YOUNG LAWYERS will now help service country law firms that have found it difficult to find staff due to competition with more popular locations in the cities and outback Australia.
A community legal centre in Victoria will give young law graduates access to firms outside Melbourne as a result of winning a recent Victorian Law Foundation accolade.
The Victorian Law Foundation last week announced the winner of its Community Legal Centre Fellowship, which went to the Albury Wodonga Community Legal Service. The fellowship will enable the Legal Service’s Helen McGowan to undertake a project to assist law students gain summer clerkships in regional Victoria.
Launching the project, Supreme Court Justice Kevin Bell said: “Finding work with meaning is a major issue for the whole profession, not just those in the country. Increasingly, lawyers seek a balance to their work and family lives. Sometimes the demands of city practice make this difficult … Country legal practice offers significant opportunities to young lawyers to assist people from a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds and plays an invaluable role in rural communities.”
“Idealistic young lawyers from both the city and the country often go to community legal centres or other legal aid offices in the city or to outback Australia to work with aboriginal legal services. There are extremely important options for young lawyers in search of experience but the exciting possibility of working in sometimes equally needful rural communities in Victoria should not be ignored.”
Country lawyers often complain of the difficulty in accessing young lawyers to help service and grow their practices, said the Legal Service’s McGowan. “Many law students also experience problems in finding solicitors willing to offer the practical legal training that they need for admission to legal practice in Victoria,” she said.
“By providing pathways for summer work experience in regional Victoria, we believe this will give students an opportunity to broaden their employment options when job hunting at the end of their degrees. It also gives students a chance to sample the benefits of a rural lifestyle and to experience the diverse range of tasks a lawyer can manage in a country practice,” she said.
Law Institute of Victoria, and its Young Lawyers Section, which supports the projects, said attracting quality lawyers to work in regional areas was a key priority. “The legal profession is very diverse and it is important for students to experience the variety of career opportunities. Law firms in regional areas can provide students with a unique experience and with competition for seasonal clerkship continuing to increase it is vital that we have such projects to maximise the opportunities for both the students and the law firms,” said Young Lawyers representative Helen Collins.