The RuralLawyer Book

Becoming A Rural Lawyer - A Personal Guide to Establishing a Small Town Practice by Bruce CameronWell, it’s official – Becoming a Rural Lawyer is here. Like RuralLawyer the blog, RuralLawyer the book is designed to help you decide if you’re meant to practice in the 128,000 small towns dotting the US landscape. Becoming a Rural Lawyer looks at the myths of practicing in small towns, discusses emerging areas of rural practice, talks about the rhythms and (unwritten) rules of small town life, and  includes advice, tips, and words of wisdom from rural lawyers from across the US.

Becoming a Rural Lawyer is available through Amazon.com (where I welcome your impressions of the book).

Don’t Tell Me It’s Raining

Quality in a product or service is not what the supplier puts in. It is what the customer gets out and is willing to pay for. A product is not quality because it is hard to make and costs a lot of money, as manufacturers typically believe. This is incompetence. Customers pay only for what is of use to them and gives them value. Nothing else constitutes quality.Peter Drucker

Having gotten hooked on the concept that it is possible to engineer a consumer’s experience, I’m becoming more aware of the clues I use to evaluate quality service and I’m quickly coming to the conclusion that any consumer experience that adheres to  old adage: “don’t piss on my boots then try to tell me it’s raining” can claim to be providing minimally functional customer service. Given this relatively low bar, coming across truly horrific customer service is a rare event; yet recently, I’ve had the misfortune to walk away from a pair of consumer experiences with fairly damp footwear.

The first sandal sprinkling came from a small start-up marketing firm looking to expand into my neck of the woods. I like working with young companies, usually they are all teeth, shiny ideas, and enthusiasm. In this case, regrettably, it seemed that the teeth had been turned inward, the shiny ideas tarnished and the enthusiasm replaced by rancor as the failing interpersonal relationship between the company’s principles collapsed overnight. Now, I must commend these folks for letting me know (when it became evident that their personal differences were adversely impacting their working relationship) that they would no longer be able to meet with me. However, I could have done without the acrimony and personal tales of woe that accompanied the statements. It’s not that I’m not interested in “done me wrong” melodramas – I’m always on the look out for the next great country song lyric – but trying to engender sympathy just to poach business from the other is just plain icky (besides, I do family law and have learned the family law lawyer’s manta of “it ain’t my problem”). Continue reading

Road Trip

The saying “Getting there is half the fun” became obsolete with the advent of commercial airlines. — Henry J. Tillman

The Rural Lawyer is hitting the road this week. My thanks to the South Dakota Bar for their gracious invitation to speak at their  Annual Meeting, I’ll be filling the dead space between the good speakers and the mid-afternoon break with my take on technology and marketing for the rural solo/small firm.

There is a lot to be said for travel – it’s broadening (though give the current state of the coach seats on commercial aircraft, I’d dispute that sentiment – though my hat’s off to the air crews; any one who can keep smiling after dealing with the hoi-polloi that generally occupies coach either is of a more pacific temperament than I or has access to some high quality mood stabilizers), it’s educational, it’s relaxing – but for the rural lawyer, travel is just part of the job.

While those charming wide open vistas of rural America are part of the attraction of small towns, they also mean that there is always going to be some distance between where you are and where you want to be – usually only a practice located in a county seat will find clients and courthouses in close proximity. So, the rural lawyer finds that reliable transportation and a good GPS are just as important as  form books, laptops, and practice manuals.

Serendipity and the Wild Paradigm

Barn Fire

Barn + Hay + Match = DISASTER

March is well on its way to being written up as a decidedly odd month; strangely dry, unusually warm, and replete with eccentric client requests – law school really does not prepare one for the question: “where can I get a good medical kit for disasters?” Now, from a client’s viewpoint, I suppose that a lawyer’s stock in trade does center around disasters – after all, when the average client walks through the door looking to hire a lawyer something in their life has really blown up in a big way – though I am not sure that there is a 1 to 1 mapping between being able to resolve disasters of a legal kind and being able to handle disasters mother nature throws our way.

Now, my search for a good medical kit lead me through the highways and byways of the internet and along the way, serendipity re-acquainted me with Don Lancaster (or at least a Don Lancaster inspired “nickel generator”). For those of you unfamiliar with the geek world’s paleolithic era (the 1970’s), Don Lancaster was an advocate for the concept of micro-scale businesses (at that time the tech world’s solo practitioner) arguing that it was only this type of business that was agile enough to recognize and react to the coming (remember, this is the 70’s) paradigm shifts. Continue reading

WWCD

The holiday lull and the unseasonable winter weather can to a rather abrupt, simultaneous halt this week – seems that it takes real winter weather (snow, high temps eking their way into the teens, a northerly breezes) to make folks start to make good on those new year’s resolutions that this will be the year “I’ll see a lawyer about…” – putting an end to my brief sabbatical.

As a solo, any downtime is a mixed blessing. It’s great to have some time to catch up on all those little inconsequential chores that get put aside (things like dusting the office, rediscovering the top of your desk, or getting a jump-start on your tax returns), but the downside is that unscheduled downtime means that the ol’ marketing machinery ain’t working at capacity. So, I spent my brief break asking myself “WWCD?” (what would Carolyn do), re-reading my brand spanking new copy of Solo by Choice (my first version was reduced to a somewhat collated stack of highlighted, ink-smeared and tea-stained pages during the start-up phase of my practice – the inevitable death of all really useful books), and re-evaluating/revising my marketing plan.

So, I come back from my sabbatical with my “quiet mentor” a little chided (it is humbling to see yourself when the text describes common mistakes) and greatly invigorated – sometimes a little affirmation that, at its core, marketing is not all that difficult and that anyone can be a better marketer goes a long way. Thanks Carolyn.