Q&A: Five minutes with Ross Wilson

Q&A: Five minutes with Ross Wilson

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Senior Associate Ross Wilson joined the Colman Coyle Property Litigation team at the beginning of 2021. Here we sit down with Ross to hear his insight and ask a series of questions on his career to date.

Tell us about your journey to becoming a Senior Associate at Colman Coyle

My journey was anything but normal. I finished my post graduate qualification in 2009 at the height of the financial crash. This meant jobs were scarce and thousands of others like me were all fighting for the same job. I started as a paralegal in a great high street firm which led to a training contract. Upon qualification in 2012, I moved to a slightly larger regional firm and was unfortunately made redundant after a year due to a lack of work (the lingering effects of the financial crisis). I undertook a couple of locum roles at London firms until I could find something permanent. This just so happened to be at Shoosmiths in Northampton which meant a 100 mile round trip each day up the M1 motorway. After two years (owing to such a long commute), I moved to Dentons and stayed there for five and a half years. Since April 2021, I am delighted to say that I am now senior associate at Colman Coyle.

Importantly each of the aforementioned jobs have all had a focus on property litigation so whilst my journey has been anything but normal, I have had a great and varied exposure to most property litigation related matters.

What has been your career highlight?

On my first day at Dentons, I was assigned to work as a junior on a dispute concerning Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) and business rates. My clients were Sainsbury’s and Co-op. The dispute also included Tesco and Cardtronics so as you can imagine, this was a high profile dispute. Over the next five and a half years, that dispute continued through the different Courts until we reached the Supreme Court. Not only did I get to work on a case which went before the Supreme Court (whose judgment had important consequences for every single ATM in England and Wales), I also transitioned from being the junior to the fee earner with day to day conduct of that dispute.

What barriers or challenges have you overcome?

Unfortunately the legal profession has historically been one whereby who you know is more advantageous than what you know. Having no contacts within the legal profession whatsoever, along the difficulties associated with the financial crash and training at a high street firm, meant that I had to work extremely hard to get to where I am today (which includes working for the largest law firm in the world). Nevertheless I would not change a single part of that journey as I now have a vast array of experience to call upon whilst also being able to stay humble about where I now find myself.

Do you have a particularly memorable client story you could share?

Immediately prior to joining Colman Coyle, I had successfully defeated a claim brought by a developer on behalf of a widowed and elderly lady. Without going into much detail, the developer has purchased one of three large properties and demolished it. The developer intended to build flats on the land in full knowledge of a restrictive covenant which only permitted a single dwelling house. This development would have overshadowed my client’s property, increased noise, vehicular and pedestrian traffic and ultimately diminished the happy memories my client had of her and her recently deceased husband. Whilst I have always acted and continue to act for developers, this was a memorable client story as the cause and outcome was just.

Do you have any advice for people wanting to build a career in law?

Hopefully you will be able to see from my journey that it is not always easy but if you persevere and have the right mentality, any area of the profession is ultimately open to you. The key thing is to qualify so do whatever is necessary (wherever that may be) to achieve this. It could be at a magic circle firm working 80 hour weeks or it could be at a high street firm with little or no reputation. As long as you obtain decent and varied experience by working on client matters, you will be able to call upon this to help you progress in your career.

Once you have qualified, always put the experience you are likely to gain before anything else (including salary) when choosing where to work. The way I see it is there is no point being overpaid and underqualified as this will catch you out one day when you cannot do something you really should be able to do. Conversely if you have gained a vast amount of experience, you can be confident and genuine in your own abilities and at some point in your career, use this to command a salary which reflects this.

You can read more about Ross’s work and profile here. If you wish to discuss a potential dispute, please contact Ross on +44 (0)20 7354 3000 or ross.wilson@colmancoyle.com.

What do amendments to the Building Safety Bill mean for the industry? Ross Wilson discusses all in Property Week magazine

What do amendments to the Building Safety Bill mean for the industry? Ross Wilson discusses all in Property Week magazine

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Ross Wilson, a Senior Associate in our Property Litigation department, recently wrote an article for Property Week on the amendments to the Building Safety Bill.

The full article can be seen on the Property Week website here.

Ross has been and continues to be involved in a wide range of cladding related disputes (both for building owners, tenants and at points at the Grenfell Inquiry). If you wish to discuss a potential cladding dispute, please contact Ross on +44 (0)20 7354 3000 or ross.wilson@colmancoyle.com.

