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Profession under stress in regional areas

Profession under stress in regional areas

Principals of country firms are "extremely worried about the future of the profession in their regions"

The Law Council of Australia and Law Institute of Victoria's joint report into the rural, regional and remote areas lawyers survey, released this month, revealed the drastic state of the profession in Australia's regional areas.

"Lawyers in regional areas are experiencing increasing difficulties in attracting and retaining suitable staff," the report reads.

"The recruitment problems have a direct effect on the legal sector's ability to service the legal needs of regional communities."

This week, The New Lawyer has spoken to a string of regional-based lawyers about their experiences working in the outskirts of the country's major cities, and in rural areas.

Paul Boylan, a lawyer who has worked in regional South Australia for 30 years, says there is an inherent disregard for regional lawyers in the city.

Over the years he and other regional practitioners have been “banging their heads against a wall” trying to work out why people don’t come and stay at regional practices he said.

“Once they stay they can stay for a long time- It’s getting over that hump that has always been my problem, other practices find its attracting people that is difficult. Mainly because they are more remote than we are.”

Port Pirie is located a two and a half hour drive from Adelaide, and has a population of about 13,000. Contrary to the Law Council report, which claims many young lawyers leave regional areas to receive better pay at metropolitan firms, Boylan said his staff earn more than their city counterparts.

"I have had a lawyer leave – who was here for four years and then left to work in a city firm and took a pay cut. Pay is as good if not generally better- but lifestyle is so much better.”

He added: “One of my guys, who has been here for less than two years, is on $60,000 a year. That is more than the state award which would see him on almost $50,000. But we also work on a performance model where one third of what you bring in you get to take home."

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 report follows a nationwide survey of 1,185 legal practitioners in rural and regional areas. The principals who responded to the survey cited succession planning as their biggest concern, at 71 per cent, followed by concerns about attracting lawyers to the firm, at 58 per cent.

See The New Lawyer on Monday for more regional lawyers' experiences. If you are a regional lawyer and would like to share your experiences with us, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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