Featured Panel Member: Mark S

Listening to war stories over a hot drink and learning from the most experienced lawyers in their fields is something we cherish at InCounsel.

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Last week we sat with Mark, who has spent over 25 years as a Partner specialising in insurance, risk and litigation in some of Australia’s leading insurance practices.

Mark now brings his expertise and 14 years worth of inclusions and recommendations in Best Lawyers: Australia and Asia Pacific Legal 500 for insurance law into his sole practice firm, which he launched in July this year.

We covered a lot of territory, but here’s a brief snapshot:

1. What are you best at i.e. your sweet spot?

My specialty is working through the fine print and nuances of an insurance policy and devising reasons why that insurance policy should respond to a particular claim. I enjoy the challenge of reducing a complex matter into a simple and effective solution, which my client can easily understand. The key is simplicity without patronising the client - this is what I do best.

2. What’s the most interesting skillset or experience that you can offer a general counsel, risk manager or law firm as a specialist in your field?

Most if not all of the clients for whom I have acted are intelligent users of legal services but sometimes the tricks of insurance law are elusive. My most interesting skillset is to educate my clients on those tricks and involve them in the resolution of their own disputes.

3. What have been your favourite projects/engagements/roles/clients?

I have been involved in many projects which I have found amazing on so many levels. My favourite project concerned a gold mine in Papua New Guinea owned by a Joint Venture of Australian and international companies. On the site of the gold mine was a small shed where the explosives used to release the gold from the rock, were manufactured. One day a malfunction in the manufacturing process resulted in the shed blowing up. Sadly people were killed, property was damaged, and the mine production was interrupted. The insurance dispute about who was liable for all the losses flowing from the explosion involved Scandinavian insurers, UK insurers, PNG insurers and Australian insurers. My client insurers (all the insurers other than the Australian insurers) were ultimately successful off the back of my early and simply devised case theory. I still consider it one of my finest hours.

4. Are there any particular areas where a GC/CEO would be best placed to use you as a supplement (or in some cases an alternative) to using their larger/panel firms?

I bring to GC’s and CEO’s a particular skill that not every law firm has. I have a deep knowledge of the intricacies and nuances of insurance law, particularly financial lines and D&O insurance. Those firms that do have this skill, often have a commercial conflict preventing them from acting against any insurer. I do not have that conflict. Finally I have more flexibility in pricing than the larger/panel firms may have. Across all of these areas a GC/CEO would be best placed to use me as a supplement or alternative to their larger/panel firms.

5. It’s early days in your new venture, how have you found the experience so far?

I have been blown away with the support and courage that my long standing clients have given me at this early stage in this new venture. Their presence will ensure that this venture will be a success.

6. What legal or industry development are you paying close attention to in the insurance sector right now?

The big developments at the moment are in the areas of cyber liability and climate change. The area which particularly interests me and which I am following, is the liability of management (company directors and officers) for the consequences of their mismanagement of their respective company’s cyber risk or climate footprint.

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Mark is available now for advisory, dispute resolution and litigation matters – feel free to get in touch with us 👋🏻