Terry Newman OAM
What support is there for lawyers relocating to RRR areas?
The support for lawyers relocating to RRR areas is limited. The majority of the support in Queensland is located in the Brisbane area. The support for lawyers relocating to RRR areas is usually provided by other lawyers already residing in those areas.
What experiences will I gain from working in RRR areas?
Working in RRR areas generally exposes a solicitor to a far more hands-on experience, as in dealing directly face-to-face with clients in hugely diverse areas. Even if a lawyer elects to specialise, the extent of that specialisation generally means that lawyer is exposed to wider and more diverse areas of practice, due to the limitation of referrals to specialists, as are available in the cities.
An example is my chosen area of speciality, being family law. I, however, have had exposure to criminal matters, domestic violence matters, workers compensation matters, personal injury matters, corporate and commercial structures, taxation issues, as well as the full arena of family law matters.
These include international relocations, Hague Convention Applications, traditional adoption cases, sittings in remote areas, such as Thursday Island, direct involvement with Elders and experts in Indigenous Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander matters.
In which RRR area do you currently work, and how long have you been there?
I currently work in the family law area. I was admitted on 1 March 1982. I conducted my first family law case in 1980 as an Article Clerk. I commenced specialising in approximately 1985, having gained Accreditation, at one time being a qualified mediator, and am also an Independent Children's Lawyer. I am therefore approaching my fortieth year of admission on 1 March 2022.
What is the most challenging thing about working in a RRR area?
The most challenging thing about working in an RRR area is obviously the lack of resources. This goes from being able to attend lectures on a Thursday afternoon at the Queensland Law Society to even being able to buy items of furniture or technology for a practice.
It can be isolating, you can from time to time feel extremely confronted with the decisions that you have to make, because there is no other person who can determine or make the decision except yourself. There will be times when you do feel as though you have not adequately been guided, but a decision needs to be made and it falls on your shoulders.
That burden of responsibility can take a toll on people. If, however, you do develop good relationships with mentors and you calmly and rationally listen to comments of Judicial Officers and other senior practitioners, you can gradually gain greater confidence in your own ability, but realistically being aware of your own limitations.
What three pieces of advice would you give to someone considering working in a RRR area?
The three pieces of advice I would give to someone considering working in a remote area are:
- Immerse yourself in the community. You have unique skills as a lawyer, share those skills throughout the community, be involved in charities, schools, sporting organisations and become part of the community.
- Establish a very close working and personal relationship with mentors. You will need, not only, mentoring in legal matters, but also mentoring in how to deal with regional parties and their problems.
- Attend every available conference. As nice as it has been attending conferences by Zoom or Teams during 2021, ensure that you get out of town and go to conferences attending personally a number of times a year. It is important for your own wellbeing to satisfy yourself that you are keeping up to speed with the latest developments, ideas and areas of practice.