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Paul Cowan

Call: 1996


"Someone who properly understands client relationships and can go well beyond legality into practicalities." "A very strong draftsman and powerful in the courtroom." - Chambers & Partners, 2017

'He gets into the detail in a way few other counsel can.' - Legal 500, 2016

'Impressive technical knowledge and a very skilful advocate.’ - Legal 500, 2015

Recognised as a leading practitioner in construction matters, Paul Cowan has over 16 years of experience of international and national construction practice, advising on many of the world’s largest and highest-profile projects. In terms of his international experience, Paul has advised and represented clients in relation to projects all over the world, with extensive experience in civil law jurisdictions. Alongside this, Paul retains a high profile in relation to UK construction law practice.

Originally qualified as a barrister, Paul also qualified as a solicitor and practised (as a partner) in the Construction and International Arbitration practices of White & Case LLP.

Construction disputes: Paul’s primary experience is in relation to construction disputes and claims, in particular complex delay / disruption claims, as well as defects claims and other commercial disputes. Paul has a practical ‘hands on’ approach, engaging with the project personnel and documentation and understanding the technical issues involved, from which he has prepared detailed claim and / or defence documents (including being personally responsible for drafting one of the largest filings that is known to have been made in international proceedings). Paul is also a specialist advocate, regularly appearing as counsel for clients in international arbitration hearings (ICC, UNCITRAL and other), as well as in adjudication and dispute board proceedings. Paul is Chairman of the JCT's Construction Dispute Resolution Group.

Main forms of contract: Paul has long experience advising on the principal standard forms of construction contracts used in international and national projects, notably the FIDIC forms of contract and the JCT suite of standard forms used in the UK (in respect of the latter, Paul has sat on the JCT Council for approximately 15 years), as well as numerous bespoke contracts and construction agreements relating to all forms of construction procurement (from turnkey EPC, traditional, to construction management forms).

Sector experience: Paul has advised on projects across many different sectors of industrial and commercial activity, with a particularly strong emphasis on power sector projects (including his unparalleled years of experience advising in detail on the “new-build” of the next generation of nuclear power plants), hydro-power projects, and energy-from-waste projects.  Paul also has long experience advising on large-scale oil & gas projects in the Middle East and North Africa, plus other large infrastructure projects.  He has also advised on many high-profile public projects, including acting as project counsel during the redevelopment of the Royal Opera House in London, as well as defence-related projects, hotel projects and other commercial construction developments.

Professional / industry activity: Paul is activity engaged in relation to numerous industrial and / or legal organizations and societies. Paul has arranged and participated in several ICC international arbitration symposia on a variety of subjects: for example, in 2013, Paul organized an ICC symposium on the use of Dispute Boards in international construction projects, sharing the platform with well-known figures such as Chris Seppälä, Prof. Antonio Crivellaro, and Sir Vivian Ramsey. Paul also attends and speaks at International Bar Association conferences in relation to international construction law topics. Paul has also actively participated in conferences of the International Nuclear Law Association and given seminars for the Society of Construction Law (in the UK and the Gulf).  For many years, Paul has been a member of the Construction Committee of the City of London Law Society (in which he co-authored the standard form of novation agreement and accompanying guidance note), as well as the JCT Council and other JCT-related committees / groups.

Particular dispute resolution experience includes:

