The Honourable Justice JK Ward, President of the Court of Appeal, speaking at a New South Wales Bar Association CPD on appellate advocacy in 2022 speaks about the importance of preparation, how advocates can make a difference to the outcome of a case and cites the advocacy of Laina Chan as an example.
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Areas of Practice
Building & Construction
BSc (Hons in Pure Mathematics) USyd
Llb (Hons) USyd
CME from Harvard Business School
Cases of Note
Laina Chan has been named as a winner in the Top 100 Women in Construction 2023.
Laina is an award winning barrister. She is the 2021 Lawyers Weekly Women in Law Barrister of the Year. She has also recently been named as a Top 100 Woman in Construction. Laina is an appellate advocate with a significant appellate practice. Recognised as the leading expert in Australia on the interplay between construction and insurance law, Laina is a learned and fearless advocate. Laina works on complex disputes with an emphasis in construction, property and insurance law. She specialises in professional indemnity claims, property law and complex commercial dispute resolution.
Laina is tenacious and tireless. When necessary, Laina advocates for the systematic development of the law both at trial and at appeal. She has achieved excellent outcomes for her clients in this way.
As your counsel, Laina always strives to achieve the optimal resolution for your dispute utilising her legal, commercial and strategic skills. If Laina is briefed at the outset of a dispute, she will work with the entire team to resolve the disputes early so that costs are contained and client margins preserved. Her understanding of commercial realities ensures that the most efficient strategy for resolution is identified and implemented.
Prof J W Carter and Laina co-authored the 2019 seminal work on Contract and the Australian Consumer Law which examines how the ACL has amended the law of contract. Their 2020 work on the new method for quantum meruit claims is widely referenced as well. She is also the LexisNexis author for the annotated Insurance Contracts Act 1984 (Cth) for the Australian Insurance Law Practice and on the Editorial Panel for the LexisNexis Australian Insurance Law Bulletin. Her works feature on the reading lists of many Universities, including the University of Sydney and the University of Melbourne.
Laina has a Certificate of Management Excellence from Harvard Business School having completed programs in negotiation, strategy and leadership. Since completing the negotiation and dealmaking program in 2018, during mediations, Laina sets aside the common adversarial approach to negotiations, embracing the more open and relationship building methodology to secure the best outcomes for her clients. The fact that Laina settled 13 matters in the six months following completion of her Harvard Business School Negotiation course is testament to this alternative approach.
She has also been identified as a game changer in the TOP 100 women in construction initiative and has been featured as a woman to watch by the University of Sydney. She is a finalist in the 2019 to 2022 Lawyers Weekly Australian Barrister of the Year Award.
Words From Clients
Laina Chan was my client’s opposing Counsel in important Supreme Court proceedings. She did such a good job that I have seen fit to recommend her services to my clients subsequently.
Principal, McDermott & Associates
I would definitely recommend Laina Chan because she is the only Barrister-at-law who told me and has proved that I must trust an Asian female barrister who can deliver exceptional legal service both as advocate and adviser.
Principal of Juris Cor Legal
I met Laina Chan, a prominent construction barrister and academic, in 2015 in my capacity as President of the Australian Insurance Law Association.
Listed as one of the Top 100 Women in Construction in 2020, Laina possesses notable experience and expertise in the field of construction law. Whether dealing with contractual disputes, the complex and technical aspects of construction law, or regulatory matters, Laina consistently demonstrates a solid understanding of legal complexities, coupled with a pragmatic approach. What sets Laina apart is her dedication to her clients. Laina’s approach is thorough and precise, and she consistently achieves favourable outcomes.
Laina contributes significantly to the advancement of construction law in Australia. Her work, including research and publications, has enriched the collective knowledge of this specialised area of the law. Laina excels in conveying complex legal concepts in an accessible manner through her engaging lectures and well considered papers.
In addition to her legal and academic achievements, Laina upholds professionalism and personal integrity. Laina is champion of young professionals and her accessibility, responsiveness, and willingness to offer guidance supports the development of the next generation of insurance lawyers and practitioners. Laina’s unwavering commitment to ethical standards has earnt her the respect of her peers and her clients.
I confidently endorse Laina and recommend her services to those seeking an experienced construction law barrister. Laina’s contribution to this area of the law is commendable, and it is always a privilege to collaborate with her.
