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HomeApril 2015 Issue 103

More than ‘black letter’ law: solving problems in the real world

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Craig Painter, senior associate at Snedden Hall & Gallop, is not your average lawyer.

He followed an unusually long path to becoming a lawyer, which saw him in two previous careers, gaining real-world experience.

Born and raised in Bowral, Craig left school in year 10 and completed an apprenticeship as a fitter and machinist.

“My father said ‘you’d better get a trade’ so I did,” Craig said.

After completing his apprenticeship Craig wanted to study engineering. His employer wouldn’t pay for this, so he resigned, did his Higher School Certificate in a year and then studied teaching at the Australian Catholic University, graduating in 1990.

He taught at a number of schools across New South Wales and started out teaching industrial arts before moving on to teach computing and design.

“I really enjoyed working with young people and nurturing their talents and aspirations,” Craig explained.

After 7 years of teaching Craig started looking at something new to study and a change of career – he chose law.

He studied law part-time through the Sydney University run, NSW Legal Practitioners Admissions Board.

“Law was a good fit with my background in education. I still wanted to be people focused and in a career where I could engage with reallife issues,” Craig said.

Craig worked for the Commonwealth in the Department of Transport and Regional Services, then for the ACT Government in WorkCover and, later, the ACT Government Solicitor.

He then moved into the private sector working for Abbott Tout doing defendant litigation work. Then Porters Lawyers acting for people suffering personal injury as a result of accidents.

“This work was incredibly satisfying for me as I was working directly with clients. I didn’t want to work in a big firm or Government department. I enjoyed the intimate relationships I had with clients and my interactions with staff,” Craig reflected.

Craig then moved to local firm Elringtons where he stayed for six years, and became a partner in 2 ½ years.

Today, Craig works at Snedden Hall & Gallop Lawyers where he is a dispute resolution expert.

“The environment at Snedden Hall & Gallop is excellent. We are a great team and it is a pleasure to come to work each day,” Craig said.

“My passion is dispute resolution. This means finding practical solutions to legal problems. I use the law as a guide as to how the problems should be resolved but I refuse to be a slave to, and become paralysed by, ‘black letter law’,” Craig said passionately.

The areas Craig predominantly works in include: contract disputes such as supply of goods and services; insolvency; debt recovery both personal and corporate; compensation for breaches in contract; professional negligence; disputes regarding employment; and working with employers on employment contracts and workplace policies.

“One of the great fears of small and medium sized businesses is that larger businesses could tie them up in expensive and time-consuming legal processes that would cripple their businesses and severely damage their health and family relations.”

“People may not be aware that more than 90 per cent of legal disputes are resolved without going to court. The fear of going to court is the cost, and for the vast majority of legal problems disputes can be resolved without going to court,” Craig explained.

Craig’s focus is on the end result.

“Usually when a client comes to me they have been trying to deal with an issue for some time and are quite stressed. I can focus them on acheiving an end result that they can be comfortable with,” Craig said.

Craig is a leader in advising in relation to the ACT’s ‘Mr Fluffy’ crisis. Craig represents more than 50 homeowners in relation to the government’s buy-back program.

“One of the biggest issues is that the Government has put out documents, guidelines and policies in relation to the ‘Mr Fluffy’ houses, but the practical application of them can be quite complicated,” Craig outlined.

According to Craig, one example of this is the payment to people through the knock down, rebuild or private demolition assistance program.

“This program can be inconsistent at times and exclude people who should be entitled to benefit from the policy,” Craig stated, “For example, home owners who have started the knockdown process, but not completed, are excluded from the current assistance package.”

In any dispute, as evidenced by the Mr Fluffy saga, the ‘black letter law’ may not provide the best outcome for all parties.

“One of my strengths is being able to work with people to help them resolve their problems and reach practical solutions they can live with,” Craig explained.

Craig says he prefers the legal fraternity in Canberra to that of Sydney because it is more collegiate.

“I like to work with all parties to find a solution to problems. Lawyers need to be able to work together in the best interests of the clients. I want to be known as a problem solver,” Craig said confidently.

Contact Craig Painter Senior Associate, Snedden Hall & Gallop M: 0411 305 627 E:[email protected] A: 43-49 Geils Court, Deakin ACT 260

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