Recruitment and retention of lawyers in regional, rural, and remote New South Wales

30 Sep 2010

Executive summary

Public legal services for disadvantaged people in NSW have reported difficulties in recruiting and retaining solicitors in regional, rural and remote (RRR) areas. Difficulties are also reported in attracting sufficient private solicitors to undertake legal aid work.

Within a broader context of the social and economic decline experienced by rural Australia, the populations of many RRR areas have been decreasing for decades. Mirroring this general decline, many country areas have lost doctors, dentists, teachers, lawyers and other professionals.

A limitation of much of the previous research into the availability of lawyers in RRR areas is a tendency to focus on the contrast between ‘the city’ and ‘the country’. There has been, however, at least some evidence to suggest that recruitment and retention problems are more nuanced and vary from region to region. The present research was undertaken to obtain more comprehensive location-specific information on the recruitment and retention of lawyers in RRR NSW.

This study was undertaken by the Foundation on behalf of the NSW Legal Assistance Forum RRR Working Group and was funded in large part by the Australian Government Attorney-General’s Department Social Inclusion Division.


The aim of this study was to better inform strategies to improve access to lawyers for disadvantaged people in rural and regional areas by:

  1. identifying which areas of NSW are most affected by difficulties in recruiting and retaining lawyers practising in the public sector
  2. exploring differences between areas of high and low lawyer retention in terms of potentially relevant characteristics of these areas
  3. identifying likely reasons for success or otherwise in the recruitment and retention of lawyers in those areas
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