Claims Specialist & Former President of the Australian Insurance Law Association (2015 & 2016)
Laina conducts herself with integrity. Laina is, in my view, a practitioner worthy of note, her capable intelligence has made her a trusted sounding board for myself and my team. She has acted for Berkley Insurance Australia on many occasions both in NSW and Western Australia in contested hearings. Her consistent diligence, integrity and intellectual honesty is what sets her apart from average. She willingly goes the extra mile, recently where an error had been made in cover provided Laina focused on the result to ensure that our valued insured clients and ourselves both receive an exceptional resolution of a very difficult circumstance.
As part of our standard process when denying indemnity for claims, to ensure transparency and fairness we instruct Senior Counsel to provide an advice. Notwithstanding the fact that Laina has not yet been elevated to Senior Counsel she is often Counsel of choice instructed to review contested denials of policy coverage and is required to provide a written advice on this that may be provided to our insured. Her advices when reviewing policy coverage are carefully considered, written in plain English, well researched, with on point references to the law whilst also exhibiting a common sense and practical approach to policy construction. Importantly her views are given without fear or favour. To put this in perspective Berkley Insurance’s declinature policy is to prefer Counsel’s advice even if it is against our decision at first instance to deny cover.
Laina is a skilled negotiator. Laina willingly collaborates with colleagues where required and brings to the table her training from Harvard Business School to achieve negotiated outcomes that are favourable to each participant. Her negotiation skills add another dimension to her toolkit and definitely lead to positive outcomes for all stakeholders that I had not thought possible.
National Head of Claims, W.R. Berkley Insurance Australia
I have known Laina Chan of Selbourne Chambers for more than 5 years. As partner and head of the Insurance team at Jackson McDonald lawyers and more recently as a partner of Mills Oakley I brief Laina to provide opinion work and to act in the defence of complex Professional indemnity, Directors & Officers and construction claims. I select Laina as Counsel not only because I hold her in the highest regard, for her intelligence, insight and knowledge of the Law, but also because she has gained the confidence of National and International insurers who request her engagement.
In relation to her opinion work, her advice displays sound judgement, is well reasoned and is concise. As to her defence work, Laina has the ability to identify the issue/s and is not distracted by matters that are not relevant to the determination of the claim. Her collation and analysis of the evidence ensures that the interests of the client are protected and the case is presented to the Court in its best form. Laina is unique, with respect, to other Counsel as she is always mindful of alternate resolution strategies and is highly skilled at mediations.
Importantly, Laina is value for money too. She has the expertise and skill of Senior Counsel but her charge rate is more competitive and she does not (often) require Junior Counsel. She works extremely well with the solicitor team ensuring the work is done at the appropriate level (and where the expertise resides).
Partner, Mills Oakley
I have sought Laina’s expert comprehension in a range of matters, including optimising an outcome in a US employment contract dispute with a multi-national to completing a granular review of a complex, multi-year government contract to extend the favourable terms. Laina’s legal and commercial expertise and her ability to analyse complex contracts and then provide a clear path forward, was invaluable. I would be delighted to recommend her if you are seeking a meaningful outcome.
CEO of Catholic Health Care, previously Healthdirect Australia
I have been engaging counsel for more than 20 years and have found Ms Chan to consistently attempt to provide the most comprehensive assistance available. Ms Chan is always very well-presented, well prepared, and fully engaged. She consistently shares her thoughts as they develop and encourages open dialogue; which ultimately benefits the client.
Ms Chan plainly has a deep knowledge and understanding of the law and its application, and she is always across the leading authorities. She approaches each step of each matter with a high degree of skill and sound judgment. She presents carefully constructed pleadings that although relating to complex issues, are so well-worded to ensure an ease of understanding. All correspondence is similarly drafted to the highest calibre.
Ms Chan is always approachable, respectful, and considerate in her dealings. Her honesty and integrity are beyond reproach.
I have no hesitation in recommending Ms Chan.
HWL Ebsworth Lawyers
I have briefed Laina for a number of years now.
Laina is an easy choice for both myself and my clients in matters involving construction and/or property law. Her knowledge in these areas is exceptional. If a matter involves an idiosyncratic query or consideration, Laina will surprisingly promptly refer to a judgment or relatively unknown legislative provision directly on topic. Perhaps this should not be surprising, as she literally wrote the textbook.
Laina applies her extensive legal knowledge not only with ethics and integrity but also in a commercial manner to achieve the best outcome for her clients. Unlike some barristers, disputes are not a black or white outcome for Laina but involve understanding and appreciating risks, the optimal approach and best resolution methods.
