The innovative nature that characterises the Shepparton community is a fantastic reason to work within the region, says director of Riordan Legal Lawyers Danny Barlow.
"Shepparton is a region that has a lot of entrepreneurial-type citizens. We have people who like to have a go and get out there and get involved in developments and agriculture. So there is always a lot going on and that suits the business of our type ... and hopefully we are able to assist those people in what they're trying to do, so that's a really good part, from a professional point of view," he says.
"But it's also a good place from a social point - we have some good sporting clubs, we've got a fantastic arts festival that we have every year so I think Shepparton is a fantastic place to live."
The firm, which dates back 80 years, employs 30 staff, including 12 solicitors, and general support and administrative staff. Support staff are encouraged to work their way up to the role of paralegal, says Barlow.
As an incorporated practice, the firm has an executive which recently welcomed a new member to the team, taking the total to five. Barlow says the firm decided to incorporate for flexibility and succession-planning reasons.
"We wanted to have a structure that would enable us - as painlessly as possible - to have people moving in and out as time goes by and we thought that suited us best at the time. Because of the share structure it just made it easier to have unequal share holdings," he says.
As with any regional firm, Riordan Legal practises in most areas, including general commercial law and litigation, family and criminal law, property work, leasing, personal injury and wills and estate. However, "we're not a firm of generalists", says Barlow, adding that the firm's lawyers work within different specialist areas. The firm was one of the first in the region to "go down the path" of practitioners specialising, adds Barlow.
Meanwhile, the diversification in practice areas has been fortunate in terms of the global financial crisis, says Barlow.
"Whilst one department might slow down a little bit, other departments are unaffected or even might be having a better year than otherwise, so we have been in a reasonably strong position to ride through any economic slowdown," he says.
Riordan Legal Lawyers face the same challenge as other regional firms around Australia in trying to attract and retain young lawyers. Barlow says the firm is constantly working to address the problem and attempting to form relationships with people when they are at university, as well as offering summer clerkships.
"I think there are some myths out there amongst some of the younger people going through university that somehow they might be professionally disadvantaged in working in the regions or they might end up just doing wills or powers of attorney," he says.
"But the reality is quite different. You can be doing some very high-level work at a relatively junior stage if you work in the regions and so I say to young lawyers 'It may well be that you fastforward your career if you go and take an opportunity at the right regional firm'."
- Sarah Sharples
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