Why a Rural Practice?

Ask a pilot “why do you fly?” and you will get a variety of responses, but never a good answer. It is not impossible for the pilot to provide a good answer, it is just that the questioner would not understand the answer. Some where at some time the pilot looked skyward and felt a connection, a desire, a goal and from that moment of crystal clear epiphany knew, just knew.  The good, simple, and true answer is “because”.

I have never thought of writing for reputation and honor. What I have in my heart must come out; that is the reason why I compose.Ludwig van Beethoven

I was recently asked a similar question. I was asked “why did you go into a rural practice?”, and, like the pilot, found the answer to be difficult to elaborate.

Perhaps the reason I am a rural lawyer is simply that friends and neighbors asked. It is a fact of small town life that gossip travels faster than the internet, so it was not surprising that soon after I was accepted to law school my neighbors began asking me what is was going to do after law school. Naturally I would expound on my future plans much to the dismay of my questioner (if their rapidly dulling eyes were any indicator). Once I had finished and my questioner had regained the power of thought, their ending comment was invariably “well ya know, there hasn’t been an lawyer in town since ol’ Bob Smith retired (circa 1960), sure could use one”. I may be slow on the uptake, but these hints weren’t all that subtle.

Then again, the reason could be the current economic realities. When jobs are scare it is often easier to create your own than try to fish in a drying pool. So, perhaps I became a rural lawyer by default. It was far easier to create a practice close to home than 20 miles and 30 minutes away. It leads to a better work-life balance –  instead of 30 minutes of highway travel, I can commute via horse and get to my office in 5  (sure its eccentric, but not that unusual; the local bar still maintains a well used hitching post). I can schedule my hours around my needs and my clients understand that hay waits for no one.

I’d like to say that it was the crying need for attorneys in rural America (only 20% of attorneys practice in areas with populations of less than 50,000) was a driving factor, but I did not even look into this until I was well down the path towards a rural practice. Besides, I am well past the unbridled optimism of youth to want to embark on a career path simply out of a desire to “help”. On the flip side, I am aware that a rural practice will never produce the great piles of cash that figure prominently in my dreams of wild avarice, so a sense of altruism must substitute.

So, I guess that I’m a rural lawyer because. Because it fits me, because I fell into it, because I was asked to, because I feel a sense of purpose, and because…, just simply because.

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4 thoughts on “Why a Rural Practice?

  1. Bruce, this is the best answer as you say. ‘Because.’ But what is a rural lawyer? Is he a jack of all trades? What happens to the important question – do you specialize? I have my own thoughts but would like to hear yours.

  2. Susan,

    I’m still working on figuring out the “what” question. But that is for another post. Thanks for the comment and the idea for a sequel post.


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