Although the current state of the jobs market means that most law graduates have to cast a wide net when making graduate applications, working in rural Australia shouldn’t be considered a “last resort”. Here’s why…
Firstly, you’ll often be given more responsibility for matters and have more client interaction at an early stage in your career, and also enjoy a close working relationship with your supervisors. As the majority of rural law firms are very small, you’ll be looked after well, and the work-life balance you’ll enjoy will make your city friends envious. Most rural lawyers only work from 9-5 so you can wake up at 8am and be home by 5.30pm everyday! You’ll also quickly develop great life skills. You’ll become more resourceful and skilled at responding to the wide range of situations you’ll encounter, and this flexibility will be looked upon well if you ever decide to return to the city.
If you’re concerned about how you’d adapt to rural life, don’t be! It’s honestly not that different from city life. Yes, your choices will be more limited, but you won’t miss out on much and everyone’s really friendly. Plus, depending on what town you’re in, you may only be a few hours’ drive or a short flight from a capital city and you can spend your holidays and (probably quite good) salary there.
If you’re interested in beginning your legal career in rural Australia, there are many agencies with different specialties and there are frequently vacancies. Experience can be negotiable as being enthusiastic about the role and aware of the challenges of the role can be more important than how many years of legal experience you’ve had. Most firms take on PLT students if you want a taste of rural law. Try contacting the relevant state or territory law society, the RRR Law project, and the RRR PLT program for suggestions.
To increase your chances, get experience in as many areas of law as you can while you’re still at uni: pick up some diverse electives and do some volunteer work to build up your experience with clients. If you end up in the only law firm in town doing general practice, it’s good to have a basic knowledge of a few areas. I also recommend learning how to drive a manual vehicle or refreshing your skills if it’s been a while. You might be required to drive long distances in your organisation’s vehicle on the Court circuit and trust me, you don’t want to be known as the junior who stalled the Land Cruiser in front of opposing counsel! Also consider taking a first aid course and some advanced driver training.
If you decide to go bush, I wish you luck. It’s not easy, but it’s definitely worth it!
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