  • Uniquely extensive and detailed experience advising in respect of the design and construction of ‘new-build’ nuclear power stations;
  • Acting as Counsel in UNCITRAL arbitration proceedings in respect of disputes arising from the construction of a hydroelectric power plant in South America (including advocate in all procedural and substantive hearings);
  • Acting as Counsel in ICC arbitration proceedings in respect of disputes arising from land remediation works in Lebanon;
  • Providing advice and conducting ICC arbitration proceedings in respect of disputes arising from the construction of a high speed railway in Taiwan;
  • Advising on forms of contract and drafting, and providing project execution advice on problems, disputes and claims arising from the construction of an oil & gas production facility in Algeria;
  • Providing pre-arbitration advice in relation to disputes arising from the construction of a gas production facility in North Africa;
  • Advising and representing clients in relation to disputes concerning the design and construction of a new court building in London;
  • Providing advice and conducting UK arbitration proceedings in respect of disputes arising from the construction of a new government agency headquarters in Bristol;
  • Providing advice and multiple adjudications in respect of disputes concerning the design and construction of a new UK government immigration detention centre and its subsequent destruction by fire;
  • Advising in respect of disputes (pre-proceedings) arising from renovation works at the Royal Albert Hall;
  • Advising and adjudicating in a dispute arising from the construction of luxury residential property in West London;
  • Advising and adjudicating in multiple disputes arising from the renovation and hotel conversion of a UK country manor house;
  • Advising and adjudicating in a dispute arising from the design and construction of a new golf course and club house in the UK; and
  • Advising in respect of disputes arising from the construction of a new concert hall in Suffolk, UK.

Particular project development experience includes:

  • Leading the drafting and negotiation of a major new bridge crossing over the Niger delta, Nigeria;
  • Negotiating component contracts in respect of an international gas pipeline project;
  • Advising, negotiating and drafting in relation to the redevelopment of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden;
  • Negotiating and drafting building contracts and appointments for various office developments in the City of London, including utilizing two-stage tendering design and build contracting, guaranteed maximum price mechanisms and profit-sharing procedures;
  • Negotiating, drafting and advising in respect of a new company headquarters building in Folkestone, UK; and
  • Negotiating, drafting and advising in respect of school, hospital and prison PFI projects.

Bars and Courts

Barrister, England and Wales (Inner Temple), 1996

Solicitor, England and Wales, 2004

Professional Associations and Memberships

Member of JCT Council (representing construction clients)

Chairman of JCT Construction Dispute Resolution Group

Member of CIMAR Review Body

Member of City of London Law Society Construction Committee

Member of Society of Construction Law

Member of the International Bar Association

Member of International Nuclear Law Association

Member of Nuclear Industry Association


Awards and Recognition

Recognised as a leading practitioner in The Legal 500.

Publications and Speaking Engagements

Recent articles and speaking engagements include:

"Modern Approaches to Dispute Resolution in International Projects", ICC UK Arbitration Practitioners' Symposium, June 2013 

"Jivraj v. Hashwani – England's Highest Court Supports Autonomy and Flexibility in Arbitration", 27 July 2011 

Presenting a seminar on new English case-law relating to the interpretation of commercial contracts and related exceptions to “without prejudice” privilege (Oceanbulk Shipping v TMT Asia), London, June 2011.

Presenting a seminar on “Drafting Nuclear Construction Contracts” at the 2nd Annual C5 European Nuclear Power Conference in Paris, October 2010.

Presenting seminars for the Society of Construction Law on the subject of “Advising on International Construction Contracts Subject to Civil Law” (in London in June 2010, and in the Gulf in November 2010).

Lecture on risk allocation in nuclear new-build contracts at the International Nuclear Law Association’s 2009 Congress in Toronto, Canada

"Arbitration Costs", ICC International Arbitration Practitioners' Symposium, London, July 2009 

"Cracking the atom", Building Magazine, June 2009 

"The credit crunch and construction projects – employers' liability if funding collapses?", Global Arbitration Review, Vol 3, Issue 6, December 2008

"Common law 'time at large' arguments in a civil law context", Construction Law Journal (2007) 23 Const. L.J. 592

Paul has also had additional articles published in Building magazine and Journal of the Institute of Structural Engineers

Co-author of standard form of novation agreement and guidance note, City of London Law Society Construction Committee

Numerous other presentations and seminars (e.g. on international arbitration, construction concurrent delays, liquidated damages and extensions of time)


Major Scholarship - Inner Temple, 1995/1996, LLB (Hons), University College, University of Durham, 1995