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How working in a regional area makes you a better lawyer

Whilst working in regional areas and small towns can occasionally be more challenging than working in a city, it provides lawyers with a wide range of skills, according to this criminal lawyer.

Hassan Ameen is a solicitor at Boyd Criminal Lawyers and spent two months doing advocacy work in Goulburn. Speaking recently on The Lawyers Weekly Show, he revealed some of the issues that clients in such rural towns and regional areas face and how working in more remote areas compares to working in the city.

Mr Ameen ran the duty list for a legal aid in Goulburn earlier this year, which he said was an experience he would highly recommend, particularly for lawyers new to the profession.

“It was a wonderful experience, and I would recommend a lot of junior solicitors to take on that opportunity to go to a small region in town and run a legal aid list up there because the scarcity of the resources, the time pressures, the requirement of the clients, the number of clients that you have to represent every day for the duty week are enormous,” he said.

“And you get to learn a lot because of those time pressures and restraints in a local court.”

However, the issues in regional areas are amplified compared to bigger cities, Mr Ameen added.

“A lot of issues in the small country towns are issues that are linked with alcohol violence. There are a lot of domestic issues up there. So, of course, you can feel them more as compared to Sydney, if that was your question, because the case load in a country town like Goulburn is far more than what it is in Sydney,” he said.

“You feel the case load a little more up there, and yes, the issues that are up there are far more than what you see in a city like Sydney.”

When working in a small town or regional community, Mr Ameen said it was of the utmost importance to get to know the legal community whilst there.

“The role is quite different when you are working in a small country town because there’s a way that everyone wants to run their case list, and the magistrate would want their case list or any matters on their list to be run in a particular way.

“For example, you would go to the police station and do your bail apps first thing in the morning. Your matters would be dealt with on a very short notice. You won’t get a lot of time to prepare as you would in Sydney to get references,” he said.

“The magistrate would want matters to be finalised on the same day that you are mentioning them and doing short sentences that should be very succinct and crisp for the matter to get finalised in five minutes.”

Mr Ameen learnt to introduce himself first thing in the morning and write down all his cases as well as which judge pertains to which matter. These interpersonal skills can be extremely useful outside of a regional environment, too.

“I think lawyers need to have interpersonal skills in any domain of the law. You need to meet new people and establish that rapport with them straight away,” he said.

“So, you have to have those interpersonal skills to succeed at this level, be that be a small country town or a place like Sydney.”

Mr Ameen was also able to observe and explore the wide range of issues facing Indigenous communities in remote areas – and added that Aboriginal incarceration, in particular, needs to improve.

“One of the things that we need to observe and work on is that we need to work on the rehabilitation of Aboriginal offenders or Aboriginal clients in the community, as compared to the time that they are spending inside prison or being incarcerated,” he said.

“And that is something that needs to be worked on as a community so that we can improve their time in the community, because I believe that there is no point spending once they’ve offended and they’ve spent too much time inside jails and inside correction facilities. It does not lead to the overarching principles of our justice system, and that is to make them spend and help them rehabilitate back in the community.”

Overall, Mr Ameen said his time spent in Goulburn has helped him communicate better with court staff and the court registry – something which has been increasingly useful over the course of the pandemic.

“It is a tough time period for every solicitor, every criminal solicitor, the legal industry in particular, for every industry. But I think we need to be patient and use our skills as best as we can to get past this time frame and this tough time period for everyone.

“One of the lessons that I’ve learned is to understand issues of different people from where they’re coming from to understand their perspective about life. We, as solicitors, are very lucky to have had good legal education and to have gone to law school. A lot of people in the small country towns or the regional areas, unfortunately, have not had that privilege of having good schooling or good universities,” he concluded.

“We can help everyone, and we can understand the issues that they are having and advocate for them as best as we possibly can.”

The transcript of this podcast episode was slightly edited for publishing purposes. To listen to the full conversation with Hassan Ameen, click below:

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