Encouraging Lawyers to Go Bush
9 August 2005 at 1:08 pm
Victoria Law Foundation has awarded its inaugural Community Legal Centre Fellowship to Helen McGowan of the Albury Wodonga Community Legal Service to undertake an innovative project to assist law students to gain work experience in summer holiday clerkships in regional Victoria.
She will also provide support to law firms during the placements.
Launching the project recently Supreme Court Justice Kevin Bell said that finding work with meaning is a major issue for the whole profession, not just those from the country.
Justice bell says 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.
He says these 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.
Justice Bell lives on a vineyard with his family in Balnarring on the Mornington Peninsula. His wife, Tricia Byrnes, is a solicitor in Frankston.
Fellowship holder Helen McGowan says that a common complaint of country lawyers is that they have great difficulty in finding young lawyers to help service and grow their practice.
She says 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.
By providing pathways for summer work experience in regional Victoria, the project aims to 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.
The project is also supported by Victoria’s peak body for solicitors, the Law Institute of Victoria, in particular the Young Lawyers Section. Young Lawyers’ Representative for the North East Region Helen Collins says attracting high quality lawyers to work in regional areas is a key priority for the Law Institute of Victoria.