While the senior leadership of the Georgia Bar Association work on plans for a lawyer incubator (a small pilot program) and a rural lawyer assistance plan (now in the hands of the state legislature), the bar’s Young Lawyers Division have launched the Succession Planning Pilot Program with the idea of matching successful, practicing, small city or rural lawyers with young lawyers and recent graduates looking for positions.
The program leverages existing resources available at the state’s law school’s career services and addresses two of the chief concerns of a fledgling rural lawyer – the lack of mentors and the need to develop a sustainable practice – while giving established rural lawyers a pipeline of interested, qualified successors.
A Rural Lawyer tip of the hat to small town lawyer Sharon Edenfield for bringing this idea to fruition.
This particular clip was the result of a bit of serendipity; I had recently been in an e-mail conversation with a pre-law student interested in eventually starting a rural practice and how one might choose a suitable law school to achieve this laudable goal.
The Nebraska State Bar Association is reporting that many Nebraska counties lack sufficient numbers of lawyers to adequately serve the needs of the client base. Currently 12 counties have no lawyers, the end result being that clients are traveling 200+ miles in order to access legal services (unintended consequence #2 is that these clients are not only taking the dollars they would spend on lawyers out of the county, they are taking the dollars they would spend on other things as well). The good news is that the Nebraska State Bar Association has started an initiative to try to encourage law students to consider a rural law career – pointing out things like the accelerated career advancement (average time to partner in a rural firm: 4-5 years), and the availability of a challenging workload. The program includes tours of small towns and, in its inaugural year, connected at least 2 – 3 graduates with jobs (hey, it’s a start).
OK, So I wasn’t the first with the idea to map where lawyers aren’t
The South Dakota Bar Association beat me to the punch with their map of “Lawyer Population in Rural Areas“, and if that’s not bad enough, I’m betting it’s even more accurate than mine ’cause they most likely had professionals do it (not that I’m jealous or anything).
The reviews thus far for: On Becoming a Rural Lawyer
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.
It seems that, thanks to HB 1096 South Dakota’s attempt at rural lawyer recruitment is riding high in the press and the blogosphere. Seems that everyone from the New York Times to the ABA Journal are reporting on it. Even Above the Law is throwing their two cents in.
The various responses seem to be a mixed bag, which is to be expected; after all at first glance $12,000 yearly stipend for a 5 year term in a rural county (and in South Dakota, rural is rural) seems like a poor trade. But, this really isn’t designed to recruit just any lawyer, it is designed to encourage South Dakota grown young lawyers to head out to those under-served counties. While $12,000 does not seem like a terribly large incentive, at the end of 5 years, that $60,000 could make a serious dent in one’s student loans.
Nor is does this seem to be an attempt to reformulate legal education along the lines of medical school. It does seem to be taking an idea from a program that works (seems its harder to get doctors to practice in rural communities then it is to get lawyers out there) in order to address at least one concern (how do I pay my loans) new lawyers have about heading out on their own.