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Regional lawyers feel like 'failed lawyers'

Regional lawyers feel like 'failed lawyers'

Following the release of the Law Council of Australia's rural, regional and remote areas lawyers survey, The New Lawyer speaks to lawyers about their experiences working in regional Australia

Following the release of the Law Council of Australia and Law Institute of Victoria's rural, regional and remote areas lawyers survey, The New Lawyer speaks to lawyers about their experiences working in regional Australia. In the first of a two part series, reporter Olivia Collings speaks to veteran lawyer Paul Boylan.

City lawyers have no idea about country lawyers' work, according to regional lawyer Paul Boylan. 

“Contemporaries (city lawyers) just have no idea.” 

Boylan, who is principal of South Australian firm Boylan and Co (soon to be Boylan Lawyers), in Port Pirie, said a lot of city lawyers look down at country lawyers, which ultimately results in lawyers leaving for the city lights. 

“Contemporaries look down their nose at them. One bloke said to me ‘people look at me as if I’m a failed lawyer’, but most of them don’t have any understanding of what we do.” 

Working in a regional area, lawyers work across a breadth of practice areas and because of shortages, often get to do more interesting work earlier in their career said Boylan. “I had a second year bloke working on a murder trial.” 

During his 25 years as principal of the firm, Boylan said staff leave for a variety of reason, often lasting between two and three years.

Like others he has tried a number of policies to attract and maintain staff, such as extra holidays, higher rates of pay, but with some staff, their reasons for leaving are beyond his control. 

“I think the last guy left to look for a lady.” 

He said the key to attracting the lawyers, serious about working in the country, was to entice them with something tangible.

“There is a bit of a move, by the Law Council Regional, Rural and Remote Working Group, to see if we can get a rebait on the HECS fees, that young lawyers have when they first come out to work, you need something that will stimulate interest, you can’t just tell them it will be great.” 

In the next few months Boylan will be adding two new staff to his team, a young graduate who grew up in the town and a lawyer who has previously worked in remote areas before returning to the city, and has decided its time to go rural again. 

“There are three types of lawyers that get targeted for regional areas. Born and bred – people who come from there and want to return. Second career lawyers, people who have done time in regional areas previously in another capacity- don’t have the fear of coming out of a metro area, lady that is joining us in October is like that- and adventure lawyers, those looking to drop the suit and tie.” 

Boylan said if city lawyers really knew what it was like in a regional practice they might be more willing to consider it. 

“We try to make sure our offices are really comfortable and make sure that our equipment is up to date. We have laptops so that people can access remotely- all connected to the server. We pay extra and hope the lifestyle is attractive to them.” 

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