Lawyers must enable BIM “instead of blocking it” says Arup’s Onions

Credit: Arup
Credit: Arup

A paradigm shift in lawyering philosophy has been called for by a construction legal professional whom believes that the legal system are a division that are potentially holding up the development of Level 3 BIM.

Bethan Onions, a solicitor at Arup, believes that the legal sector are a group who “take a certain amount of persuasion to deviate from well-trodden paths” and that it is now time to educate themselves further regarding Building Information Modelling and “start enabling BIM instead of blocking it”.

“Through my research, I found that the focus of law firms’ literature tended to be on highlighting problems for organisations to consider rather than outlining the benefits that BIM brings to projects,” said Onions, who explained that her Master’s thesis focused on BIM as a way of generating a more collaborative platform for the construction industry.

“Yet achieving Level 2 BIM on projects should not involve a great step change in contractual approach from a non-BIM project. Of course, there are some differences such as the requirement for a protocol and BIM execution plan. But employing best practice for project management should stand parties in good stead for their BIM projects,” stated Onions in her latest blog post.

Onions elaborated further, pointing out that adopting Level 2 BIM within a project does not call for drastic changes in paperwork, and that carrying-out best practice principles should instigate civil talks where lawyers can be present and make an impact yet not need to handle situations that have been blown out of proportion. Onions said:

“Instead of sparking fear about potential problems, the focus should be on educating ourselves and others in the industry. For Level 2 BIM there is no need for a major overhaul of contracts.

“Again, applying best practice principles should be the first step. As with non-BIM projects, this will probably lead to negotiations over who retains what rights. This is normal.”

Relating to her point about education, Onions thinks that lawyers need to get up to speed with BIM in order to keep themselves relevant by saying: “Whilst I strongly advocate involving lawyers in the process, this should be as an equal and enabling force – not as a blocking mechanism that demands a higher level of respect than other roles in the team. If the legal profession cannot find ways to foster the use of BIM we may rightly find that we become a superfluous cost. We need to stay relevant to the process.”

Onions believes staying educated is important as “cuccessfully implementing Level 3 BIM will require a collaborative approach adopted by all members of the industry, including the legal profession”.

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