Professional Service Agreements
Leslie Edwards and Rachel Barnes
Thomas Telford

The authors make their mission clear from the outset: to protect construction professionals against the machinations of unscrupulous employers. This does not make for a balanced read. The obligations sought by employers are contrasted only with the relevant industry form, such as the RIBA or Association of Consulting Engineers contracts, which, unlike JCT contracts, many employers do not find acceptable even as a starting point. There is no acknowledgment of any "third way": I looked for, but did not find, a reference to attempts by the Joint Contracts Tribunal to produce a negotiated generic standard form for consultants. There is no discussion, either, of the broader context, namely, the understandable wish of the employer to allocate a range of insured and uninsured risks – not only design but matters such as delay – equitably between itself, consultants, the contractor and specialists.

Subject to this limitation, this is a thorough, detailed and practical guide. It is an equally useful introduction to the issues and concepts found in construction contracts generally. This slim volume is densely packed. Unusually, it gathers detailed descriptions of commercial contract law in action – for example, in relation to net contribution clauses, intellectual property rights and a discussion of the nature of indemnities (which do not, unless qualified, impose a duty on the indemnified party to mitigate its loss. This is one of those Michael Caine legal points – "not a lot of people know that" – produced with a flourish during negotiations but rarely encountered in textbooks).

There is also detailed discussion of the practicalities of procurement including letters of intent, execution of deeds and a handy checklist reminding readers of those vital commercial points that are apt to get lost in the thicket of oh-so-carefully vetted contractual paperwork, such as checking that your client is a legal entity and solvent.