OUP’s Construction Adjudication and Payments Handbook is a wonderful resource, with key cases and commentary to boot – but at 542 pages, why oh why is there no online version?

Tony Bingham

I phoned Oxford University Press and asked to speak to their CEO, Mr Nigel Portwood. It would be easier to get put through to the Pope. Why, oh why, is OUP publishing this new book, a handbook called Construction Adjudication and Payments Handbook, on paper – 542-pages of paper? No, I am not bleating about trees. I am bleating about the wholly daft idea of getting a handbook from the publisher which is not fully searchable, copy-and-pasteable, and printable. And when I asked OUP to say what they are up to, they said: “We do not tend to ask for reviews on the functionality of an electronic book, rather, the content of the book, which is the same for both forms of book.” Tosh.

The book: the four authors have done a top class job, Dominique Rawley QC, Kate Williams, Marissa Martinez and Peter Land have researched this topic over four years and truly given us a tool for almost every aspect of adjudication and payment rules. It is a must-buy. The adjudication part is subdivided: What are construction operations; what and who is excluded by the statute from adjudication; what’s all this stuff about “contracts in writing”; who has the right to adjudicate; what is this thing called “the Scheme”; what are ad-hoc adjudications; how do I get an adjudicator’s decision enforced? Then there is even more fun on “jurisdictional challenges” for breach of fair procedure, challenges for bias, and more besides.

An impressive device is the “collection of key cases” for a headline topic. For example, under the heading of “Set-off against an adjudicator’s decision” is first the authors’ commentary, then a collection of key cases, then a collection of all the cases for set-off and from differing aspects. The authors repeat this layout throughout the book. So, if you have a point on “letters of intent”, you will find cases and commentary in a neat package. So too: what is a dispute; what time limits apply; what problems have cropped up with the notice of adjudication, the referral; then look at the headlines and cases and commentary for the duty to act impartially, the adjudicator’s right to take the initiative in ascertaining the facts and the law; the adjudicator who uses their own knowledge; features of decision making and award writing. And with all this the relevant cases will be précised.

Eventually I did get to the pope’s right-hand woman at OUP. She at least listened to my beef. I want this book but I want it on my laptop, iPad, even iPhone

Part 2 is the payment provisions in the Construction Act and revision and here again we have commentary and key cases, then all the cases. The newer rules are discussed but it is hardly surprising that they are not covered in depth. We have yet to see many crop up yet. Most adjudications are still pre the revisions.

Eventually I did get to the Pope’s right-hand woman at OUP. She at least listened to my beef. I want this book but I want it on my laptop, iPad, even iPhone. She and I downloaded the book from Amazon via its Kindle app. We fathomed how to search on Kindle. We found all utterances by Mr Justice Thingamabob. Then we wrestled with copy and paste, but got it to work. I grumbled for a week thereafter using it as a practitioner. But the Kindle is rather like a kid’s toy. It’s fiddly, and I got fed up. Yes, it will let me search, copy and email the bit to myself. But I remain puzzled as to why OUP simply doesn’t sell, sell and sell this handbook as a fabulous book online. Are you OUP folk so wedded to the past? And then I found a real friend. I downloaded Amazon’s Kindle for the PC. Wow and wow again. The app on the PC took seconds to download free. Then I put in my Amazon password for my account and wow, all the books I had bought on my iPad immediately came up on my PC. And now here is the best bit, the search engine is so fast and furious. It instantly finds any word or phrase or case or comment. Click on the matches found and it instantly explodes on to the screen. Then it is easy to copy and paste or print. No damn wonder that the world will soon be run by Amazon. The book is £69.95 in paperback, £48 on Kindle. The ISBN is 978-0-19-955159-0 or just one click on Amazon and you are there.

Just briefly I want to heap some praises on Lexis-Nexis and its Emdens Construction Law. A whole load of new stuff has just been published. It has been an online publication for umpteen years and my absolute favourite: all electronic, with excellent search, copy and print. People like OUP have got a lot of catching up to do. Come on, Nigel Portwood, look sharp!

Tony Bingham is a barrister and arbitrator at 3 Paper Buildings, Temple