You Might Be A Rural Lawyer

The Rural Lawyer’s Ride Share

With apologies to Jeff Foxworthy…

  • If you think a fortiori is the name of an Italian sports car, you might be a rural lawyer
  • If you think in camera means you haven’t developed the film yet, you might be a rural lawyer
I’m sure the list can go on without degenerating to the rude, the scatological, or playing off an unflattering caricature of the rural southern poor, but my recall of cute legal latin maxims is fading from disuse – there are few instances where one can work something like ignorantia legis neminem excusat into a normal every day conversation.
The fact of the matter is you need not enjoy greens and grits, drive a pickup, speak with a drawl or even know the difference between a Holstein and a Hereford to practice in a rural community. The rural bar is fairly catholic and is very difficult to stereotype on matters of politics, race, sex, religion, etc. It seems that when it comes to finding a rural place to live and practice, people gravitate to those places that feel like home – safe and comfortable with people they can relate to.

So, who are rural lawyers? Well, first and foremost, rural lawyers are willing to be entrepreneurs, and either have or are willing to develop the ingenuity and drive to develop a practice serving the needs of small business and private middle-class individuals. Second, rural lawyers tend to come to the practice by deliberate design and while family considerations and the attractions of rural living may play a role in the decision, the most frequent factor is simply that the career expectations of the rural lawyer and the typical metropolitan law firm are inconsistent. The rural lawyer is looking for a career that offers autonomy and is propelled by one’s own enterprise and not a career that is largely dependent on sponsorship for advancement and security. Third, rural lawyers often have some type of tie to the communities they serve; generally they grew up in the area – perhaps not in the particular small town they are practicing in, but typically within the same county. These ties make satisfying the unique double imperative of the rural practitioner (that of building a practice while simultaneously earning an income) easier.

This last point is not there to scare off those of you who, like me, are coming to rural living and rural practice de novo. It is just there to make you aware that, during its initial stages, a rural practice is vulnerable, it needs income to survive. To get that income, the rural practitioner needs to build ties to the community and the process gets a jump-start if one is starting among family and friends and not among strangers. Now, don’t think that the home town kid has that much of a head start. Small towns have long memories and stories, especially those of youthful indiscretions, only get better with age. So, while the rural transplant may have to build their community network from scratch, the home town kid is going to have to live with (and perhaps live down) the story of when they…

3 thoughts on “You Might Be A Rural Lawyer

  1. Your thoughts about rural communities having long memories is too true! I am a solo practitioner gone back to my hometown to practice. I’m enjoying the chance to meet people as an adult professional, and not the teenager I was when I last lived here full-time. What a privilege to practice in this type of community though. I couldn’t ask for a better work environment.

  2. I came back to the small logging town where I grew up. My clients are the people I knew in school as a kid, their parents and children. My mentor told me that he worked for 4 generations of the same families before he retired, in some cases. Small town people have long memories, and strong loyalties.

Comments are closed.