In MOtion – Paul Jurdeczka

March, 2016

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Paul Jurdeczka, better known as PJ to his colleagues, is an Insurance and Strata specialist in our Sydney office. In this interview, he talks about life in practice at Mills Oakley and how the profession may evolve down the track.

What do you love most about your practice?

Every matter is different. In construction insurance and strata disputes you would think it would be the same matters again and again, but every matter has something different about it. You have to be on your toes for the differences, and not assume you know the answers immediately.  I also work with and against some great people. I work with some great lawyers, and non-lawyers, at Mills Oakley but I also get to work with some very good experts, barristers, Mediators, Judges, etc.  Even your opponents can make it fun and interesting.  You often get better results when working with a good opponent to resolve a dispute than you would without one.

What’s the best part of your day?

The people I work with.  You can have the best legal mind in the world, and I’m not saying I have that, but I work with a great bunch of people and have worked with some of them for years before we all joined Mills Oakley.  One of the reasons I have never gone to the Bar is I would miss that great team atmosphere I have in my team and at Mills Oakley. There’s nothing like a team brainstorm session to knock ideas about and solve a problem.

What is the best advice you have received?

Never put in writing what you don’t want to have to explain to a Judge later. My first supervising Senior Associate gave me that one, and I’ve always tried to follow it (successfully so far).

How do you see the legal sector changing over the next five years?

Technology – as in many industries, this is making a lot of tasks and jobs “easier” to do, and almost automated once set up right. The secret will be identifying what tasks will be “commoditised” and what will remain “bespoke”, and dealing with each appropriately.

People – there is an increasing move to in house roles in the law, and quite apart from the challenges that presents to law firms doing those companies’ work, I think a big part of that is lawyers not wanting to work 12 hour days for years on end.  Getting the most out of our people without burning them out is a real challenge for the law, and I think the industry is only just now starting to come to grips with that.

What have been the highlights of your career?

Getting up in the Court of Appeal in a matter I had been advising the client from the very beginning of was great (Taylor v Chapman [2004] NSWCA 456), as it essentially proved I had gotten it right (even if it took 3 hearings at 3 different levels). Making Partner at Mills Oakley was also up there, as being recognised by your firm that you have “made it” actually makes you realise how much you have done in your career to get to that level.

What are your favourite pastimes?

Watching rugby.  My beloved Waratahs and Wallabies give me ulcers at times, but the highs make the lows worthwhile. Chasing after my two young daughters is also a big part of my weekends. My wife and I are trying to enjoy it while it lasts as before we know it they’ll be asking for the keys to the car or $50 to go to the pub with their friends.

Would you rather be an Olympic gold medalist or a Nobel Peace Prize winner?

As a sports nut I should say Olympic gold medalist, probably in sevens rugby or soccer, but I’d have to say Nobel Peace Prize.  To get that you have to have done some great things in your life, and helped a lot of people, so I think when I was sitting on the porch in my rocking chair I’d prefer to have that framed on the wall.

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