RURAL and regional areas of Victoria faces a severe shortage of legal practitioners, according to a new study of the profession.
A wave of retiring lawyers in country Victoria are about to leave the state with a severe shortfall, according to a report released today by the Law Council of Australia.
More than one third of surveyed legal practitioners in Victoria planned to leave the area within five years, most commonly to retire.
And one third of principal lawyers surveyed in Victoria already felt that their practice did not have enough lawyers to serve their client base, the survey reveals.
The survey attracted 1,185 responses nation wide and Victoria had the highest response rate of 48 per cent of all those surveyed.
Law Institute of Victoria president Danny Barlow has called for urgent steps to be taken to attract and retain legal practitioners in country areas.
“Lawyers provide a range of services to the local community and their loss will be keenly felt in the regions, more so than in the city,” Barlow said.
“The rural and regional practitioners provide essential services to their communities including wills and probate, conveyancing, commercial business and law,” he said.
Nearly 60 per cent of the Victorian respondents also undertake legal aid work.
“It will be impossible to replace those who leave with experienced criminal and family law practitioners available to do legal aid,” Barlow said.
Lawyers also provide substantial pro bono and volunteer services to their communities.
In Victoria, 77 per cent undertook pro bono work (compared to 74 per cent nationally) and 77 per cent provided volunteer work within their communities (71 per cent nationally).
“Lawyers are a life blood of a local community,” Barlow said. “These survey results are very worrying for the profession and they should concern all local communities,” he said.
He said the LCA was analysing the findings and would consider recommendations to address the shortfalls.