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40 Under 40 winner of the day: Michael Pagsanjan


Michael Pagsanjan is combining his passion for social justice and skills as a lawyer to fight for the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

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Pagsanjan is the principal lawyer at MPS Law, a boutique legal and advisory practice specialising in native title, commercial law, dispute resolution and strategic partnering.

The South Australian graduated with a Bachelor of Laws and Legal Practise from Flinders University in 2009 before landing internships with Cape York Land Council and South Australian Native Title Services.

Pagsanjan went on to act for several native title claims and, in 2013, successfully negotiated Australia’s first native title compensation claim.

He has won a number of awards for his work in native title law, including being named the Law Society of South Australia’s 2018 Young Lawyer of the Year.

MPS Law’s vision is to continue assisting Indigenous clients across Australia to promote self-determination and recognise Indigenous rights.

In June, Pagsanjan was named in InDaily’s 40 Under 40, which recognises the best and brightest young business people in South Australia.

What is the single most important lesson you have learnt in your business career so far?

The catchphrase “work smarter, not harder” is misleading. While you can always find ways to be more efficient, the reality is that results require hard work and starting and running a boutique legal practice is no exception.

What do you believe are the strengths of doing business in South Australia?

South Australia is the quiet achiever at the forefront of innovation, including in the law. For example, it was in South Australia that the first native title compensation determination was achieved, several years before the High Court handed down its first native title compensation decision earlier this year.

South Australia also provides extremely competitive costs for running an office. This allows us to provide significant value for money and, often, pro bono solutions to for-purpose organisations who may receive little or no ongoing operational funding.

South Australia also offers a lifestyle that supports raising a family, a much-needed balance with the demands of doing business.

What do you believe are the weak points of conducting business in South Australia?

Our practice has projects nation-wide and there is often an initial apprehension about the ability to provide quality national services while based in Adelaide. This, it would seem, is based on an incorrect perception about the quality of legal services that aren’t based in a major city like Perth, Brisbane, Sydney or Melbourne. In other words, South Australia still has an image problem.

Do you see your future in South Australia? 

Our business continues to flourish in South Australia. We have just acquired an additional South Australian-based practice that will continue to require us to have a large presence in South Australia for the foreseeable future. Indeed, it is unlikely we would be able to provide bespoke legal advise nationally to for-purpose organisations, particularly Indigenous organisations, if we were operating in another capital city.

How can the state encourage more of its young leaders to stay?

South Australia must continue to invest heavily in innovation and be willing to take risks, even if they may be politically unsavoury. This will help to foster and create industries and opportunities in South Australia that are attractive to young leaders. We want to excite young leaders and show that the state, as a whole, is willing to have a crack, even if it doesn’t always result in immediate political success.

To see the full list of 40 winners go here.

InDaily is profiling each of the winners – go here to read more.

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