Fugit Inreparabile Tempus

photograph of a sundial

Nay, every race on earth of men, and beasts, and ocean-folk, and flocks, and painted birds, Rush to the raging fire: love sways them all. Fast flies meanwhile the irreparable hour, as point to point our charmed round we trace.

Ol’ Virgil (the roman poet, not my local mechanic) sure had it right, since my last post, a great deal of time has escaped, irretrievably; a consequence of too many commitments and an inability to say no as often as I should. So, what I failed to note during the last quarter of 2014.

In December, the AP ran a story on the various efforts currently under way to attract lawyers to practice in rural areas. The focus of the story is on South Dakota, but programs in Nebraska and Arkansas get a brief mention as well. It’s great to hear that programs like the one in South Dakota are starting to produce results.

From the University of St. Thomas Law School, comes word of a law student’s discovery of the joys of small town practice. Ms. Price paint’s a great picture of the pros of clerking in a small town and how practicing in a small town is more of a labor of love than anything else.

Then there’s the flip side to all this – as Danielle Paquette reports, the lack of incoming rural lawyers means that the existing rural bar is delaying retirement and many rural clients are looking at two hour drives just to talk with a lawyer. In Nebraska, 12 counties have no lawyers and the Nebraska Bar Association along with the Nebraska Legislature is trying to do something about it. Their solution is twofold – a Rural Practice Loan Repayment Assistance Program and a better sales pitch – seems no one is telling law students about the opportunities that exist.

A tip of the hat to Justice Thomas G. Saylor – he started out as a small town lawyer and is now the Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Well, there was the odd gig as a county prosecutor, a deputy AG, and Supreme Court Justice along the way, but still not bad for starting out in rural Pennsylvania (see story here).

I’ll also note the passing of John Doar, a small town lawyer who died last November at the age of 92. Mr. Doar began his career in the small town of New Richmond, WI before moving on to the Justice Department and then to a New York law firm. In the 1960’s, Mr Doar helped shape the civil rights movement, as an assistant attorney general, he was the prosecutor in US v. Cecil Price et al. and he escorted James Meredith when Mr. Meredith became the first black student to enroll in the University of Mississippi. Mr. Doar was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012.

Out Standing in the Field – Rural Lawyers in the News

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.

Hanging Your Shingle in a Small Town

A guest post by Andrew Flusche

Similar to being a rural lawyer, practicing law in a small town has unique challenges and considerations. It’s certainly not the same as the big city! Here are a few things I’ve learned since starting my practice in the booming small-opolis of Fredericksburg, Virginia.

Today’s lawyers are tomorrow’s judges

In Virginia, the legislature appoints our judges. Of course those appointments come from the ranks of the active bar. It makes perfect sense, but when I was a baby lawyer I never really thought about it.

Here’s why I mention it: be nice to everyone! If you’re rude to a colleague that doesn’t seem to affect your practice at all today, they very well could be a judge next year.

In the five years since I’ve been practicing, I’ve seen a handful of judicial changes, and I practice in an extremely limited number of courts. Just this simple fact should give you pause before you do anything that might not reflect positively on you.

It’s a small world out there

When practicing in a small town, you run into people from your legal world outside the courtroom. I run into clerks, judges, clients, colleagues, and officers all the time when I’m out and about.

Needless to say, we should always be nice to everyone. But we’re human, so that’s easier said than done.

However, as a small town lawyer, it’s even more important to always be kind. Heck, I run into clients who I can’t even remember, but they recognize me. If I treat someone poorly, they just might be a past client. Or they might have been a client tomorrow.

Be unique to stand out

It’s tempting to model your practice on the other attorneys in town. After all, it’s working for them. Why not follow suit?

Here in Fredericksburg, most folks do family law, criminal defense, and personal injury. Some people just do two of those, but being more of a generalist is standard practice around town.

To give myself a marketing advantage, I came up with a unique angle: traffic and misdemeanor defense. I’m the only attorney in Fredericksburg (and perhaps the state of Virginia) who solely defends traffic tickets and misdemeanor charges. Many colleagues are still surprised that my practice works, but I think the main reason it’s worked out is that I’m different. In a crowded field, the purple cow gets attention.

Andrew Flusche lives in Fredericksburg, Virginia and helps people from all over the country with their reckless driving Virginia tickets. He also wrote the consumer book, Fight Your Virginia Reckless Driving Ticket. Find Andrew on Google+.