The Roberts family, Kate, Cameron, Jack and Charlie.
'Set aside personal allegiances'
by Kate Tilley, Resolve Editor
AILA is not just for lawyers, underwriters, claims professionals, brokers, or loss adjusters, it's for everyone in the insurance industry.
That's what makes the association so special to national president Cameron Roberts.
"Anyone in insurance can join AILA, regardless of the lines they work in, their gender or age. If you're in the industry, you'll get something out of AILA," he told Resolve.
The association successfully targets activities to industry segments or demographics but one of its attractions for Cameron is its industry-encompassing nature.
"AILA has great bones. It's financially viable, a recognisable brand, and has great scope for development of membership and sponsorship offerings and events.
"When you sign up for AILA, you take your hat off. You're not there representing your firm or an insurer or a broker, you're there assisting AILA on its mission to improve education and discourse on insurance law in Australia. You put your personal allegiances aside and put the insurance industry first," he said.
AILA is one of Cameron's many passions. He loves his work and the firm at which he's a partner, Thomson Geer. "I hope I'm still doing my job when I'm 90."
He loves his family – wife Kate, also a lawyer and general counsel at a funds manager, and eight-year-old twin sons Jack and Charlie – Holden Commodores (he owns three) and the Hawthorn Australian Rules Football Club.
The boys were born on Friday 21 May 2010 at 10pm. First thing Monday morning he signed them up as Hawks members. Ribbed about getting in early, Cam said: "I would have rung on Saturday, but the office was closed."
He and the boys rarely miss a home game.
Cameron studied law at Monash University, where he met Kate. Litigation was always his ambition, and civil law a better path than criminal law, where "99% of your clients are criminals".
"I wanted to pursue advocacy and the best way is litigation," he said.
He set his heart on the law after reading Harper Lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbird and aspired to be Atticus Finch, at least the insurance industry's version of the renowned fictional lawyer.
After practising law since 1994, Cameron took on the national presidency as "a way of giving back" to the industry. He has previously been a Victorian committee member and Victorian president.
His first file was a public liability case for GIO (now Suncorp) when a council was sued after a man cut his knee on glass on a footy field. "I've only lost four cases in 25 years, and that wasn't one of them," he told Resolve.
Cameron manages his sons' basketball team and emphasises that he manages not coaches. He acknowledges he's "not a great coach" but enjoys working with a young team at Thomson Geer and imparting knowledge to them.
He says lawyers, unlike some other professions, improve with age. "As you get older you get more experience. You remember landmark cases because you were there when they were handed down."
A career highlight was representing a client at the financial services royal commission last year. "It was intense but rewarding and the client achieved a good result avoiding any criticism."
Cameron says all industries have practices they would be better off without, but a royal commission was overkill for the insurance industry.
He says it is important for people to understand the industry's value in the Australian economy.
"Without insurance, Australia stops. Without appropriate risk allocation, people won't take risks."
Cameron's experience spans public liability, PI, product liability, contractors' all risk, property, and ISR insurance and self-insurance. He has been recognised by his peers as one of Australia's best insurance lawyers (2017 – 2019) and best personal injury litigators (2019), and in Doyle's Guide as a recommended Victorian public liability lawyer (2015, 2017); a recommended Victorian dust diseases lawyer (2016, 2017); and a recommended professional indemnity lawyer (2017).
His clients include government departments, insurers, international and ASX-listed public companies, private companies, and insurance brokers.
Cameron takes great pride in the fact that many long-standing clients have become great friends.