A Heart’s Practice

The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of. – Blaise Pascal

What do:

  • donating blood
  • a rural law practice
  • making $3/bale hay in a $7/bushel corn & $12/bushel bean market

Have in common?

They are all decisions that come more from the heart’s design than from hard, cold financial logic.

The decision to practice law in a rural area comes from the heart, it has to; why else would one stray from the safe cultivation of marquee clients and open a practice whose hallmark is one of general accessibility – doors are open, walk-ins are welcome (though walk-ins may be greeted with a sign reading “back in 5 minutes” its understood that those here on business will wait, those here on a social call will come back). Out here opportunity comes from the community, there are no power lunches, no schmoozing over cocktails, no marquee clients bringing in a steady stream of business; there are just people with their one-off matters and their expectations that the local lawyer will, to some degree, be involved in community service and community leadership. This is not pro-bono service or networking, it is simple neighborliness – done  more out of a spirit of giving then anything else.

It is a type of practice that will have to come not only from your heart, but from your family’s as well – like all rural enterprises, a rural practice is something of a family endeavor (many a farmer keeps farming because a spouse has that “city” job – many a rural lawyer meets their bills in the same manner, especially in the early years). So, before you make like Oliver Wendall Douglas and head off to Crabwell Corners, keep in mind that while building a rural law practice may be your heart’s desire, it is also going to occupy 110% of your time and if your significant other is freaking out because the nearest Starbucks is half a county away, the only employment available is serving drinks to the grumpy old men at the local American Legion Post, and the stench rolling in off the neighboring dairy farm’s manure lagoon wilts the pleats in their slacks there will not be enough hours in the day to tend to your practice and mollify your SO.

Remember, the first rule of rural living is “build the pen before buying the pig” – a rule I’ve ignored with varying degrees of success, having, at various times, raised a goat in a one bedroom apartment, chickens in a 2 car garage and a calf in the kitchen of a house in the center of town. As one can imagine that sharing a small kitchen with a few hundred pounds of frolicking cow is very hard on the linoleum – oh, and a calf bellowing for its next meal is something the neighbors will notice. All I can say is that I’ve been blessed with tolerant landlords, easily amused neighbors, and a very understanding wife. Though when all is said and done, many of these projects would have gone far smoother had there been just a wee bit more brain and a wee bit less heart.