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Good luck getting a lawyer

Saturday, 24th February, 2018

By Craig Brealey

Craig Brealey

The recent loss of a lawyer specialising in criminal cases and the imminent departure of another has left the city with two private practitioners of criminal law. 

It has also left the remaining lawyers in a sometimes impossible position, said Eric Craney, the principal of local firm Doyle, Kingston & Swift.

“With less in the pool, if you work with the victim it is impossible to work with the accused,” Mr Craney said.

“It’s difficult now taking a client because you’ve dealt with the other side.

“You’ve got the ethical problem of representing someone one year and challenging them the next.”

It also meant that people in this position might have to get a lawyer from out of town, Mr Craney said.

“It’s reached a very difficult stage because of the real potential for people to be forced to go away because of a conflict,” he said.

In two weeks Mr Craney’s practice will lose a criminal lawyer, leaving only himself and Rachel Storey, of the firm Rachel Storey & Associates, to represent people in criminal cases.

“It’s becoming increasingly difficult to separate requests and provide proper representation,” Mr Craney said.

Government-funded practices might be able to help some people and there is Legal Aid but their resources are often stretched.

“There’s a limit to how much the publicly-funded practices can do or are allowed to do, or are resourced to do,” said Mr Craney.

“The Community Legal Centre can do little bits and perhaps there is an opening for them to do more but it depends on their resources and having the personnel who can do it.”

He said there was also the problem of keeping lawyers in town.

“Economically lawyers can do better in Dubbo because of its larger population.

“Short of someone coming in and opening a private practice, putting the money in and battling away to break even, I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Ms Storey said government funding cuts to Legal Aid had also made it harder for local lawyers to earn a living, she said.

The fees were lower now than they were 20 years ago, she said.

“We really want people to get behind local law firms and support us because we have to make commercial decisions about whether we can stay around.”

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