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How the recent fire at New Providence Wharf could change the way unsafe cladding is removed

How the recent fire at New Providence Wharf could change the way unsafe cladding is removed

Just over a week after the Fire Safety Act 2021 received royal assent, a fire has engulfed three floors of the 19 storey New Providence Wharf tower block in east London.

According to news reports, a fifth of the tower’s external façade contained ACM cladding and it took 125 firefighters and 20 fire engines to extinguish the blaze. It was also reported that the main contractor was due to arrive on site three days after the blaze occurred. ITV has also reported that “residents did not hear [the] emergency alarm” during the fire.

The cause of the fire, the impact of ACM cladding (if any) and the inability to hear the fire alarm will surely be the subject of a thorough investigation. It nevertheless raises the question as to how the Government, other public bodies, Building Owners and tenants may react to remedial works (ongoing or otherwise) in respect other high rise residential buildings. For example:

1. Building Owners are already facing a number of challenges in removing unsafe cladding as soon as possible whilst also, for example, waiting for the outcome of applications to the Government’s remedial funds and / or navigating statutory requirements relating to service charge and consultation processes. Will the Government place even greater demands on and / or devise new penalties against Building Owners for failing to commence works imminently?;

2. Tenants’ already have an urgent and understandable need to be safe in their homes. Will the events at New Providence Wharf cause tenants to feel so unsafe that they collectively refuse to pay rent in protest? It raises an interesting prospect of how a Building Owner and / or Court will deal with such a situation given the reasons for non-payment. Some tenants may take it further and simply move out altogether to ensure their own safety. Will those tenants then try and seek to recover any additional losses (e.g. additional rent / moving costs) from their old landlord?;

3. Will there be a possible increase in the issuing of enforcement notices and improvement notices by the local Fire and Safety services and local authorities respectively and / or the use of additional powers under the Fire Safety Act 2021?; and

4. Could the events at New Providence Wharf result in the reintroduction of previous and / or the expansion of ongoing waking watches (especially where simultaneous fire evacuation procedures may not be working properly)? If this happens, who is going to pay for this often very expensive procedure? It also raises the question of whether some simultaneous fire evacuation procedures are suitable and how this may impact on any existing applications to the Government’s Waking Watch Relief Fund and whether the fund will be reopened after the deadline closed on 14 March 2021?

News of tower block fires such as New Providence Wharf are undoubtedly going to lead to the apportioning of blame. This may have the unfortunate side effect of leading to further delays in remediating fire safety issues and / or increasing costs which tenants may ultimately have to bear themselves. It may also affect how ongoing or proposed remedial works are to be undertaken in the future. It is therefore vital that Building Owners, management companies and tenants seek advice (if they have not yet done so) to understand how any fire safety issues can be addressed as expeditiously as possible whilst also seeking to recover all associated costs from any culpable third parties and / or limiting their own financial liabilities.

Colman Coyle’s Property Litigation department has and continues to act for various parties in this sector including Landlords, Tenants and Management Companies.

Ross Wilson

Ross Wilson

Senior Associate

Fire Safety Bill becomes Fire Safety Act 2021

Fire Safety Bill becomes Fire Safety Act 2021

The Fire Safety Bill received Royal Assent on 29 April 2021 and is now known as the Fire Safety Act 2021. The passing of this Act is bittersweet for tenants of multi-occupied residential buildings.

On the one hand, tenants can find comfort in knowing the duties of Building Owners have been widened to reduce the spread of fire. These additional duties also make it possible for Fire and Rescue Services to take additional action against those who are not complying. Furthermore the Fire Safety Act 2021 will make it easier and quicker for future legislation to be passed following any further recommendations arising from the Grenfell Inquiry.

On the other hand though, more Building Owners are starting to remove unsafe cladding from their buildings. Whilst this is a very positive step in terms of fire safety, it also means that more tenants are finding themselves being asked to fund those remedial works via service charge provisions in their leases. Unfortunately the Fire Safety Act 2021 does not include the eagerly sought after provisions preventing Building Owners from passing on the remedial work costs to tenants. This means tenants will continue to find themselves in the position whereby they are either having to pay expensive service charge demands or exploring ways to limit that liability and / or seek recovery from culpable third parties.

Colman Coyle’s Property Litigation department has and continues to act for various parties in this sector including Landlords, Tenants and Management Companies.

Ross Wilson

Ross Wilson

Senior Associate

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