I have a fondness for rural courts even though my entire experience with actual litigation has been limited to a few uncontested matters in which my chief role was to greet the judge, confirm that the opposing party had been properly notified and still was not present, and thank the judge when everything concluded. Perry Mason I’m not.
For me, rural courthouses and the people who staff them (professionals all) still engender a sense of respect for tradition, for the law. They seem to demand an older (perhaps antiquated) ideal of courtesy and gentile behavior; these are, after all dignified buildings that still command a place of pride in their communities.
In “Is Bigger Always Better?“, attorney Michael C. Larson talks about the pull to come home to the small town law practice his great-grandfather started in spite of the occasional law school daydream of a big law career. For Mr. Larson, bigger was not better, it is the little things, the personal connection to his work and to his clients that make his career fulfilling – as he puts it: “There is something to say about being not only intellectually invested, but emotionally invested in your clientele. I get to see first-hand the way I affect people’s lives.”
Corey Bruning discusses how he went from zero to his first jury trial in about 15 minutes in “Rural Practice Realized: A Success Story” – well, not quite in 15 minutes, there was a bit of set up before hand. Mr. Bruning is a second career attorney, Deputy State’s Attorney and partner in a small town (his hometown) law practice. As of this month, he’s six months into a law practice that covers everything from criminal prosecution to estate work, family law to business law and everything in between. Sounds like a typical rural law practice to me.
Well, it’s official – Becoming a Rural Lawyer is here. Like RuralLawyer the blog, RuralLawyer the book is designed to help you decide if you’re meant to practice in the 128,000 small towns dotting the US landscape. Becoming a Rural Lawyer looks at the myths of practicing in small towns, discusses emerging areas of rural practice, talks about the rhythms and (unwritten) rules of small town life, and includes advice, tips, and words of wisdom from rural lawyers from across the US.
Becoming a Rural Lawyer is available through Amazon.com (where I welcome your impressions of the book).
I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends, the old and the new.– Ralph Waldo Emerson
Living around farmers reminds one that life is an ephemeral thing, something that waxes and wanes with nature’s rhythms (today’s pig is tomorrow’s bacon) but, for the vast majority of us these small reminders are merely items of interest and not something that we focus on (the chicken that provided the eggs for your breakfast was interested in it, the pig that provided the bacon was really focused on it). Yet, when a friend’s holiday letter mentions they’ve been diagnosed with a stage 4 glioblastoma a few weeks prior, I find myself becoming a bit more focused, so this Thanksgiving, I find myself a bit more thankful for my health, my friends, and my family. I also find myself reviewing my office’s “in case of …” kit.
My “in case of …” kit is basically my backup system for me. Basically, it’s a set of documents that provide a quick guide to my filing system, mission critical software, and basic procedures so that my backup attorney has some rudimentary grasp of how to either run my practice in the short term or close it down if necessary. Ideally, I would review my kit on a regular basis (hey, I back up my computer daily, I should at least back up myself every few months), but the reality is that it takes life handing me a good swift kick before I get the impetus to block out the time. This year, it looks like I have something to do on Black Friday other than being mauled at the mall.
Happy Thanksgiving and Slàinte mhòr agus a h-uile beannachd duibh (’cause gaelic makes a nice change from latin).
How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book. — Henry David Thoreau
Yesterday, Carolyn Elefant announced that the second edition of her book Solo by Choice (actually it is a two volume set – there is also a companion volume entitled, appropriately, Solo by Choice, The Companion Guide). In a nutshell, Solo by Choice 2011-2012 brings the original work into the age of Social Media, Cloud Computing and the realities of being a post-2008 economic collapse solo attorney and adds to Carolyn’s remarkably lucid and thoughtful prose the voices of other solo attorneys – basically, Carolyn explains the theory, the greek chorus provides a bit of in-the-trenches reality.
For anyone thinking about starting a solo practice, there are two must read books – Jay Foonberg’s How to Start & Build a Law Practice and Carolyn’s Solo by Choice. In my opinion, Carolyn’s book has always been the more accessible of the two and has been much more relevant to this rural solo – I’ve found that her take on things finds more resonance with my rural clients (perhaps its just that she’s just better at explaining things in ways I understand).
This new edition maintains those qualities – Carolyn’s text is still a joy to read; yet I am of two minds about the material provided by those other solos. I like having other voices, other explanations of the whys, wherefores and what-works and think its great to have those been-there-done-that experiences as object lessons. Unfortunately I find that the change in the “voice” of the work slows the flow of my reading.
Now, this new edition is not all roses and Skittles. There are a few places where a little tighter editing would have caught the odd typo – this is more apparent in the companion volume where the answers to the 34 questions read as if they were taken verbatim from an interview. While this doesn’t really affect the books’ readability, its does make them seem slightly less polished. But this is a minor nit – my biggest concern is that my copy of the new edition will become as dog-eared, tattered, and abused as my copy of the original.
It has been pointed out to me that, perhaps, one reason lawyers are not flocking to small towns is that a spouse or significant other may be reluctant to leave their career behind. Fair enough; jobs are tough to come by in this economy and it is perfectly understandable that someone would prefer keeping a sure thing over haring off into the middle of nowhere – even if it is a particularly scenic middle of nowhere. But this may not be the hurdle it appears to be. So if your SO is still talking to you after you first broached the idea of a rural practice, here are a few options: Continue reading Pax maternum, ergo pax familiarum*
Where, oh where, are you tonight? Why did you leave me here all alone? I searched the world over, and I thought I’d found true love, You met another, and PFFT! You was gone! — Marian B. Yarneall
The rural lawyer may not be your true love, but it does seem that they are going PFFT! The good news, according to this article in the Argus Leader and this one in the Rapid City Journal, is that at least one state bar association is taking notice of the problem and starting to do something about it. The South Dakota Bar is creating Project Rural Practice to address that state’s decline in rural lawyers and, in conjunction with community leaders, to find incentives that will attract lawyers to the small towns of rural South Dakota. Many, many kudos to the South Dakota Bar.
Now, I’m one of those people who think that packing up and heading to rural South Dakota to practice law would be an interesting adventure (but then I’m also of the opinion that good neighbors are live a quarter-mile away, it is feasible to raise a calf (for a brief period) in your kitchen, and that starting a solo practice in a recession is a boffo career move), thus my idea of an incentive may be a bit biased and more readily negotiated than those of a normal person.
What would incite you, dear reader, to pack it up and head to the wind-swept prairie? Some things to consider after the break.