited Mediator with the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR). He is also a Chartered Quantity Surveyor (FSCS, FRICS, BSc.Surv. Dip.Const.Econ), a Chartered Civil Engineering Surveyor (MCInstCES), a Construction Technician (Dip.Const.Tech) and a practising Conciliator on the CIF construction panel.

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LOGO: Chartered Institution of Civil Engineering Surveyors
LOGO: Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland
LOGO: Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors
LOGO: Chartered Institute of Arbitrators