02 August 2017

Diverse caseloads, collegiality and career progression: Why Townsville’s Diane Ruhl thinks lawyers should go regional

Published on 02 August 2017

Diane Ruhl, Principal of Ruhl Family Law Centre in Townsville, loves the tropical north. Having worked for a number of years as a lawyer in a relatively sizeable regional law firm in Townsville, Diane established Ruhl Family Law Centre, a boutique family law firm. Insights spoke to Diane about why she loves working in regional Australia and why she encourages lawyers to look beyond the big cities for a more collegial career experience. 

“In Townsville, there are approximately 170 – 200 lawyers. About 30-40 practise primarily in Family Law. Our local District Law Association holds a number of events throughout the year, giving us the opportunity to get to know our colleagues outside the work environment and build a rapport with them,” said Diane. “This assists us as Practitioners and can also have a flow-on effect for our clients as it usually means that we are able to resolve matters more quickly, and in a collaborative manner.”

As a regional lawyer, Diane thrives on the diversity of her clients and their personal circumstances.

“Every matter is different,” said Diane. As Townsville is a regional hub, its community allows for boutique firms. “In more rural and remote areas, practitioners would practise in numerous areas of law as they may be one of few solicitors in the area.”

Diane is on the Law Council of Australia’s Rural Regional and Remote (RRR) Lawyers Committee, which advises the Law Council on matters affecting lawyers working in RRR areas.

The RRR Lawyers Committee promotes the importance and value of lawyers working in RRR areas and progresses the work of the Law Council’s RRR Law initiative. This initiative flowed from the Law Council’s major nationwide survey in 2009 of legal practitioners in RRR areas in response to the growing problems in recruiting and retaining legal practitioners in country Australia.

“In regional areas you can progress the development of your career and legal skills as you are generally offered very diverse caseloads, even if you focus on one area of law,” observed Diane. “You can also make good friends within the profession and connect with your colleagues on a more personal level than in the cities, which can be useful as these are the people you may be able to call on for assistance.”

“Working in regional areas means that you can enjoy a great work life balance and live in some amazing areas of our great country,” said Diane. “In Townsville, we are a two-hour boat ride from the Great Barrier Reef and three hours from some of Australia’s most picturesque islands in the Whitsundays.”

Diane relishes her work as a regional lawyer specialising in family law.

“Creating a boutique family law firm and a space that was welcoming – with inspirational quotes and graffiti artwork – was something I’ve always wanted to do. I want clients to feel comfortable, not daunted. Our clients are going through a very difficult time in their life, so this is very important.”

“Generally, the most important part of anyone’s life is their family and financial situation. I enjoy the personal aspect of family law and the daily contact I have with my clients. It’s rewarding to be able to help clients when they have not been able to spend time with their children or there is uncertainty regarding their future finances due to a separation. At the end of most matters, I am able to share in some of the happiest moments of my clients’ lives. This might be due to reaching an agreement about property and parenting matters, allowing the client to move their life forward after what is certainly one of the most difficult and traumatic experiences they have faced – separation.”

As for practising in Townsville, Diane said, “Why not Townsville? Townsville is a beautiful regional city, where every location is only a 15 to 20-minute drive away. I have lived in Townsville for almost 15 years. I could think of no better place to live and work.”