In 2008, fresh from law school, I went to work for DLA Piper in Dubai under Jim Delkousis, the Head of DLA’s Litigation & Regulatory practice in the Middle East. At the time, Dubai was booming. Construction teams were working around the clock and money was pouring into the region as investors sought to make (or in many cases increase) their fortunes.

We were well aware of the credit crunch that was then being felt in the US and Europe but questioned whether it would extend to Dubai. Seemingly overnight, we had our answer – construction stopped, cars were left on the side of the road, and the once 40-minute drive to the office could now be done in 20 minutes thanks to the huge reduction in traffic. Life in Dubai had changed and for those of us in the Litigation and Regulatory team, the floodgates gradually opened as people were forced to rely on their legal position in a country where, up to that point, the culture had been very much anti-litigation (after all, when everyone is making money, litigation can quite often be seen as a mere distraction).

From a professional point of view, the experience was invaluable – I was working alongside amazing lawyers, learning from the best, being exposed to international arbitrations and having an opportunity to construct arguments that had never previously been run – the laws were, of course, relatively new and, in many cases, largely untested.

Putting all the legal bits and pieces to one side though, the single most important lesson that I took from that period in my life is simple: KNOW YOUR CONTRACTS. On a PPP project for example, that means knowing the 4,500 obligations that your lawyers spent hours drafting (for which they will have charged accordingly).

Easy to say and not to do? Not so. To know your contracts requires a simple 3-step approach.

1. Identify your rights and obligations.

With enhancements in technology, the task of identifying ALL of your contractual obligations can be done instantly. And not just on a single project either. Companies can instantly identify all of their contractual rights and obligations in seconds with Affinitext’s Task Finder.

2. Determine how those obligations are to be managed.

Are they calendar driven tasks? Event driven tasks? Are they tasks that need to be managed at all? Who will be responsible for performing the task? Sure, some work needs to be done here, but it is now a job that can be done in 1-day instead of 3-6 months!

3. Management done Intelligently

Once you’ve identified what you want to manage and how it will be managed, automatically flag the tasks and instructions at clause level and let your documents do the bulk of the work for you. The clauses will send reminders to relevant people as and when an action is due, and when completing that task the responsible person can attach the resulting work product and lessons learned against the clause to which it relates for future reference and audit purposes.

Finally, it’s not good enough for the primary manager of the contract to say they know the contract. People leave organisations all the time. Knowing the contract means that the organisation that is party to the contract knows the contract. That means ensuring that management has oversight of all obligations and their status. It also means that organisations require their staff to capture their lessons learned and knowledge against the clauses to which they relate. This will help ensure that nothing falls through the gaps as people move between roles and indeed companies.

When people are making money, it’s easy to become complacent. But it doesn’t take much for the house to fall over. Dubai survived, Carillion didn’t.


Michael Thomson

Managing Director (APAC), Affinitext

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