Class actions take true grit

By Felicity Nelson|12 August 2015
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Courtesy of James Burke/Flickr

The public often hears the glamorous side of class action law suits, but getting the headline-making result requires dogged determination and hard work, a former Australian Law Award winner says.

Partner at Shine Lawyers Rebecca Jancauskas, who won the Young Gun award in 2011, spoke to Lawyers Weekly ahead of this year’s Australian Law Awards.

“In my experience, it takes a special type of lawyer to succeed in the class actions space,” she said. “Years of painstaking, not-always-glamorous work goes into achieving each result, so you need to have the drive, enjoy the contest and be inspired by the end game to last the distance.”

Ms Jancauskas said young lawyers who are interested in moving into this area need to be aware that only a handful of firms have the resources and experience to run these kinds of cases.

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“So you should do your research and secure a role with one of the larger plaintiff or defendant firms in the field,” she said.

Class action lawyers need strong organisational skills and superior attention to detail, as well as the ability to collaborate effectively as part of a large team, she continued.

Ms Jancauskas said she was drawn to damages-based litigation as a “young starry-eyed lawyer” because she knew she wanted to help others.

“I was attracted to class actions by the ability they afford to secure justice for large numbers of people who have been wronged,” she said.

Class action litigation is “endlessly challenging”, she said, noting that it combines the “forensic challenge of establishing complex liability and causation arguments with the compassion to represent people who have suffered injuries and financial losses”.

Crowdfunding was now emerging as an alternative to traditional litigation funders, she added.

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Class actions are increasingly operating as a mechanism to “drive social change, sparking regulatory action, inquiries, industry reforms and policy overhauls”, Ms Jancauskas said.

Another trend is the continued dominance of shareholder and financial services actions in the Australian class action space, with product liability and environmental actions “rounding out the field”, she said. 

Class actions take true grit
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