In terms of career development, working in the country can provide a great grounding. By necessity, junior lawyers in the country tend to be exposed to a greater range and quality of matters sooner than their metropolitan counterparts. The requirement to tackle complex matters at the very beginning of one’s career, rather than easing into practice with menial tasks, has obvious benefits for career advancement.
Country lawyers often speak of the autonomy they have to manage their own files and perform their own court work.
The lifestyle of the country has been the major drawcard for a number of practitioners who decide to make the move. Generally speaking, regional areas tend to have a greater sense of community, a more laid-back lifestyle, and a greater balance between work and recreational time. Also, the community benefit resulting from one’s work is more evident in country areas.
Traditionally, succession planning has been an issue in regional law firms as many practitioners regard country practice as a mere stepping stone to a career in the city. Partners of regional law firms are actively looking for practitioners to stay the course and take over. Working in regional areas provides enormous opportunities for practitioners to advance to partner level.
Enticing recent graduates to step out of their comfort zone and move to the country has been a challenge. However, the significant oversupply of law graduates in SA and across Australia is likely to change that. The Law Society estimates that in the current climate, SA firms can only absorb about one-third of the State’s law graduates. With such a glut, several students may face the options of practising law in the country or not practising at all.
Of course, working in regional areas does present particular challenges. But some of these challenges are the very things that lure people to the country. Access to justice issues are more pronounced in the country, due to the relative paucity of lawyers in country areas, long distances to legal services, and disadvantage among several remote communities. Lawyers with a strong sense of justice can feel a great sense of job satisfaction from making a difference in these communities.