About Daan Versteeg
Daan Versteeg specialises in procurement law and construction law. In construction law, Daan mainly assists large and medium-sized contractors. extension For procurement law, Daan is active in both construction and other sectors and he assists a range of companies, procurement bureaus, consulting firms and contracting authorities.
As an of his practice, Daan regularly lectures on legal matters for postgraduate courses at Utrecht University and VU Amsterdam.
He also publishes articles and notes for the Netherlands Journal for procurement law [Tijdschrift voor Aanbestedingsrecht en Staatssteun (TA)] and Legal precedents in procurement law [Jurisprudentie Aanbestedingsrecht (JAAN)]. In 2018, Daan published the book ’Lifecycle costs. The key to circularity?‘ [Levenscycluskosten. De sleutel naar circulair werk?] as part of the preliminary opinion on ‘Circular Construction’ for the Construction Law Association.
Besides his work as a lawyer, Daan has been politically active since he was a student. For example, he was a member of the Provincial Council of Gelderland and he was a candidate in the 2019 European Parliament elections. So he is very much at home in the political processes going on in the background of tendering, execution and delivery of works. Daan is often involved in the development of new legislation for construction law and procurement law.
Why construction law and procurement law?
To be honest, my love for construction law and procurement law is quite a coincidence. In 2006, I started my legal career at Stibbe in Amsterdam in the administrative law section. It turned out to be – to put it mildly – much less enjoyable than I had expected. So after a year I said: ‘get me out of here!’ I thought civil construction law would be much more interesting and there was a vacancy in that department. It was a match made in heaven! From my first day, construction law and the associated procurement law captivated me. And this is mainly due to construction itself. Creating something tangible, from idea, to specifications, building and commissioning, it’s a fascinating process. I learn something new every day.
In my view, it’s really important for a lawyer to know and understand the facts. So for example, if there’s a defect in the foundations, that automatically means extra work. Besides hearing that from the client or expert, you should be able to analyse and explain that to arbitrators and judges. There’s a challenge in that, in both cases. Arbitrators understand the construction industry through and through. So a lawyer who doesn’t do that themselves, cannot present a convincing case. Most judges aren’t familiar with the construction industry, so you should be able explain the issue in layman’s terms.
By the way, I also like to apply procurement law in other areas besides construction. I’ve litigated about suppliers of goods and services too, from healthcare to education and ICT. Again it’s vitally important to understand the nature and characteristics of the case. Because in tendering, preliminary relief proceedings occur frequently and you often only get half an hour to convince the judge. If you don’t have the facts and context at your fingertips, or you can’t explain it clearly, you can’t get off to a good start.
In other words, I love to immerse myself in my clients’ situation and their problems. That makes my work more enjoyable, and increases their chances of success.
What are the main problems in construction law and procurement law?
The parties involved, commissioning authorities as well as contractors and consultants, are often unable to distinguish the end from the means. In my experience, commissioning authorities often conduct contract management very formally and rigidly. As if the contract is the end in itself. But the contract is no more than a means for the parties to get what they are entitled to. For commissioning authorities, that is the work they want at a reasonable price, without any ‘hassle’ and, of course, within a reasonable time frame. For the contractor, that is being allowed to perform the work for reasonable fee and in reasonable circumstances. Problems arise because parties sometimes forget that setbacks can occur or that things don’t always go exactly as stated in the contract documents. And consequently, more time and energy goes into discussions and vexing correspondence, than into resolving the issues.
What do you think needs to change?
Before parties take action, and defend their position with all their might, they would be well-advised to first count to ten and consider whether such action will really help them achieve the objectives. For example, consider the situation where a contractor has a good reason to propose using an alternative building material. The commissioning authority can point at the contact and insist they are entitled to the building material stated, that’s rarely the case, but that’s another matter aside. A good commissioning authority considers whether the alternative is also acceptable and lets that guide their response to the proposal.
Another rule of thumb that parties could use is to consider each other as supporters, not adversaries. A supporter always tries to help, without selling themselves short, of course. And so you see, working together to achieve a good result is much more satisfying.
This also applies to the tendering phase for a work. Many contracting authorities see bidders as their adversaries. But if distrust is your basic attitude, it actually increases the likelihood of inferior offers or even inferior results. After all, if a contracting authority starts with numerous expiry periods and saying no to every request for information, then the contracting authority’s conduct is asking for problems. When a contracting authority is open to input from market participants, before and during the tendering procedure, then they end up commissioning a better contract. And that increases the likelihood of a well-executed project, which is delivered quickly and without hassle.
What is your favourite tool or finished work?
I have a soft spot for tunnels and other underground works, such as car parks. That’s where all the marvels of construction come together, especially with our Dutch sand and peat ground conditions. What I like best is when a work is not only functional but also aesthetically pleasing. Underground spaces tend to be naturally confined and unpleasant environments. So an underground space that’s also a pleasant environment – through smart use of space, light and layout – is a doubly clever construction. Good examples for me include the new A9 motorway tunnel, the Amsterdam metro and the tram tunnel in The Hague. I can talk about the marvels of these for hours when I drive around with my family, much to the annoyance my kids.
Pertaining to article 35b, paragraph 1, of the Dutch Legal Profession regulations. Daan Versteeg has registered the following areas of law in Netherlands Bar Association register:
- Construction law
- Procurement law
In accordance with the Netherlands Bar Association standards, this registration requires me to obtain ten training credits for each area of law registered.