On the Radar

On the Radar: Insurance Law at Russell Kennedy

Insurance Law

Jessica Bourke
Lawyer, Russell Kennedy

My pathway to Russell Kennedy began with completing a seasonal clerkship placement in 2014, followed by being appointed as a Law Graduate in 2015 and then being admitted to Practice in April 2016 where I was fortunate to join the Victorian WorkCover Authority team as a junior lawyer.

Insurance Law

Insurance law focuses on advising insurers about claims made against those they insure. This can involve a variety of individuals, companies and professions, and often involves the insurer instructing the lawyer to act on behalf of the insured.

Insurance Law at Russell Kennedy

Russell Kennedy is a “Panel firm” for the Victorian WorkCover Authority (“WorkSafe”) and acts on behalf of insurers and employers in WorkCover claims brought by employees in Court. Russell Kennedy is unusual in this regard, as there are only seven firms on the WorkSafe Panel, making it a very niche area.

Working in the Victorian WorkCover Authority team at Russell Kennedy offers a unique experience. The nature of the role is highly dynamic. For example, in the space of a day I could be appearing before a Magistrate in the Magistrates’ Court, drafting letters, speaking to employers and advocating my client’s case against an opposing Senior Counsel at a conference.

I often attend court to appear in directions or mentions hearings, instruct barristers at hearings, attend conferences and client meetings and also attend employer’s premises for site visits. Between these events, I will often be reviewing files, drafting court documents and drafting correspondence including letters and advices.

Despite being a busy team, our practice group has an “open door” policy and a collaborative culture. I have been fortunate enough to learn from some very skilled and experienced practitioners who are very generous with their time.

Grow with Russell Kennedy

Russell Kennedy actively encourages its lawyers to pursue other interests within and outside of their practice areas. I have been involved in industry networking groups including being a member of Young Insurance Professionals and Women in Insurance.

I also play an active role on the Russell Kennedy Women’s Network (RKWN), commencing my third year as a committee member in 2017. In 2016, I volunteered at Russell Kennedy’s Tuesday Night Clinic, a collaboration with the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre which is an initiative of the Russell Kennedy Pro Bono Practice Group. At these sessions I assisted refugees in the Legacy Caseload or Fast Track system apply for protection in Australia.

I have enjoyed being a mentor in the Victorian Women Lawyer’s (VWL) mentoring program for the last two years, and was fortunate enough to be part of the RKWN’s 2016 VWL Moot Team, who reached the semi-finals. Russell Kennedy has its own internal Mentoring Program which I’m involved in as a Mentee, allowing me the opportunity to be mentored by an Equity Partner and Practice Group Leader in one of the firm’s other practice groups.

Tips for lawyers starting out

Simply try everything! You may have preconceived ideas about which area of law you like, however trying it in real life can be a completely different experience. Ask the connections you have if you can shadow them for a day or complete some work experience with them. Russell Kennedy’s graduate program is beneficial and quite unusual in this regard, as you get to rotate through each practice group and learn which area of law you like the best and learn from highly experienced lawyers.

I would also offer similar advice for when selecting law firms. I was lucky enough to experience three very different firms – including a top-tier international firm, top-tier Australian firm and Russell Kennedy. After experiencing all three, Russell Kennedy was a clear winner for me.

When starting out as a lawyer, it’s not uncommon to face stressful and high pressure situations with strict deadlines that must be adhere to. Forethought and planning are integral ingredients in maintaining a successful practice.

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