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 firstname.lastname@example.org.