The Australian legal sector’s skills shortage is wreaking havoc on businesses and families, leaving many without the support they need to navigate complex legal issues, particularly in regional areas.
Despite many companies offering large salary increases of up to 20% for junior lawyers, it’s not enough – particularly compared to the salaries in countries like the United States and the United Kingdom. As such, many skilled professionals are heading overseas, which leaves Australia lacking. It’s not just Australians leaving, either. Strict regulations governing the Australian legal industry also make it difficult for foreign lawyers to work here.
As a result, regional businesses are struggling to find the legal expertise they need to protect and grow their operations. From negotiating contracts and ensuring regulatory compliance to managing disputes, legal professionals are crucial for safeguarding business interests. Without their expertise, companies are exposed to significant risk.
Families are also hard-hit by this shortage, especially those going through divorce. The lack of available family lawyers in regional areas makes it difficult for people to access the legal counsel they need. This amplifies the emotional and financial toll on the separating parties and their children.
In response, tele-consulting has emerged as a viable solution to address the shortage. Technology allows lawyers to provide their expertise remotely, ensuring that families can access the legal support they need, regardless of location.
"The legal skills shortage in regions is hard on business, but it's harder on families who need a family lawyer to navigate a custody or property settlement matter,” says Jennifer Hetherington, a tele-consulting Divorce Lawyer Brisbane. “The shortage of qualified, specialist lawyers in the regions can cause real trauma to divorcees and their children."
While tele-consulting offers a temporary fix, more sustainable solutions are needed to address the root of the problem. Larger corporations might find it easier to compete with international salaries, but smaller firms will struggle to do this.
As such, many companies are turning to alternative strategies to attract and retain talent, such as offering more advanced career development opportunities within the firm and enhancing workplace benefits like working from home or extra annual leave.
The shortage of legal skills isn't just a problem for professionals; it affects everyone in Australia. It hinders business growth, disrupts family life, and puts the credibility of the legal profession at risk.
As law experts and policymakers work on finding a solution, innovative solutions like tele-consulting ensure that everyone can access legal assistance no matter where they live.