Field Trips and Incentives

382606_3276Today’s Leader Post reports on the University of Saskatchewan’s efforts to recruit rural lawyers.

The lack of rural lawyers is not just a problem here in the US; the root causes – population shifts away from rural areas, practicing rural lawyers looking at retirement and practices closing because there is no successor – are not localized phenomenon.

The article reports on the University’s efforts to address 2 problems common to rural lawyer recruitment: a lack of familiarity with available opportunities, and the siren song of a big city practice. While the University’s College of Law is just beginning to address the later issue (the preliminary ideas seem to be focused on some form of loan forgiveness and modeled after a program the Saskatchewan government offers medical students), the school is actively addressing the former by providing day trips to rural areas for interested students.

Rural law practices don’t happen simply because a lawyer hangs out a shingle. They happen by building a connection to the community; it’s basically about being the right person in the right place at the right time and frankly, the only way to find the right place is to go out and spend time in rural areas and small towns (find the right place and you become the right person). Now, unless there is a sign from above – lightning flashes, thunder booms – a day trip is really not enough time to evaluate a rural area (if they know yo are coming, just about anyone can be charming for a few hours) but it is enough time to make a few connections, to collect some contact information, to start thinking about opportunities, and perhaps to plan for the next trip.

3 thoughts on “Field Trips and Incentives

  1. It’s true that “the right place at the right time” would be ideal, but if you’re the right person, everything can still work out well. That is, if you have an appropriate attitude about enjoying the benefits of small-town life and genuinely want to build long-lasting relationships based on a personal connection and providing excellent professional service [see the Rural Lawyer blog for details]… well in that case just about any small town will do. Forgive the analogy, but it’s similar to saying that most marriages can work if *you’re* the right person, nevermind who you choose as your spouse.

  2. Your comment is spot on – rural practices succeed through personal connections and excellent professional service (in small towns, reputation is everything), but getting that practice up and running is a whole lot easier if you spend a little time finding a rural community you are comfortable in.

    I’ve been in small towns that I couldn’t leave fast enough and in towns that sang to me. Given my druthers, I’d rather live and work in the later (but I’m picky). Frankly, it is just easier to develop that personal connection in a place where you are comfortable (that “right place”/”right person” connection) than it is in a place you’d rather never see again.

    Before that “personal connections and excellent professional service” is required, one needs to find a place to start. While one can always chuck a dart at a map, I think a few field trips and a little research could make the search a little easier.And why not look for your “right place” there are enough places out there that need lawyers, there’s little need to simply settle.

  3. I just came across your blog today and am glad to see someone writing about these issues.What a unique idea to take students out to see these areas – really, this is ingenious, because you’re right, the “siren song” of the big city, with the big office, and the big clients, is sort of the stereotypical “legal dream” for many students, I think.
    It seems this idea of practicing in the country could attract students wanting to do something good for the world – students who think they will fulfill this longing to practice meaningful law through pro bono work, or working with a specific issue – but perhaps if they understood the need for lawyers in rural communities, they might feel called to this kind of practice.

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