Bree Knoester, partner at Adviceline Injury Lawyers (a division of Holding Redlich) tells Australasian Lawyer about her work with asbestos victims.
What made you decide to become a lawyer?
My mother worked in the non-for profit sector and worked actively in Australia and overseas helping those less fortunate. I liked the idea that lawyers had the potential to help change people’s lives also, either by advising someone of their legal rights, righting a wrong, or helping people get compensation for injuries that should not have occurred. I always wanted to be involved in personal injury litigation where the person’s life story is central to the case and where I felt I was able to actually make a difference.
How long have you been at Adviceline Injury Lawyers/ Holding Redlich and what brought you to this position?
I joined Adviceline/Holding Redlich in March 2014 as a partner. I had worked as solicitor and then for eight years as a barrister prior to joining the firm. As a barrister, I was involved in many large jury trials and appeals but I missed working with a client from the start to the finish of the case and sharing that experience with them.
How did you come to work with asbestos victims?
Having grown up in the Latrobe Valley, the asbestos legacy in that area was well known to me. Latrobe Valley power industry workers contract mesothelioma at seven times the state average. Over 140,000 Latrobe Valley power station workers were exposed to asbestos between the 1920s and 1980s. I am privileged to look after this area of practice at Holding Redlich – we have been helping sufferers of asbestos related diseases since the early 1980s. I now have a visiting office in the Latrobe Valley and feel more able to help people from my local area.
What’s the strangest case you’ve ever worked on/been involved with?
Only because of how it ended – I was volunteering at a legal service to help a young person charged with theft of a handbag. When I turned around, he jumped over the reception desk and stole my handbag and fled!
If you could invite three people for dinner, dead or alive and excluding family and friends, who would they be and why?
Oprah (who wouldn’t!), Frank Gehry and Caroline Chisholm.
You’re based in Melbourne – where’s the best place to go for a drink and/or dinner after work?
These days I work between our Melbourne, Springvale and Moe offices and have a young daughter so I am not the best person to ask! Although I love Demi Tasse in the legal precinct.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given (work or personal)?
Listen to your instincts. Integrity is everything: your word is your word.
Do you have any hobbies/interests outside of work?
I am slowly returning to running and working out how to run and push a pram with an 11kg toddler is a challenge! I love reading and have been in a book club for five years. French champagne is also a big interest!
Complete this sentence: If I wasn’t a lawyer, I would be…
A personal trainer for brides (a previous job).
What do you think will be single biggest issue facing the litigation space in Australia in 2015?
In Victoria, we await the passing of amendments to the Wrongs Act which will ensure injured people have greater entitlements and less hurdles before being entitled to compensation.
If you had Tony Abbot’s job for one day, what would you do?
Ensure James Hardie was not permitted to pay compensation in instalments which was mooted last year.
What do you love about your job?
The privilege of meeting people at a difficult time in their life and being inspired by how our clients rise above adversity.
What would you change about your job right now if you could?
Nothing. Holding Redlich is a unique law firm with a heart. I didn’t take the decision to leave a successful career at the Bar lightly. But I am delighted to carry on the excellent work our firm does and work with our excellent lawyers and believe we make a difference every day.