Mark Colthart: ADLS Property Disputes committee

This profile is part of a series on ADLS committee convenors

Mark Colthart

Mark Colhart

Where do you work, what’s your role?
I am a barrister at FortyEight Shortland Barristers and split my time 50:50 between working as a barrister and as an adjudicator and arbitrator.

FortyEight Shortland is a relatively new set of chambers, opening about 12 months ago.

We have nine barristers, all practising in civil litigation across a wide range of areas including construction, property, insolvency, insurance, trusts and general commercial litigation.

Where did you study?
At the University of Canterbury. I graduated in 1994 with a BA/LLB.

At Canterbury I was fortunate to study under some of New Zealand’s great legal academics like John Burrows QC, Jeremy Finn and Stephen Todd.

In the late 1990s I went back to university parttime, studying at the University of Auckland where I completed an LLM (Hons), graduating in 2001.

The focus for my masters was the law of commercial obligations, drawing together the common themes in tort, contract and equity. My supervisor was Professor Julie Maxton, who was the Dean of the Faculty of Law by the time I graduated and went on to become the first-ever woman to be appointed as the Registrar of the University of Oxford.

I also studied for the Fellowship in Arbitration. In 2012 I became a fellow of AMINZ (Arbitrators’ and Mediators’ Institute of New Zealand) and a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators in the UK.

What’s been your career to date?
I was admitted to the bar in September 1994.

I started work in a small firm in Manukau called Lyon Lucas, and worked across a broad range of civil, family and criminal litigation, gradually focusing on civil litigation.

In the late 1990s, I moved to Duthie Whyte in the city and, in the early 2000s, became a partner in Knight Coldicutt where I developed a speciality in property and construction disputes.

I joined the independent bar in 2006 and have been in three sets of chambers since then, all of them in Auckland.

How long have you been a member of ADLS?
Since I commenced practice in 1994. Being a member of ADLS has been extremely good value for money, for everything that you get out of it: collegiality, CPD and the other professional services that are offered.

How long have you been involved with ADLS committees and which committees have you worked with?
Many years ago I was on the Civil Litigation and Courts committee. I joined the Property Disputes committee about 13 years ago and became the convenor when Joanna Pidgeon became ADLS President.

Why is committee work important?
For general committees, the most important thing is to be a forum and an outlet for members of the profession to have a say on law reform and through the select committee submission process.

Committees play an important role in the leadership of the profession.

The Property Disputes committee provides a service to ADLS members, where we determine property-related disputes.

All our members (12 currently) are experienced property lawyers. About two-thirds are practising transactional property lawyers and the remaining third are property dispute specialists, litigation and barristers.

We convene the committee when we receive a referral of a dispute from two practitioners. Our job is to determine the dispute based on an agreed set of facts. We issue our decision within a month and meet between three and six times a year, based on demand.

The kind of issues we consider can be complex and often involve disputes around the time of settlement of a property transaction. But our work isn’t limited to that. We have also determined disputes relating to commercial leases and property disputes of a more general nature such as cross-lease and boundary disputes.

We have a rulings manual, available on the ADLS website, where we summarise and catalogue significant decisions. A first step for any ADLS member considering bringing a dispute to us is to check the rulings manual to see if we have ruled on a similar issue previously.

How do ADLS committees make a difference?
Our committee provides an expert determination for a very economical fee, within a very short timeframe.

What’s been the most notable achievement or biggest focus of your committee in the past few years? Why was that important?
There isn’t one big notable achievement but many smaller ones.

We have helped resolve many disputes over the years – cases that would have been uneconomic to hear in other forums. We provide a valuable access to justice service for ADLS members.

What would you say to anyone thinking of becoming involved in an ADLS committee?
I’d encourage anyone interested to get involved and do so early in your career.

You don’t need 20 years’ experience. In fact, committees are more vibrant when they’re comprised of people with a wide range of experience. So don’t be shy.

What’s the biggest issue facing your practice area at the moment? And how does that affect lawyers and their clients?
It’s the perennial issue of high cost and lengthy delays in court proceedings.

The Property Disputes committee provides a really helpful service for cases that results in them being heard without delay and for a reasonable cost.

What’s the best kept secret about ADLS?
The great support from ADLS staff who are very helpful and friendly. They provide fantastic collegial support and are great to deal with.

To find out more about ADLS committees, contact Melissa Fini: e:

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