Gympie lawyers weather storm in flood-ravaged region

Lawyers in one of Queensland’s worst flood-hit regional towns are using the protocols, reforms and technology they embraced for the COVID pandemic to seamlessly provide professional services during the current weather crisis.

Over the past week south-east Queensland has been savaged by a series of severe storms and unrelenting torrential rain – which Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk described as a “rain bomb” – resulting in numerous deaths (currently eight) and a yet to be tallied amount of damage to personal property, business and infrastructure.

With many businesses closed as anxious Queenslanders brace for continued flooding, a group of lawyers in one of the most flood-ravaged areas 190km north of Brisbane are continuing business as usual.

Soggy pastures at Chris Anderson’s home, Gympie.

Gympie criminal lawyer Chris Anderson today told QLS Proctor that most legal practitioners in his area had been relatively unaffected by the extraordinary weather event, although he was aware of one, possibly two, local firm offices that had been flooded.

Mr Anderson, a director at Jeffery Cuddihy & Joyce Solicitors, said he had spoken to many practitioners in the region and life was operating “pretty much as normal” on the local legal scene.

“Most of the law firms are situated well out of floodwaters,” he said. “Certainly the longer established law firms are high and dry.

“This morning I was able to appear in court by telephone and the Magistrate (Chris Callaghan) was doing the same thing. We were both flooded out yet still able to go to court.

“I am lucky insofar as I have been largely un-impacted by the floods, other than working from home for a few days. We have power, we have water, and the phone reception can be a bit patchy because the phone towers have gone down, but all in all I am able to keep operating.

“On the other end of the spectrum, I’m aware that one firm has had floodwaters all through their building.

“When I tried to speak with her this morning, rather than simply not working or trying to clean up, she was on the phone talking to clients and continuing to provide a legal service.”

Mr Anderson said the Gympie CBD (main picture) had been without power for several days.

He attributed the legal profession and judiciary’s positive and constructive response to COVID as being key to continued practice in times of crisis.

“The delivery of legal services is no longer confined to the office,” he said. “We have pivoted as the times have required, and COVID has required and allowed us to do this.

“In floods gone by, it was a situation where, if you could get to the city side of the river, then you must do that, so you could continue to work from the office.

“Today, as long as you have a laptop, and some internet access, then you are ready to go.

“The profession and judiciary’s response to COVID has meant that trundling off to court come hell or high water is becoming a thing of the past.”

While many were tending to their clients’ legal needs, Mr Anderson said others were assisting members of the community impacted in other ways.

“Everyone in their own way is dealing with floodwaters and the problems that they’ve created,” he said.

“My secretary is helping a neighbour who had floodwaters go through their property, and babysitting her grandchildren so her son can go and help with flood clean-up for where he works.

“I am the commanding officer (First officer) at the Gympie South Rural Fire Brigade. Shortly we will be activating to assist with the flood clean-up efforts.

“Coming from a small community means wearing many hats or helmets.”

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