Opinion

Life as a regional plaintiff lawyer

21st Sep 2017

Housing prices are lower, the commute to work is quicker and the air is cleaner. Life as a regional plaintiff lawyer has many benefits, but also some challenges. 

1. Community involvement

The local community is the heart and soul of a regional area. These areas thrive when people contribute to the community and they welcome new people with open arms. I found it really easy to get involved within my local community when I moved from Melbourne. Joining a sporting club, supporting local events or contributing to the local newspaper are really simple and effective ways to meet new friends and network with colleagues. 

2. Living close to the office

When I lived in Melbourne, it used to take me about half an hour to get to work by tram and then a short walk. That’s actually not too bad for Melbourne, and while I didn’t really complain about it at the time, now I couldn’t go back. I currently live a five-minute drive from my office. I can easily duck home for lunch and to make sure that the puppy hasn’t destroyed the backyard. At the end of the day, I can leave work and get home at a reasonable hour. The work-life balance is brilliant. A downside, though, is that it’s pretty likely when you’re living in the same town that you work, you’re going to see your clients in the local supermarket on the weekend when you’re in your active wear. 

3. Access to justice 

As a regional plaintiff law firm, we have a main office and several visiting offices around the area where clients are seen. Sometimes, due to illness of injury, our clients are unable to travel to one of our offices, which means that we will visit them. This might mean visiting remote areas of the country and having to travel two to three hours one way. It is really important though that every person has access to justice and quality legal representation, irrespective of their geographical location. 

Further, in the country, we don’t have a County and Supreme Court judge sitting full-time, so we rely on the circuit system where judges will visit for two to three weeks every few months to hear numerous cases. Although a crazy few weeks for the lawyers, the circuit system allows our clients to have their matters heard without the need to travel to the city. 

In saying that, there are definitely still problems with access to justice for regional clients. Unfortunately, the large majority of independent medical examiners are based in capital cities, as are settlement conferences. These long trips up and down the highway do take a toll on the ill and injured. 

4. Local people with local knowledge

My experience has been that people in the country will go to the same lawyer that they have seen for a number of years who has done their parents’ wills, their grandparents’ conveyancing and various general family or criminal matters. In that sense, being involved in a specialist personal injury firm is difficult in that sense because you sometimes have to  explain to locals that they don’t need to go to the city to receive quality legal advice; that there are specialised local plaintiff law firms that exist to assist clients with their needs. 

5. Property 

I’m quite partial to smashed avocado so it was going to take me a very long time to get into the property market in Melbourne and when I did, it would’ve been in the outer suburbs which would have meant  a longer commute to my old CBD office. However,  in a regional area where house prices are much more reasonable, I am able to own a home and afford delicious smashed avocado brunches. 

Claire Barrance grew up in Gippsland and moved to Melbourne for university. She worked at a defendant insurance litigation firm for a number of years before moving to Maurice Blackburn Lawyers in Traralgon where she is an Associate in the road injuries department. In 2017, she was awarded and was awarded Regional Lawyer of the Year by the Law Institute of Victoria. The views and opinions expressed in these articles are the authors' and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA).

 

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Tags: Victoria Access to justice General legal practice Regional areas