Nieva Connell

Very persistent - great results and outcomes

- Client Perception Survey, 2015
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Nieva Connell

Partner

Nieva Connell is a partner in our Insurance and Health team and is based in the Melbourne office.

‘As someone who enjoyed debating at high school and was quite argumentative, I was encouraged to study law. While at law school, I was asked to lecture in property law in the Faculty of Architecture. Through that role, I was offered a job in a mid-tier firm where I was expected to become a property lawyer. I surprised everyone when I chose to go into insurance instead. Insurance law sounded interesting, exciting and challenging. Fortunately, for me, I was right. I still enjoy learning about an array of technical issues that most people would never come across, whether it’s specialised information about equipment, services or medical information. As an insurance lawyer, I’ve found myself doing many interesting things, like walking on the rooftop of Etihad Stadium in Melbourne inspecting bolts, learning the ins and outs of installing plumbing in high-rise buildings, and finding out how to grease the bushes and shafts on semi-trailers. I’ve also been involved in many cases involving interesting medical issues and diagnoses.’

At Barry.Nilsson, Nieva advises clients on insurance claims, as well as on coverage disputes, particularly those involving:

  • Public liability (personal injury and property damage)
  • Professional indemnity (with a special focus on real estate matters)
  • Product liability
  • First party industrial special risks (ISR)
  • Class actions.

Nieva also assists clients with policy interpretation and drafting, claims assessment and statutory compliance issues. Her clients include national, multinational and international insurers.

‘When I work with a client, my aim is to make their working life easier. How do I do this? Well, I make sure I understand what their business imperatives are, and that my advices are short and to the point. Claims managers are extremely busy people who are under a great deal of pressure. To be honest, they’re even busier than lawyers. They don’t have time to wade through pages and pages of obscure legalese, so I make my advices as clear and easy to digest as possible. Most importantly, I constantly listen to my clients and make sure that I’m not only responsive but but am always trying to think of ways to provide them with the kind of assistance they need. When it comes to service delivery, I ensure that work is allocated appropriately within my team. For example, I know that my clients are under pressure to save money, so I make sure that we don’t have situation where a junior or mid-level lawyer is assigned to work that could be done by a very capable paralegal; by the same token, I make sure that complex work is undertaken by senior lawyers with appropriate skills and experience. My clients seem to appreciate what could be called my “intelligent and strategic management of resources”, largely because it saves them money.’

Nieva is an expert in complex litigation and has defended a number of prominent class actions, including:

  • A Victorian Supreme Court matter that arose when 500 people became ill after consuming soy milk
  • A Victorian Supreme Court matter relating to interruption of the gas supply in Victoria
  • A Federal Court matter, which was later transferred to the Supreme Court of Victoria, relating to the contamination of aviation fuel
  • A Federal Court matter relating to proceedings commenced by protesters under the ‘Occupy Melbourne’ banner.

Nieva is currently defending a party in the Manus Island class action in the Supreme Court of Victoria.

‘When defending a class action, I make sure I understand the insured’s business and environment, as well as the plaintiff law firm and their imperatives, including those of the funders. Throughout the litigation, I constantly advise the insurer and insured of the risks and potential outcomes, especially cost outcomes. This involves thoroughly assessing liability and quantum throughout the process. I also make sure we have a strategy for dealing with other parties, including insured interests, and I drive the litigation to alternative dispute resolution if possible. At the same time, I’m always prepared to run the litigation if that is necessary.’

In 2007, Nieva won the Law Institute of Victoria’s Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year Award. In 2015, she was listed in Australasian Lawyer as one of the top 50 women to watch in Australia and New Zealand in the category ‘Experts in Their Field’. Nieva was recognised as a recommended lawyer for public liability and medical negligence in the 2016 edition of Doyle's Guide.

‘Barry.Nilsson. is the mythical sort of firm you hear about. It really is a place where everyone enjoys working with each other and genuinely likes their clients. We know insurance, and this means that we’ve built up an impressive client roster. As a result, all our lawyers are inspired by great quality, stimulating work. We also have a strong focus on learning and development through Elevista, our education and training program, which is something that often falls by the wayside in other firms. I believe this is a real asset for our clients, and the feedback we receive demonstrates that they appreciate it as well.’

Leadership

  • Member, Australian Insurance Law Association (AILA)
  • Member, Australia and New Zealand Institute of Insurance and Finance (ANZIIF)
  • Member, Litigation Lawyers Association
  • Committee Member and Membership Chairperson, Association for Women in Insurance (Vic)

Expertise

  • Public liability (personal injury and property damage)
  • Professional indemnity (with special focus on real estate matters)
  • Product liability
  • First party industrial special risks (ISR)
  • Class actions

Qualifications

  • Bachelor of Laws
  • Bachelor of Arts
  • Graduate Diploma of Intellectual Property

Expertise

Insurance and Health

Melbourne