The advantages of working in a regional firm


The best way to highlight the benefits of working in the country is to hear from country practitioners themselves.

Many will tell you that the lifestyle, quality of work, affordable cost of living, and sense of community make regional areas a great place to work.

Joseph Anderson, a Partner at Mellor Olsson, when working in Port Lincoln, wrote an article extolling the advantages of a country practice. Joseph said: “I love going to the beautiful beaches on Eyre Peninsula with not a person or footprint in sight, diving for abalone and crayfish or taking my children whiting fishing with some prospect of actually getting some fish is great!”

Joseph also busted the myth that regional work is somehow inferior or less complex.  “I have found the opposite to be true,” he said.

Further Testimonials

In 2011 I was given the opportunity to work with Hume Taylor & Co in their Millicent Office. I had not previously considered a position in a country office, but I was aware that I wanted to gain experience in a broad range of areas and did not want to be "pigeon holed" at such an early stage in my career. The decision also suited my partner, who had recently finished a Bachelor of Oenology (winemaking) .

I was firstly trained in the Adelaide Office of Hume Taylor & Co, which gave me a very good grounding. I was lucky enough to have access to and work with all three Partners and also senior solicitors within the firm. When I moved to the Millicent Office I was supervised by Mr Robin Watts, a consultant. I was very fortunate to work with Mr Watts, and to learn from such a senior practitioner who was able to given me guidance with not only the day to day work, but the quirks of country practice.  I also received regular support from the Adelaide Office of Hume Taylor & Co which made my job less daunting. This support was vital.

It was immediately apparent that I would not be settling in for a quiet country life. I joined a local netball team and was also invited to social and professional gatherings of other local practitioners who were keen to involve me in the local community.
Sporting teams are a very important part of country communities and offered an approachable method of integrating into the community.

I have also attended Young Professional events, allowing me to network with other young professionals in the area. There are quite a few young professionals in the area and I have found them to be very friendly and welcoming to newcomers. The Coonawarra and Penola community have been particularly welcoming and I have developed a number of life long friendships.

The South East also offers an abundance of activities around Mount Gambier, Beachport, Robe and Coonawarra.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time working as a country practitioner. I believe that it has given me opportunities that would not ordinarily be available to a junior practitioner in the city and has given a great exposure to diverse range of work and people.

When I was at uni, I never considered the possibility of practising law in the country. It was not that I disliked the idea; it was more that it had never occurred to me. I didn’t even consider it an option. My memory of career options promoted to me at uni were simply being a judges’ associate (at either District Court, Supreme Court, or Federal Court level) or working in the city at a corporate law firm. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with either of those options, however I know now I would have liked to know more about what my options were when I was going through that difficult time. 

I have been working in Port Pirie for two and a half years now, and it has been an incredible experience. I always knew I wanted to be a lawyer when I was at uni – for me, the biggest question was what type (or types) of law I wanted to practise. My initial job was working at a Community Legal Centre in Port Pirie. We offered free first interviews to any member of the public (regardless of income) on any area of law (with some small exceptions, such as migration law). Ongoing assistance was means tested, and subject to a merit test, as well as an assessment as to whether the person can get legal assistance elsewhere. We worked closely with private lawyers in the area – referring them clients if we considered they could afford private representation, or if they were eligible for Legal Aid. 

That exposed me to a huge variety of matters, under the broader headings of criminal, family and civil areas of law. I also performed the role of Duty Solicitor at  the local Magistrates Court as there is no funded Duty Solicitor for the Court in Port Pirie. I appeared in a number of bail applications for summary and indictable matters, and gained an extensive understanding of Bail which is an essential element of the criminal justice system. I only received that experience because of the rural location of my job.

In my current role I work at a well-known private law firm in the region. I am exposed to a broad range of matters including criminal law, personal injury, victims of crime claims, WorkCover, family law, wills and estates, and a broad range of civil disputes. I enjoy the variety and gaining experience in varied areas is an opportunity that comes with country practice. Country law firms are more likely to be generalist practices and lawyers are less likely to specialize in one area. This provides graduates with exposure to a broad range of matters which is excellent experience and enables them to narrow down their preferred areas of practice in future.

One thing I love about my job is the opportunity to do my own Court work, and the autonomy to manage my own files. For criminal matters I attend Court for guilty pleas, and I run my own trials. I am also responsible for and manage my own files, do the research, and make my own recommendation as to what is in the best interests of the client. I conduct interviews with clients and I am their point of contact at the firm. Senior practitioners are always there to help if needed. The amount of responsibility I am entrusted with is in part because of my country location. 

The huge exposure to different areas of law, the responsibility and independence of my own files, and large amount of Court work is something that is not necessarily unique to country practice. However it is certainly far more likely to occur in a country setting for a number of reasons. Firstly, unlike in city firms, country firms rarely specialise in one or a couple of areas of law. Secondly, most country firms are smaller operations than their city counterparts. This means the level of responsibility for a new practitioner is greater as there are less staff members to divide the work between. 

I never thought I would practise in the country, yet here I am. As a result of my job I now have a better idea as to the areas of law I would like to work in, and a great level of experience when compared to other graduates at my level. The lifestyle is easy with no peak hour (or traffic lights) the people are friendly, and cost of living is lower. Country practice may not be the right fit for everyone, yet it has certainly been a fantastic experience for me. Keep an open mind and if the opportunity presents itself consider it, and give it a shot. I guarantee it won’t be how you imagine it, and ultimately you and your career will benefit.

Notable country lawyers who worked in the SE

His father was Manager of the ES&A Bank, Millicent. He attended Millicent High School.  Was a staker in the Australian Navy World War II.  Appointed as a Judge of the District Court, and then of the Supreme Court.   
Came from a farming family at Millicent. Attended the Millicent Convent School. Member of the RAAF during the War. Employed by the Union Bank. Appointed as a Judge of the District Court, and then to  the Supreme Court.
A Mount Gambier Solicitor who was appointed as a Judge of the Family Court.
Practised as a Solicitor in Mount Gambier, commencing in 1928 as a Partner in Spehr & Roberts, then Roberts & Brown. In a reverse twist, he was the Judge of the N.T. Supreme Court from 1921 to 1928 - he resigned, and moved to Mount Gambier .
A Mount Gambier Solicitor (initially from Lameroo or Pinnaroo},  who served a term as an Auxiliary Magistrate.
Practised as a Solicitor in Mount Gambier for a few years.  Now a Judge of the District Court.
Practised as a Solicitor in Mount Gambier on his own account, and then in Partnership with  Brown, Aston, and Hamilton. Now President of the Guardianship Board.
A Partner in the Mount Gambier firm of Hunt, Laught & Barnfield. Elected as Senator.
Practised as a Solicitor in Mount Gambier for a number of years, and then elected to the House of Representatives .
Practised in Naracoorte for many decades. Appeared in a number of cases in the High Court, particularly Section 92 of the Constitution. Unfortunately ended his career by surrendering his Practising Certificate.
Served a term as a Sessional Member of the Residential Tenancy Tribunal.
Sessional Member of the Residential Tenancy Tribunal, and also of the Guardianship Board.


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.