Enjoying an outback sunset might not have been in the job description for the Mount Isa Legal Aid position, but for Principal Lawyer Lani Olafsson that is now one of the benefits.
Lani was appointed as Acting Principal Lawyer at Legal Aid Queensland (LAQ) Mt Isa on 9 January.
Part of her duties include travelling a Gulf circuit in a small, charter plane, taking off daily with other defence practitioners, a Youth Justice representative, Court Clerk and the Magistrate. Flights go to Burketown, Karumba, Normanton, Doomadgee and Mornington Island. A flight can take up to 90 minutes and the plane seats seven people, including the pilot.
And for Lani, it is one of the best parts of her job.
“I have done the Gulf circuit three times now and each time I feel overwhelmed with how lucky I am to have that opportunity,” she said.
“It is one of the most incredible work experiences I have had since I joined the legal industry in 2010.
“For the duration of the week, we stay in a beautiful, rainforest, retreat-style accommodation located in Burketown. There is also the career satisfaction of being able to provide quality legal advice and representation to First Nations people who would otherwise not have access to such services.”
And the remote communities are thankful for the service.
“One of my favourite memories was when I concluded Court on Mornington Island,” she said.
“A client approached me who was so grateful for the service I had provided and the outcome on his matter that he presented me with a hand-carved, wooden ceremonial spear. This spear is now on display in the LAQ Mount Isa office.”
And the Mt Isa office, which is currently recruiting roles, is a busy one which has benefits for professional development.
“Mount Isa is a busy jurisdiction which provides unique opportunities for career advancement.
“It is a challenging and rewarding jurisdiction which affords the opportunity to assist some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people in our state.”
Outside of work, the setting is equally rewarding.
“The landscape around Mount Isa is beautiful, and it has some of the most fantastic sunsets I have ever seen.
“There are great country social events including camel races and rodeos. Plus the outdoor activities such as camping and four-wheel-drive tracks are particularly bountiful.”
And in Lani’s experience, the legal community is one of the most collegiate in the state.
She started working for DPP in Beenleigh as an LSO in 2010, then worked with DPP for six years in both Beenleigh and Sturgess chambers. Lani worked briefly with Crown Law in Brisbane before starting with LAQ in 2016 in the Brisbane Solicitor Advocates team. She has then continued to work as a Criminal Lawyer in the Southport, Caboolture, Bundaberg and Toowoomba offices.
“While working in Law, I have worked in six different regional areas as well as Brisbane.
“While collegiality in the legal community has generally been positive across all regions, the wholly supportive and inclusive legal community of Mount Isa stands at the highest level I have experienced.
“The region is remote and can feel quite isolated, but the friendships you make here will last a lifetime.”
These friendships are helped by an active local law association.
The North West Law Association (NWLA) holds a dinner for every circuiting District Court Judge. The Judge in exchange usually provides a CPD session to all members. The association also holds welcoming and leaving events for incoming and outgoing members as well as monthly meetings.
But the benefits of working in Mt Isa are more than social.
“Along with all the benefits normally afforded to government employment, there is the further benefit of being able to work on more complex and interesting cases then may be afforded at the same level in other jurisdictions.”
Lani also manages to devote time to the NWLA, having previously served as treasurer on both the Bundaberg and North West Law Associations. Her next step is joining the Queensland Law Society Future Leaders Committee (FLC).
The FLC advocates for the future leaders cohort, lawyers who are either 35 years old or under, or in their first five years of practice. It is a platform for next generation lawyers to launch their dreams, ideas and thinking.
“I am currently President of the North West Law Association. I have a strong connection to the legal community.
“As an avid advocate for the regional experience, I found there was an under-representation on previous committees of both regional and/or government lawyers.
“I believe this committee has fantastic potential to assist young lawyers. “I am very excited to be a part of this committee and am passionate about ensuring that all people have a voice and seek to use mine to ensure regional and government lawyers are appropriately represented.”