From the Rural Lawyering 101 videos:

This particular clip was the result of a bit of serendipity; I had recently been in an e-mail conversation with a pre-law student interested in eventually starting a rural practice and how one might choose a suitable law school to achieve this laudable goal.

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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.

Becoming A Rural Lawyer - A Personal Guide to Establishing a Small Town Practice by Bruce CameronWell, 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).

In her January 25 post, my friend and fellow blawger Susan Cartier Liebel asks “what obligation does the ABA owe to law students?” Susan’s post and the November 2009 report, The Value Proposition of Attending Law School by the ABA Commission on the Impact of the Economic Crises on the Profession and Legal Needs she mentions should be on every prospective law student’s must read list.

While I agree that the report should have wide distribution among prospective law students, I respectfully disagree with two of the post’s underlying assumptions: (a) that the ABA owes an obligation to prospective law students and (b) that the sole reason d’être for not quickly disseminating the report is simple greed. (more…)

Make voyages! – Attempt them! – there’s nothing else… (Tennessee Williams)

So, you are thinking of going solo right of school – great! Here’s some things to keep in mind:

  • If you can pass the bar exam, you are (or at least yourState Bar thinks you are) competent to practice law. Period, end of discussion. So never doubt that you are sufficiently prepared to go out there and commit random acts of lawyerism. That nagging doubt, that fear that sneaks up in the quite hours of the night does not feed on your lack of competence, it feeds on your lack of experience. The good news is that there’s a cure for that – time. (more…)

The harsh reality is that law school only teaches theory and, until recently, learning the actual practice of law was taught by that harsh task-master experience. For the new associate just entering an established law firm, experience’s lessons are tempered by the older and wiser partners, however for those of us who march to our own drumbeat as solo practitioners finding mentors can be a daunting task. On March 20th, 2009, this changes with the opening of Solo Practice University.

Solo Practice University is the brain child of Susan Cartier Liebel and stems from her frustration with the inability of law schools to cover the innumerable variables that are unique to the actual solo practice of law. Solo Practice University is an on-line community bringing law students and solo practitioners together with an  experienced, nationally recognized faculty. (more…)

Yes, you do have to read it all. However, the faster you can get up to speed with the proper way to read a case, the easier your life will be. Your goal when reading a case is simple, eliminate the fluff and isolate the critical facts the court used, the issue the court decided, and the rule/ruling made. The cool thing is that these are the same skills you’ll need when taking an exam. The shorthand for this is IRAC (issue rule analysis and conclusion). The only real difference between reading a case and taking an exam is that the exam requires you to do your own RAC — your professor will take care of hiding the issue and critical facts among the extraneous fluff.

Commercial outlines, case briefs and nutshell guides are useful, but are no substitutes for doing the reading. These commercial products are the law school version of Cliff Notes. Don’t ever make the mistake of thinking that you can get away with using them in class as a substitute for having read the case. Better to admit you are unprepared than to start playing “stump the chump” with the professor. First, there is no way a one page summary is sufficiently comprehensive to provide enough information to satisfy a detailed probing by a motivated professor.  Second, commercial products are notorious for getting the names of the plaintiff and defendant reversed at random locations through out a brief and there’s no surer way to set yourself up for a game of “stump the chump” than not being able to present a coherent summary of a case. Use the commercial products to fill in holes in your notes, but don’t rely on them as substitutes for actually reading the material.

Statistics show that your performance during your first year in law school is predictive of your success on the bar exam – if you can manage a C+ average by the end of your first year, you’ll have no problem passing the bar.  The catch is: the pace of law school does not allow for “being a little lost”. If you even suspect you might be a little behind, aren’t quite sure of the material, or might have missed something in class don’t wait any longer before you get a tutor, find an academic coach, or get help from the professor. If I were to do it all over again, I would set up a standing weekly appointment with a tutor the moment I set foot on campus and I would keep that appointment religiously.

The hardest part about your first year is realizing that, for the first time in your academic career, you may get a C. Don’t fret. Law schools take the cream of the academic crop each year (the average GPA for my first year class was 3.75). All that a C means is that you are an average over-achiever. C’s get degrees and, more importantly, C’s get jobs too.

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