The Construction Industry Council has moved to head off criticism of its clients agreement by appointing a legal expert to ensure the document is fair to both clients and consultants

The CIC is working with Berwin Leighton Paisner partner John Hughes-D’Aeth, an expert in commercial construction law, to liaise with all parties in an attempt to ensure they sign up to the proposals, which will come on stream over the course of the summer.

The initiative comes as some consultants said they would boycott the standard agreement published last week by the British Property Federation. Both the Association of Consulting Engineers and the RIBA are advising their members to ignore it.

Consultants were unhappy that the BPF’s form refused to introduce net contribution clauses and liability caps to stop consultants facing unlimited losses in the event of the negligence and insolvency of other members of the professional team. The BPF agreement has also been criticised because it could lead to consultants being legally required to do unpaid work.

Clients might be pleasantly surprised at some of the clauses in the document

Frances Paterson on the CIC’s model agreement

Frances Paterson, liability convenor at the CIC, confirmed the council was working with Hughes-D’Aeth. “We are working with a solicitor who advises clients and funders, and a team of multidisciplinary consultants who are used to working with clients and the fair allocation of risk. Clients might be pleasantly surprised at some of the clauses in the document.”

The CIC is understood to be working on a different approach to the novation system, where the consultant is transferred from the client to the contractor. The council is considering how to achieve a “clean break” between the two stages, to prevent accusations of a conflict of interest.