Andrew Ross, head of property disputes at law firm Travers Smith, on how he got started in property, his top TV and book picks, the superpower he wishes he had and the most ridiculous fact he knows
How did you join the property industry?
The areas I enjoyed most in my legal training were real estate law and disputes. I grew up in an environment in which forceful discussions were a normal part of life, so when I was offered a role at Travers Smith arguing about property, it was a dream job.
What does your job entail?
Advising those with property interests about how to resolve problems, and representing them if they can’t.
What do you like most about the property industry?
That it deals with tangible and visible assets that are central to so many areas of life and business. I grew up in Bristol and went to school in the city centre. The docks were still a fairly industrial area at the time and not where one would go for relaxation. Over the past 30 years, these have become an open, enjoyable and relaxing place to view both the Clifton Suspension Bridge and Brunel’s SS Great Britain.
And what do you dislike most about it?
What would you change about the property industry?
I would like to see increased concentration on building longevity. Both for conservation of resources and to avoid a new rights-of-light dispute every time a storey is added to a building, it would be great if the lifetime of buildings could be extended.
What barriers or challenges have you overcome?
I do not come from a legal background and always suspected that those who spent their childhoods discussing easements and compulsory purchase would be far in advance of me. I now understand that this is not all you need to win a legal argument – common sense is useful, too.
I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes aged seven. Although the diabetes has always been very well controlled, it made me feel I needed to do better than others to be regarded equally. Over my 20 years as a lawyer, I have realised that how one does things and how one interacts with others can be more important and more lasting achievements than just winning.
What are you most proud of in your career?
There are several things, such as spotting trends in property disputes at an early stage and informing clients about these, for example the significance for development of applications to register town and village greens, and the boom in CVAs for retail property tenants. Also, my creation of a team of excellent property litigators at Travers Smith.
What do you value in people?
The ability to treat everyone equally and to remain calm in moments of great stress.
What advice would you give someone starting a career in the property industry?
Appreciate that property is not simply a commodity. If you don’t care about property, don’t join the industry.