Queensland Law Society

Rural, regional & remote area lawyers

A significant proportion of Queensland’s population lives in regional, rural and remote areas. Information from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that about 30% live in regional areas, and a further 3% live in remote or very remote areas. Encouraging and supporting lawyers to work in these areas, and to improve access to justice, has been identified as an ongoing and urgent challenge.

Research indicates that there is a significant shortage of lawyers working in regional, rural and remote areas across Australia and, in particular, of young lawyers. According to a 2006 report on the participation of private legal practitioners in the provision of legal aid services in Australia, there are only 3 lawyers for every 10 000 adults living in remote areas, compared with more than 10 lawyers for every 10 000 adults living in a capital city. In a national survey of rural, regional and remote areas lawyers in 2009, more than 40% of principals surveyed reported that their practice did not presently have sufficient lawyers to service their client base. The shortage is expected to worsen as older practitioners retire, and legal practices struggle to attract and retain new lawyers.

Lawyers working in regional, rural and remote areas face many unique challenges and opportunities. One reason identified in the 2009 national survey for leaving practice in a country area was lower remuneration. On the other hand, lawyers in country areas gain the experience of diverse case loads, and the capacity for greater work-life balance. Lawyers in regional, rural and remote areas also undertake significant legal aid and pro bono work.

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