Call for legal advice hotline in lawyer-poor regions

A LACK of lawyers in regional and rural Australia has sparked a call for a hotline for people from regional areas to get specialist legal advice.

The National Rural Law and Justice Alliance made the suggestion in a submission to a Productivity Commission inquiry into access to justice.

A 2009 survey found about 40% of rural and regional lawyers did not have enough staff to service needs.

That Law Council of Australia survey also revealed "worrying succession issues" with 38% of lawyers saying they would "no longer be practising in the next five years".

The problem of attracting and retaining graduates in regional areas continues, the alliance wrote.

There is also a lack of specialist counsel available to these communities, the submission says.

It said the lack of lawyers and other dispute resolution services was prolonging and exacerbating legal disputes and impacting on family and community tensions in regional areas.

To that end, the alliance and the Centre for Rural Regional Law and Justice proposed a high quality hotline be created to provide advice for regional Australians.

The Productivity Commission is expected to report its findings to government in September.