Brett Ablong discusses a particularly memorable custody case and mentoring the next generation
Cultivating the next generation of legal talent is an important focus for Brett Ablong. The managing director of HBA Legal finds great joy in mentoring young lawyers and reminding them that “law does not win cases, facts do and if we want to win, we need to find the facts.”
Thus, Ablong believes that keeping the field of law interesting for upcoming generations is a major challenge for the legal profession. He points out that humanity and empathy with clients are two aspects those in the profession need to build on.
In this interview, Ablong talks about his opportunities for professional development following HBA Legal’s merger with claims management giant Crawford & Company last year and the end of “the world of big profits, big partner draws and big salaries.”
What made you choose a career in law, and what's your favourite part of the job?
I didn’t enter uni thinking I wanted to be a lawyer but got the marks for it. I initially started a BCom/LLB but soon found out that things like stats were not for me. In the first year of my law degree, we studied criminal law and I found the forensic aspect of the job fascinating and still do.
As I coach young lawyers, I tell them: law does not win cases, facts do and if we want to win, we need to find the facts. Over the years, that has been my favourite part of my job – and of course, representing and forming lasting relationships with great clients and getting results for them. Today, where I am at now, I really find the management and people aspect of my job quite rewarding.
What is the most memorable case you've taken on/been involved in?
It was in my first year acting for a dad in a legal aid custody dispute. The mother had absconded with the children and was not mentally well. We managed to get the kids back safely. That is what has always driven me – getting real results for clients who need help, and they know the end outcome they want, but they don’t necessarily know how to navigate to that solution.
What is going on at the firm? Are there any new programs and initiatives that you’re particularly interested in?
The whole integration process with Crawford has been challenging but immensely rewarding. From my management perspective, it is intellectually challenging and therefore good to navigate through a corporate environment and have access to some of the best corporate minds in the world. I am particularly interested in the professional development opportunities that await me.
What has been your proudest accomplishment in the last year or so? Or what’s the biggest lesson you learned in the past year and what advice can you give fellow lawyers about it?
The biggest accomplishment was coming to terms with Crawford and being able to stand back at the end of it (or the start of our journey with Crawford) and appreciating what a great business and team we have developed. The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that it’s the people that make the business and our HBA team has been right behind us all the way.
What should the profession and law firms focus more on?
Walking a day in the shoes of the client; getting commercially sound results and being human.
What are the challenges you expect in your practice, and in the business of law in general, going forward? What challenges are particularly pressing in the country’s legal industry?
The biggest challenge is the “more for less” challenge that our clients are facing and therefore we need to be able to deliver for them in that regard. It is only beginning in Australia and many firms and practitioners are not ready for it. The world of big profits, big partner draws and big salaries is coming to an end, and many are going to find this extremely challenging professionally and personally.
The other challenge is keeping the upcoming generations interested. They are so talented and have so much to offer, but so many firms discount and discourage them in lots of ways both intentionally and unintentionally.
What are you looking forward to the most in the coming year?
More and more challenges, and HBA evolving with Crawford and offering unrivalled and innovative legal solution to the insurance industry in Australia.