Further still, Laina has always proven herself willing to go beyond her retainer, nurturing both legal and insurance professionals, including those not likely to ever be in a position to refer her work.
I have no hesitation recommending Laina as a barrister.
Principal, McInnes Wilson Lawyers
I have consistently been impressed with Laina’s ability to articulate complex legal arguments as well as her unwavering commitment to assist clients with professionalism and integrity.
Laina has an outstanding ability and comprehensive understanding of the law and possesses exceptional advocacy skills to communicate this in the Court room. Laina has a unique ability to articulate complex legal arguments. I often refer to Laina as the “queen of construction law” to my colleagues due to her ability to navaigate and articulate complex legal issues.
Laina has an ability to command the stage and make elquotent and sophisticated technical legal arguments which have resulted in favourable outcomes for our clients. Laina is always transparent and fair with the advice she provides to clients and contributes enormously in the administration of justice.
Laina is always willing and able to take the time to discuss matters and goes above and beyond in times of need. Her assistance does not go unoticed.
Associate, Paradise Charnock O’Brien
As a principal solicitor who has had the unique honour of both instructing Ms. Chan on a multitude of cases and receiving her mentorship since my graduation from law school in 2016, I am uniquely positioned to attest to her remarkable expertise, tireless dedication, and profound professionalism. The depth of Ms. Chan’s legal knowledge is truly extraordinary. Her comprehensive understanding of various legal principles and jurisprudence, combined with her razor-sharp analytical skills, make her an expert strategist. In every case she handles, she systematically identifies the core issues, anticipates potential challenges, and devises robust legal strategies that consistently yield favourable outcomes.
Moreover, Ms. Chan’s aptitude is not confined to pure legal theory; she is also an exceptionally pragmatic barrister. She understands that clients need solutions that are not only legally sound but also commercially viable. This attribute is particularly evident in her ability to dissect intricate business dynamics and provide legal advice that aligns with the client’s commercial realities. Her solutions are not only legally robust, but also strategically designed to optimize commercial advantages for her clients.
Ms. Chan’s professionalism extends beyond her legal knowledge and strategic capabilities. She is deeply committed to the ethical practice of law, always placing her clients’ interests first. She does not simply see clients as sources of business, but treats each one as a trusted partner. This approach is refreshing and has earned her high praise from the clients we have served together, who routinely commend her for her integrity, sensitivity, and dedication to their cause. In my capacity as a solicitor, working with Ms. Chan has been immensely rewarding. Her clear and concise communication makes instructing her straightforward and efficient. Her thoughtful and timely advice is a testament to her vast experience and deep understanding of the law, making her an invaluable collaborator and mentor.
Lapis Arch Legal
During FY21-22. Laina has provided valuable pro bono assistance in four different matters, two of which were complex proceedings before the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal.
It is particularly noteworthy that Laina has secured favourable outcomes for her pro bono clients in Aslan v Stepanoski  NSWCA 24 and Goyal v West  NSWSC 526. Both matters involve unconscionable conduct and significant financial loss for the litigants.
Our clients frequently experience vulnerabilities including disability, underemployment or mental health concerns. The clients are not always capable of providing clear instructions or a coherent picture of the desired outcome. Laina has responded to these challenges by approaching all of her clients with empathy, respect and patience.
Laina’ s assistance in these matters has also worked to strengthen the relationship between the Courts and members of the bar. Most applicants referred by the Courts are not eligible for assistance from Legal Aid NSW, nor are many applicants able to afford representation. Through the participation of barristers in this pro-bono scheme, the Court is able to directly refer applicants that are in need of assistance to members of the Bar who are willing to volunteer their time and expertise.
Managing Solicitor, Legal Assistance Referral Scheme, NSW Bar
I first met Laina, substantively, at a dinner when she had just been awarded the Lawyers Weekly Women in Law Barrister of the Year award. She was who I wanted to be – a successful woman from a diverse background similar to my own. We started chatting and I was asked if I could assist with some pro bono work that she was doing. In the ensuing years I have worked with Laina on multiple matters, including twice in the Court of Appeal. As her junior, I have watched her take to my work with the digital equivalent of red pen. Her superior advocacy experience and legal acumen is used to expunge the mistakes and frivolities from my draft submissions, the work not complete until the submissions are both “tight” and “right”.
