Profile photo of John O'Brien at work
LOGO: Society of Chartered Surveyors of Ireland
LOGO: Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors
LOGO: Chartered Institute of Arbitrators
LOGO: Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland

Strategic Input, Determination and Depth of Knowledge

John FFF O’Brien has a reputation among his peers, both in Ireland and the UK, as a leading dispute resolution practitioner and as an analytical strategist in planning how best to resolve complex construction disputes

John has an extraordinary ability to grasp the core matters in dispute between parties by separating the distracting side issues. This allows the team to concentrate on the entitlements as opposed to the aspirations of a party to a case.

He explains that construction related matters are complex by their very nature as they are intrinsically linked across four distinct fields of expertise — Technical, Commercial, Contractual and Legal.

John also identifies a fifth field which he describes as the ‘political’ field. Here, experienced directors of companies may need to make decisions on the final resolution of a dispute which can reap a more long term benefit for the company — akin to “losing the battle to win the war”.

One of the interesting aspects of John’s work is that he has been practising full-time since he first entered the field of dispute resolution just 13 years ago, in 2003.

He is thus one of the few dispute resolution consultants to have been in full-time practice for so long, and this shows in the depth of knowledge, the broad experience, and the strategic overview and wide-ranging expertise that he brings to every case.

John explains that his company has the proven track record of providing balanced, expert consultancy to its clients across the four main fields, and that this has proven to be the cornerstone of its exceptional success in the resolution of construction-related disputes since 2003.

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

John adds that “clients require balanced advice across the four key fields, as placing incorrect weight on any one particular aspect can distort the emphasis and thus affect the outcome of the dispute”.

John’s abilities are founded not only on his practical experience as a project manager on major civil engineering, railway infrastructural and building projects (both on traditional and design/build in Ireland and Britain) but have been honed consistently since 2003 during his extensive experience as a dispute manager, an advocate, a conciliator and as a practising arbitrator in the dispute resolution arena.

John advises that in his experience, a significant proportion of sub-contractors and main contractors have carried out their business for many years with an unhealthy reliance on trust rather than on contract.

In times of continuity of work and construction boom, arrangements based upon trust and past history have worked reasonably well but, following the Irish construction industry crash, disputes have become widespread and, of course, parties are pulled back to the respective contractual positions that they initially signed up to, or the contractual arrangement understood by the parties at the time of contract.

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

John points out that a contractual claim is an expected process under any contract and should not automatically end in dispute.

“All too often,” he says, “cases are doomed from the outset because parties fail to consider properly if in fact an entitlement exists under the contract. A disgruntled party can be blinded and become entrenched, pursuing notional ex gratia or equitable payments to recover his losses, but without any merit under the contract. He simply has not done what it was he was supposed to do.”

These words may sound harsh, he admits, but unless entitlement is firmly established from the outset of a dispute, a claimant may be throwing good money after bad by pursuing a notional entitlement.

“If you are actually to blame,” he advises, “admit it to yourself first, then admit it to others, then take your medicine, accept your losses and move on with your life. The alternative could be a very expensive waste of time.”

John identifies that the success of John Farage O’Brien lies in its ability to start from a firm base, to ascertain if an entitlement exists, and then calculate the likelihood of recovery.

Once entitlement is established however, John Farage O’Brien set about building the case from the ground up, founded on clear facts supported by hard evidence. Given the firm’s careful and thorough approach, it’s a method that works.

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 (ASCS MRICS, 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