A HECS Rebate? Ways to attract and retain graduate lawyers in rural, regional and remote communities
Over the past couple of decades there has been a steady decline in the proportion of solicitors practicing in rural, regional and remote ('RRR') communities, leading to a critical shortage of legal services in many non-metropolitan areas. The Law Council of Australia has proposed a range of strategies to address the problem including consideration of a HECS Rebate Scheme (HRS) targeting law graduates who agree to undertake work in a RRR area. This article documents the findings of an empirical study which surveyed three cohorts of Practical Legal Training (PLT) students across two Queensland universities. The study surveyed the levels and effects of HECS debt on graduate employment choices as well as canvassing potential uptake of a HRS. There were three major findings of the research: first, that a HRS is unlikely to be an effective longer-term strategy to address the recruitment and retention of lawyers in RRR areas; second, that 'family considerations' were the most important factors in determining the geographical location of a graduate position; and third, that recruitment and retention strategies which harness and support existing ties to RRR communities are likely to be highly effective, particularly for geographical areas of greatest need, that is, rural and remote areas.
Alternative Law Journal
Legal Practice, Lawyering and the Legal Profession