WHILE IT MAY seem like a significant achievement to today’s young lawyers to spend five years in the one firm, regional Victoria claims this is not enough, and is calling for younger practitioners who are willing to put in the years as well as the hard yards.
The problems associated with recruiting and retaining young lawyers in regional Victoria is highlighted in a newly released survey by the Law Institute of Victoria (LIV). The Regional and Country Recruitment and Retention Survey, reveals that there is a lack of support available both to employers and prospective employees who are considering making the move from Melbourne to regional areas.
In an interview with Lawyers Weekly, LIV CEO, John Cain, said there is a friction between the expectations of both employers and employees in regional Victoria. “You’ve got a group of regional practitioners that are looking to recruit lawyers into the place and into their offices, and you’ve got a group of graduates who are tending to seek out opportunities. But it’s a matter of meeting [each of] their expectations,” he said.
“In the [LIV’s] survey, a number of graduates say ‘we’ve spent five years in the country area, that was a reasonable time to spend there’, and you’ve got the employers saying ‘it’s disappointing they only stayed five years’. For most younger lawyers, if they spend five years in one place they think it’s a significant achievement. So, it’s about matching expectations,” he said.
The survey shows that while there are a number of people who are willing to go to regional areas and get initial experience in those law firms, country practitioners are looking for people who are prepared to make a commitment to the areas for a long period of time. These firms want recruits to eventually “become the owners of those law practices. And that is where the challenge is”.
Cain argued that law firms need to ensure it is an attractive proposition for young lawyers to stay on. “It’s a challenge for both employers and employees. It’s a challenge for employers in that they really need to make it attractive and worthwhile for a young practitioner to decide to make their career in that area,” said Cain.
And, if practitioners in the country will only stay in one firm for five years, said Cain, “then we should ensure that any move is made to another country area, rather than come back to Melbourne.”
Law firms in these areas are looking for a long-term commitment from their lawyers, according to Cain. “If they are going to take someone on and train them up, they see them as the future partners of the firm,” he said.
The LIV will now look at promoting these firms as viable career opportunities for young lawyers. “If we could just promote more the benefits of making a long term commitment to the country, then you would encourage a lot more to stay,” he said.
“You can demonstrate they get a good variety of work, they get exposure to different sorts of work earlier in their careers, their prospects of becoming partners earlier are much better. As well, country areas have good lifestyle advantages.
“I think there is an opportunity to provide good quality information to young lawyers seeking jobs, to make country practices look attractive to them. This should be combined with an attitude from law firms to encourage them to stay in the area. Then, I think, we will see some changes in this area,” he said.
The LIV is developing an online resource that will be a one-stop shop for lawyers interested in working in regional Victoria. As well, it is a resource for employers looking to “attract and retain high quality, experienced practitioners”, said Cain.