Five minutes with…John Nerurker, Mills Oakley

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John Nerurker, the CEO of Mills Oakley, tells Australasian Lawyer about reshaping the traditional mind-set of the firm and his hobbies of 4WDing and riding dirt bikes

What made you decide to work in a law firm?
The collegiality which comes with a large partnership and the breadth of industries to which you get exposed. Our clients include telcos, insurance companies, construction companies, miners and many others, so you’re always interacting with diverse groups of people and learning something new.
 
How long have you worked at Mills Oakley and what brought you to that position?
I’ve been at Mills Oakley for ten years. At the time I joined, the firm had a rather traditional mind-set and was looking for someone who could bring new skills and a more business-oriented approach to the table. Reshaping the firm certainly wasn’t an easy task by any means, but the opportunity to take on a new challenge and build something special was one I couldn’t pass up.
 
What’s the strangest case you’ve ever worked on/been involved with?
My training is as an accountant and executive so I don’t work directly on matters. In any event, discretion is one of the best attributes that one can possess in the law, so I will perform a quick two-step around that question!
 
If you could invite three people for dinner, dead or alive and excluding family and friends, who would they be and why?
  • Dr Fiona Wood AM – because the work that she does is life changing and inspirational
  • Roger Federer - who never big-notes himself, but has a remarkable poise and self-confidence on court
  • Clive Palmer - just for pure entertainment value
 
You’re based in Melbourne – where’s the best place to go for a drink and/or dinner after work?
As a father of two children, I don’t get a lot of time to visit bars after work. If I am dining in Melbourne for a business function, it’s hard to go past Spice Temple and when I get a night away from the office, my wife and I enjoy the cuisine at France-Soir.
 
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given (work or personal)?
A company is only as good as the people it keeps.
 
Do you have any hobbies/interests outside of work?
4WDing and dirt bikes – actually, anything that involves the great outdoors.
 
Complete this sentence: If I wasn’t running a law firm, I would be…
If I wasn’t running a law firm, I’d be….endowed with substantially more spare time.
 
What do you think will be the single biggest issue facing the legal space in Australia in
2014?
Staying relevant in the delivery of value to clients. In practical terms, this means prioritising innovation because the business models in our sector are now evolving so rapidly. The most astute firms will always be looking for ways to refresh service delivery.
 
If you had Tony Abbott’s job for one day, what would you do?
For the country, reduce red tape and for myself, burn the budgie smugglers.
 
What do you love about your job?
The firm is like a second family to me, so I would say my favourite part of this job is the people I am privileged to have around me at Mills Oakley.
 
What would you change about your job right now if you could?
Probably the amount of time I spend in airports and on the road. Actually, there are many businesses like ours that have offices along the East Coast, so I think there would be a real demand for a high-speed rail service to get people between cities without the hassle of air travel. I am generally an optimistic person but somehow I don’t think we’ll see that one in my lifetime!

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