By Richard Harding

The boom in professional education has been a global phenomenon, which the UAE has not escaped. Barely a week goes by without a seminar or conference offering the latest insights. Most of these are fearfully expensive, and those which are not, tend to consist of little more than a new entrant into the market selling its imported “expertise.”

Twenty-five years ago, in the UK the professional education market was quite different, with no requirement for “continuing professional education,” and little on offer. It was against this background that the Society of Construction Law was born. It focussed on construction law issues, but also had the unique selling points of bringing together members of all the professions and disciplines involved in the construction industry, and doing so in a way which was independent of any commercial interests. This has resulted the presentations and discussions at its meetings being of unparalleled quality and benefit.

The UK’s Society has worked to promote education, study and research in the field of construction law and related subjects (including arbitration and adjudication), both in the UK and overseas. This has principally been achieved by organising speaker meetings, where leading professionals give talks on current issues affecting the construction industry, in particular in the area of dispute resolution.  In addition, major developments in construction law and practice have been promoted by working groups of the society, which have produced such publications as the SCL Delay and Disruption Protocol.

In the last 10 years, separate but affiliated societies have been set up around the world with groups in Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, New Zealand, Nigeria, Mauritius, Europe and the Gulf.

In early 2006, the Society of Construction Law (UAE) was formed, holding its first meeting in Dubai. The aims of the society are to promote the study and understanding of construction law among all those involved in the construction industry in the UAE and the Gulf. Since that first meeting, events have also been held in Abu Dhabi, Doha and Muscat, and further events are planned for Bahrain, and possibly Tehran. To reflect this ever widening sphere of interest and membership, the Society changed its name on October 1, to the Society of Construction Law (Gulf), or SCL (Gulf).

In order to reinforce its credibility as a truly Middle Eastern society, focussed on the laws of the region, SCL (Gulf) is honoured to have as its president, Professor Mohammad Labib Shanab, who has been a leading academic figure in the field of construction law. He is the author of possibly the only textbook on construction law (in Arabic) in the region. Professor Shanab is a former dean of the faculty of law at Ain Shams University in Cairo.

It has been apparent that there is a huge thirst for knowledge in relation to local construction law in the Gulf, and it is apparent that this demand had not been satisfied by the commercial sector. The industry is not interested in what has been decided by the High Court in London, or the

latest developments in international arbitration.

In the Gulf there is a stark deficiency in information and understanding in relation to local construction law. Worse, there is widespread misinformation and misunderstanding based on the assumption that “things must be pretty much like back home.” No one in the Gulf had heard of phrases such as “time at large” or “time of the essence” until English construction professionals arrived.

SCL (Gulf) sees one of its primary tasks as dispelling these myths, and promoting a proper understanding of how the law relating to construction contracts works in the Gulf.

The speakers at its meetings have included leading construction practitioners, who have dedicated their professional work to the Gulf, local lawyers and the judiciary. The papers produced by these speakers are published on SCL (Gulf)’s website scl-gulf.org, but are only available to members.

There are now more than 450 members, who enjoy free access to all of SCL (Gulf)’s events, and free access to more than 200 leading papers on construction law published on the website of the UK society.

New members are welcome to join at any of SCL (Gulf)’s events. There are also instructions on the website on how to join, or to obtain further information about the society and its events.

CW

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