Marjory Collins, photographer, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division,LC-USW3-013050-E
With the new year comes a new blog for me – Little Law Office on the Prairie (LLOotP for short). My plan is that LLOotP will be a place to discuss the business of running a rural law firm – everything from the marketing and business challenges rural solo’s and small firms face to the technology that makes our jobs easier. Don’t worry, RuralLawyer will still go on, but RL is going to focus more on the why than how – more mens rae than actus reus if you will.
Now, there’s not much going on over at LLOotP at the moment, but you are welcome to cruise on over and see if I fixed all the 404 errors. And if that doesn’t set the bar low enough, LLOotP will have roughly the same posting regularity as RuralLawyer – generally monthly, some times bi-weekly, occasionally weekly but always when I think about it.
Happy New Year.
Well, 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).
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
Once in the dark of night, Inflamed with love and wanting, I arose (O coming of delight!) And went, as no one knows, When all my house lay long in deep repose — Saint John of the Cross
One of the more nerve-racking things about public speaking is the wait between the speaking engagement and the receipt of the program evaluation sheets. It’s a giddily self-deluding period where, based on the positive feedback from the 3 people who talked to you in the 5 minutes between speakers, you are sure that all went well and that you are on the road to becoming the next great orator of our times. Then the evaluation sheets arrived and you realize that it will be some time before you are a threat to Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King or Emmeline Pankhurst. But, as often is the case, it is the comments and not the numerical evaluations that strike a chord , and it is one of these comments that I would like to take a moment to respond to. The writer states:
Rural [law] equals less rich (not necessarily ‘poor’). At age 28, I was desperate for a job, so I moved to a small town to work with an experienced attorney who is nearing retirement. Now, almost 7 years later, I want to leave and will if I can. Modest income clients don’t (or won’t) pay attorney fees even though we charge much less per hour than attorneys in urban areas. Fact is, attorneys in rural areas make far less than in urban areas, often have bad clients, and can get better & more interesting jobs elsewhere.
As our young writer has travelled halfway down life’s path, let me play Virgil to his Dante, and let our journey begin not in our Dante’s dark wood or in the proponent’s idealized celestial sphere, but rather at the foot of the craggy mountain of boots-on-the-ground reality. Young Dante, I’ve yet to run across a lawyer (big city or small town) who has not had at least one the-grass-is-greener moment at some time or other in their career. Lawyering is a tough slog for anyone who gives half a damn about doing the best possible job they can for each client, and it sure doesn’t help that, for the average lawyer, it sure ain’t the high-paying, jet-setting, celebrity career the law school brochures described. Even I must admit to having the occasional lustful thought about packing it all in and heading off to look for a quiet associate’s position with a regular salary. However, if this is not merely a passing fancy but is one of those dark nights of the soul, then it is far better to move on to those greener pastures than to unhappily till the same dismal furrow. But before you go, talk to someone (a mentor, a friend, your local branch of Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers); perhaps there are other options out there and it may be easier to fix what you have than to start something new.
The comment continues:
I’ve always found paranoia to be a perfectly defensible position — Pat Conroy
Let me make something clear right from the outset, when it comes to the security of the technology that supports my business, I am not a raving, paranoid lunatic; I am completely capable of carrying on calm, quiet, rational conversations.
Back in the day, when hard drives were the size of washing machines, tape drives consumed half-inch tape on 12 inch reels, computers were huge blue boxes serviced by a cadre of adoring acolytes, and networks were comprised of tin cans, bits of string, and acoustic couplers security was simple – those without the blessing of the high priest (the systems administrator – a god-like being capable of patching a OS binary on the fly). The concept of an external attack was practically inconceivable simply because (a) it was the rare computer that supported even dial-up access, (b) dumb terminals and acoustic couplers were not your typical household appliance, and (c) an attack coming in at 300 baud (about 30 characters per second) is something you would notice. It was a halcyon time, carefree and innocent. A time where security was a backup tape and a warm blanket. A time doomed by its own success and the crushing inevitability of Moore’s Law.
Today, if your tech is connected to the outside world though anything other than a electrical power cord (and I have my suspicions about those), it is vulnerable to attack; it is not a matter of if, it is a matter of when. Therein lies the faustian bargain we make with the Internet – access to untold amounts of knowledge, pleasure, and power in exchange for our tech’s soul. But fear not, for tech also offers some hope of salvation if not complete redemption. Continue reading