A Moving Story – Law And Legal Affairs
Article courtesy of Sydney Morning Herald – KEELI CAMBOURNE
Leaving big-city legal practice to spend time in a regional centre was a daunting prospect for lawyers Kym and Nathan Luke.
But in 2007, with three young children, the pair took the plunge, hopeful that life in the country would provide them with a better work-life balance.
“The plan had always been that I would return to full-time work [after starting a family] in the city but the whole idea of nannies and long hours did not appeal,” Kym says.
“We were a bit worried about the kind of support we would be able to get outside of a city. I was used to working in places where I had a partner that checked everything before it went out.
Extensive research led the Lukes to an opportunity to move to Ballina and take over an established law practice for Stacks/The Law Firm under a private-equity finance agreement. Three years on the business is thriving.
Technology, including the internet, video-conferencing and Skype allows them to work with clients from around the state and the Lukes have continued advancing their careers. They also have the lifestyle they wanted and can participate in everything from reading at school to afternoons on the beach.
“We are able to do a lot of things we had never done before, covering everything from wills to probates, to workers’ compensation, employment law and even criminal matters,” Kym says. “It is still a country firm but with my specialty in employment law I have been able to grow my practice beyond Ballina.”
Kym says more experienced practitioners in regional areas are often open to teaching others. With this support young lawyers can spread their wings and learn to operate independently.
In June 2008, the Law Council of Australia established the Recruitment and Retention of Lawyers Working Group, aimed at addressing difficulties in recruiting and retaining lawyers, particularly in regional and rural areas.
The council conducted a national survey of country lawyers about the current and future needs of their practices and found 40 per cent of principals indicated their practice did not have enough lawyers.
“Not only do the survey results suggest there is a shortage of lawyers, it is likely this situation will dramatically deteriorate,” says the president of the Law Council, John Corcoran.
“The survey results indicated a large number of legal practitioners, many of whom are sole practitioners, will retire in the next five to 10 years. Alarmingly, 42 per cent of the legal practitioners surveyed do not intend to practise law in five years’ time.”
The principal of Stacks Law Firm, Maurie Stack, says there is a real need in regional and rural areas for lawyers in a range of specialties.
“Being in a regional or rural area is no longer an impediment to a career and by using things like video-conferencing as a training tool, lawyers can maintain their skills in a practice group like they do in the city,” he says.
“With the rollout of broadband, the level of communication will only increase. People who go through law want professional development and it is as important as salary to most young lawyers, so to go to a rural or regional area can be unattractive. But that is not the case any more.”