JULIE McStay has cemented her position as one of Brisbane's foremost legal authorities on aged care and retirement living, having been named for a fifth consecutive year on the Australian Best Lawyers list.
According to McStay, the aged-care market is experiencing a widespread boom, with several new opportunities opening up for providers throughout the country.
Brisbane Legal sat down with her to find out more about her love for the job, her journey into the niche area of retirement living law, and her outlook on the legal landscape.
Where did your passion for aged care work stem from?
In the whole time I've been working with aged-care providers over more than 10 years, I can barely count the number of people on one hand that don't have a genuine interest in trying to do something nice for people. We find that, time and time again, those who work in aged care are almost exclusively very nice people who are always trying to do the right thing.
You were recently named on the Australian Best Lawyers list. What does this achievement signify?
This achievement is a reflection of the effort I have placed in being a pro-active, collaborative and involved stakeholder in the industry.
My focus has been on developing a profile as an expert in this highly complex and regulated industry, with the ultimate goal of assisting stakeholders achieve commercially driven outcomes.
In saying that, I have also focused on building relationships with my peers where we all aim to deliver on the best possible outcome for those relying on us as a specialist service provider. It is always a positive to be recognised by my peers as being an expert.
How is the legislative landscape in aged care developing over the next 12 months?
I think it's safe to say the aged-care industry is expanding at a rate of knots, and the general trend I think in the regulation space is that there will continue to be deregulation of licenses and allocation of places which will free up providers to be able to build in a way that they have never been able to do before.
There are some massive opportunities currently out there for aged-care providers, and I think that they are really starting to take advantage of that. We will continue to see deregulation in the sense of being able to build aged-care facilities, but I think on the flipside we will see increased regulation on the way they are operated; which I think is only fair considering they look after a particularly vulnerable group of people.
There's been a lot of acquisition activity in the sector lately. Do you see it continuing?
Absolutely. Aged care has traditionally been a very diverse industry with lots of individual facilities owned by separate groups. There has been a lot of consolidation over the last couple of years and I expect that will continue to increase. There's likely to be many more acquisitions continuing were the bigger players will continue to get bigger, and some of the smaller players might get swallowed up by this or decide to stick it out on their own.
There will be a significant increase not just in the big listed players but also in the not-for-profit area. Churches and charitable organisations are also playing a massive part in the sector. They are very commercial, very savvy and they know aged care. They are also very keen to expand their own businesses.
What are the biggest challenges you commonly face?
Trying to juggle the two different parts of our practice can be difficult at times, going between managing the transactions on the one hand and the competing interests of the regulatory requirements on the other can be challenging. The time demands and the way in which those matters pan out individually are very different.
Luckily enough I have a very good team that helps to make life a lot easier.
What would you say are the biggest day-to-day highlights in your job?
One of the biggest highlights would be whenever we get a good result for an aged-care client. Whether they buy a portfolio of facilities and all of a sudden they become a significant player, or they have a compliance issue in a facility and we get in there to help them out with their day job, making sure those issues are dealt with for them.
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