This acumen is applied to both commercial matters and her work on pro bono matters referred by the Bar Association’s Legal Assistance Referral Scheme; I have had the privilege of working with Laina on both, and in the finest traditions of the Bar she gives every case her utmost.
Another of the finest traditions of the Bar is the “open door policy”, where senior barristers give advice to junior barristers. Laina’s subject matter expertise in construction and insurance law makes her my first port of call when I have questions about those areas of law. She is always generous with her time and happy to workshop issues with me.
Laina’s practical work is enough basis for her to be awarded Australian Barrister of the Year, but it is as a mentor that she truly comes to the fore. The Bar is traditionally very “male, pale and stale”, and Laina is nothing but. The typical migrant at the Bar is a white man from the UK; an immigrant woman from South-east Asia has very few role models to look up to. Although the mentoring relationship arose organically, and not formally through an established scheme, I could not have asked for a better mentor. Laina has been supportive, practical and pragmatic, and most important of all, always available.
I highly commend Laina Chan as a worthy future recipient of the Australian Barrister of the Year Award
Dr Ada Lim
It is with great pleasure, honour and pride that I write this personal reference for Ms Laina Chan Barrister. I was fortunate to have Ms Chan represent me as senior Barrister in my Appeal matter in the New South Wales Court of Appeal in the Supreme Court of NSW in November 2021, in Aslan v Stepanoski  NSWCA, Ms Chan worked extremely hard with her Junior Barrister Mr Kunal Sharma on my case on a Pro Bono basis through the New South Wales Bar Pro Bono Scheme, and delivered a life changing outcome for me personally and my family by winning my Appeal case in February 2022.
Ms Chan professionally and sincerely fought for me and successfully persuaded the 3 Honourable Appeal Court Judges to overturn a $2.7m judgement against me in the lower Court for restitution and damages for consequential loss, and helped secure a $50,000 judgement for me for unpaid invoice plus all my legal costs for my appeal and for the trial case that went on for over 6 years prior in the lower Court.
Ms Chan saved my life and livelihood in many ways, I was on the verge of bankruptcy if it was not for Ms Chan who barracked for me, believed in me and defended my case, and turned my whole life around. I cannot thank her enough and I’m extremely grateful to her and sincerely forever indebted to her for her amazing efforts and hard work, her dedication to her honourable profession, her honesty and strong belief in me and in my case that it was a just case, and for her belief in herself and persistence in making sure justice is served and the truth triumph.
Jim MJ Aslan
I have had the pleasure of working with Laina on several dispute matters, and I am always impressed with her extensive knowledge and thorough understanding of the relevant pieces of legislations. She has a remarkable ability to navigate complex legal issues with ease, and consistently fights hard for her clients’ best interests. I highly recommend Laina to anyone seeking a dedicated and highly skilled counsel.
Principal of Aristo Lawyers
I think a large part of the reason we were able to settle the matter was because we went to mediation showed them our poker face. Which made them realise we were serious. I think a large part of our success in mediation came from Laina’s ability to explain complex matters so succinctly
Berkley Insurance Australia
Laina was recommended to me by a mid-tier law firm as having construction law expertise. This was an excellent recommendation. She is very knowledgeable in this area and sensible in providing her legal advice. I find her easy to deal with and personable. She was also able to effectively relate to non-lawyers within the business and to provide advice in the commercial context.
Laina assisted in achieving a very good outcome for the client on a complex matter. She is very skilled and able to get across the relevant issues quickly. I also recommend her as a barrister.
Senior University Solicitor, Office of General Counsel Macquarie University
I briefed Laina to obtain specific performance on a retail lease. The relationship between the parties was troubled and the matter was hard fought. Laina provided excellent representation which instilled confidence in my client. She researched the legal issues thoroughly and this was coupled with pragmatic advice on strategy resulting in a successful outcome to the litigation.
Principal of McCray Legal
Laina is one of the most commercial lawyers I have come across. She understands what drives a corporation and the importance of getting a commercial outcome. Unlike any other lawyer I have seen she is motivated to resolve issues rather than let the dispute continue. She has an instinctive drive in relation to mediation and resolution of issues and an ability to be able to break down and unlock an issue. She is pragmatic, strategic, technically brilliant and a strong advisor – she is someone you want on your team.
