The publication of Law in Practice: The RIBA Legal Handbook in June 2012 could not have come at a more opportune time. Being released in the vicinity of two important reports on the legal segment of the industry, one national (National Construction Law and Contracts Survey Report 2012 (.pdf, 1.1Mb) by NBS) and the other international (Global Construction Disputes Report by EC Harris), which point to disputes and disagreements in the industry due to poor knowledge of the law and failure to properly administer construction contracts and related processes, this book provides a good resource for the discerning professional to update their knowledge of the law and avoid such disputes.
Books on construction law have often times been inaccessible to the non-legal professional because of the legalese approach in writing them. This title breaks this mould by presenting important concepts in clear and easy to understand terms. This is evident from the opening chapter which explains the question 'What is law?' in a simple and practical way complete with a simple diagram that draws attention to the different sources of UK law. The book is divided into 10 chapters and covers most legal topics that an architect would encounter in practice from contracts to tort, to the Architects role in a project, to professional indemnity insurance, disciplinary proceedings and dispute resolution.
Throughout the chapters the author provides answers to common recurring questions, for instance it deals extensively with the issue of negligence, discussing the possible liability of an architect for pure economic loss. It also covers the issue of concurrent liability in contract and tort, in doing this it takes up and explains many recent decisions including Robinson v PE Jones (Contractors) Limited  EWHC. The book does not hold back in recommending best practice or advising against dangerous practice, in this regard it delivers a convincing argument against an architect agreeing to contractual clauses where it indemnifies or offer indemnities to other parties. For those still struggling to get their heads around the changes wrought by the amendment of the Housing Grants, Regeneration and Construction (HGRC) Act 1996 by the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction (LEDEC) Act 2009, the book in different chapters explains the various changes and how it affects practice succinctly. The book keeps true to its practical approach throughout the chapters, for instance in chapter 10 it covers under its discourse of adjudication both theoretical aspect of the adjudication regime and how it works in practice including a section on 'is it worth adjudicating?'
Two chapters of the book deserve special mention. In chapter 4 it takes on an overview of standard forms of professional appointment, where it provides detailed analysis of the RIBA Standard Conditions of Appointment for an Architect 2010 (2012 revision). This would be particularly useful to architects especially the commentary on clauses that provides the reader with an understanding of the purpose of the clauses and the possible objections that may be raised by clients against these clauses.
Surprisingly the overview of other standard forms of appointment does not cover the CIC Consultants' Contract (often recommended by the RIBA as a suitable alternative for large development projects), however it includes a brief overview of the NEC 3 Professional Service Contract, the Association of Consultant Architects Standard form of Agreement for the appointment of an Architect 2010 (ACA SFA/10) and the FIDIC Client/Consultant Model Services Agreement Fourth Edition 2006.
Probably the gem in the book is Chapter 5 which deals with bespoke professional appointment wording. This chapter goes through a series of typical clauses that may be proposed for a bespoke appointment contract uncovering the many dangers that seemingly harmless clauses may hold, thereby providing the architect with knowledge to negotiate against them. This is very important in the light of NBS survey results indicating that majority of professional appointments in the industry are undertaken using a bespoke form. Typical clauses covered include additional services clauses, definition of documents and its possible copyrights implication, definition of losses in relation to liability for breach of contract, pre-existing design clauses.
In conclusion, the book certainly meets the author's objective of providing a book that describes as simply as possible the law an Architect should know and providing tools to enable Architects work through construction law queries successfully.
As can be deduced from the foreword written by Angela Brady (President, RIBA), the current title ranks in the same class as the Architect's Job Book and Architects Handbook of Practice Management and is an invaluable asset for the Architectural professional.
About this article
This article is a review of Law in Practice: The RIBA Legal Handbook, written by John Wevill (Head Non-Contentious Construction Law at Fishburns LLP). Published by RIBA Publishing. Copyright RIBA Publishing 2012. ISBN 9781859463178
To order a copy of Law in Practice: The RIBA Legal Handbook by John Wevill, please visit from RIBA Bookshops , who offer an unrivalled range of the best architecture, design and construction books from around the world.
Law in Practice: The RIBA Legal Handbook (2nd edition) is now also available including changes in legislation, the RIBA Plan of Work 2013 and the CDM Regulations 2015.