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This report examines the legal needs of rural and regional small business in Victoria and identifies a number of areas in which law firms must change if they are to adapt to the changing needs of small business in regional Victoria.
The research, which was funded by the Legal Services Board and examined the experiences of 207 small businesses operating in rural/regional Victoria and 68 rural/regional lawyers, reveals a disconnect between law firms and small business which limits the opportunities for law firms to actively add value to those businesses.
The report also raises concerns around the availability of legal services in rural/regional areas with a third of lawyer participants indicating that the legal needs of local small businesses are not currently met. Small business using the services of a law firm indicated a high level of satisfaction. However when the skills, services and availability of local legal practitioners was analysed by remoteness, a consistent trend emerged, with a lower level of satisfaction in outer regional and remote areas compared to inner regional areas.
The report highlights the significant potential for rural/regional law firms to expand the scope of their services. While recent studies have raised concerns around the continuing viability of law firms in regional Australia, the report highlights unique opportunities for rural regional practitioners to firmly establish themselves as local specialists, particularly in relation to areas such as carbon trading, water trading, and succession planning. The report further suggests that the local expertise of regional law firms places them in a distinctive position to be able to assist rural regional small business to optimise the commercial opportunities arising as a result of these evolving areas.
For more information download the media release: New Report indicates regional law firms must adjust to meet the changing needs of small business [PDF 242KB]