Group General Manager - Strategic Projects - Downer
I have known Laina since 1998 when we worked together at Minter Ellison. As a solicitor, Laina always produced first rate, focused and on point, work. Since Laina went to the Bar in 2004 I have briefed her in a wide range of litigious matters. Laina has a very sound, well thought through approach to litigation: her tactical judgments are good and she is a skilled cross examiner. She has been instrumental in achieving many good outcomes for parties I have been acting for. I have also recommended Laina to others who have invariably reported that they have been very pleased with the work she has done for them. I have great confidence in Laina’s abilities and I am sure she will continue to do well.
Partner, Colin Biggers & Paisley
My name is Sally Saroukos and I have had the pleasure of Laina representing me in a very long and stressful battle over my late husband’s life insurance. Laina has always been very determined and very confident in her work. This is something I am very thankful for because her determination and tenacity has paid off for me! Even when I thought of giving up in my battle against my late husband’s super fund and life insurer, she never stopped fighting for me. Laina is very kind, well spoken and a selfless person who will always do whats right for the underdog! Words cannot explain how thankful I am to her for all that she has done for me.
My first brief to Laina involved an emotionally charged dispute between neighbours which had previously been the subject of a Deed between the parties to resolve their differences by way of boundary realignments and payment of consideration by one neighbour to the other.
The neighbour (later “the defendant”) defaulted in his obilgations and the only course of action left available to my client was to approach the Court for assistance by way of orders for specific performance. My client had an intense emotional investment in the matter and the first conference with Laina gave him much cause for comfort. Her grasp of the brief was obvious and this gave my client much confidence and made the decision for him to proceed with litigation much easier.
Partner at HWL Ebsworth
Laina has been invaluable throughout my career. Her legal skill as a barrister combined with her enthusiasm and willingness to work alongside less senior solicitors has been a great asset. Laina’s particular knowledge in the areas of insurance law and building and construction is excellent, demonstrated by her ability to answer any curly questions that crop up in such matters. Her skilfulness and attention to detail when it comes to drafting pleadings is greatly appreciated. I feel very confident in recommending her as Counsel to my colleagues.
Partner at HWL Ebsworth
Laina is regarded by our firm as an outstanding court room advocate and client adviser. We have engaged Laina in contract disputes and statutory matters before Federal and State jurisdictions. Chris McArdle of our firm has known Laina since she commenced in the profession, and has no hesitation in recommending her as a barrister.
I have briefed Laina over the past 7 years and found her knowledge particularly on building and construction matters to be exceptional. She is approachable, has a keen eye for detail and will not be bothered with all manner of legal questioning (no matter how basic or advanced).
Partner, HWL Ebsworth Lawyers
Laina is very thorough and has great attention to detail. She also is very helpful and courteous to more junior members of the profession.
Legal Counsel of Royal Bank of Scotland
I have no hesitation in recommending Laina as Counsel for any potential client. Ms Chan has assisted me in several matters with the provision of insightful, practical and clear advice. She has also been an excellent advocate for the cause of my clients. Ms Chan is able to quickly grasp complex issues not only in the law but other areas of expertise and apply them to the question at hand. As an added bonus, Ms Chan is personable and easy to work with both as an instructing Solicitor and when dealing with clients.
Solicitor Principal, P J Donnellan & Co Solicitors
Laina has significant experience in building disputes and I have found her to be persuasive in Court. She also has good interpersonal skills that makes it easier for clients to deal with the stresses of litigation.
AI Strategic Lawyers
Our firm has recently briefed Laina in two complicated commercial matters, one a damages claim against our client and the other a claim by our client for breach of contract. Both matters involved large sums of money and were difficult factually and procedurally. Each of the cases was resolved successfully in favour of our clients who were well pleased with the result. Throughout the course of the proceedings, Laina was always prompt with her advice as well as highly competent and professional in the protection and prosecution of our clients’ interests. She is unfailingly pleasant, good-humoured and easy to work with.
Solicitor & Mediator, P J Donnellan & Co Solicitors
Laina is an articulate experienced counsel I have briefed for approximately 10 years in property and construction matters. Laina exceeds her opponents with her exceptional research skills and her ability to source and apply common law to unique legal arguments. Laina’s cross examination is comprehensive, well thought-out and calculated. When briefed, she will use all tools at her disposal to pursue the best outcome for her client. To date, Laina has obtained favourable outcomes in all the matters that I have briefed her in.
Solicitor, Wight & Strickland
For further information, please visit www.lainachanbarrister.com