Doing, Not Waiting

Rural Law OfficeWhile 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.

A New Rural Resource

Looking over a small hillside farmThere is a new resource out there for rural lawyers and the communities they serve. Rural Law is setting out to simplify access to legal information and solutions to rural america and the small town lawyers who practice there.

Currently, the web site concentrates on providing legal resources for the Dakotas, Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin. The site provides links to quality resources as well as contact information for small town lawyers. The contact information is a bit sparse, but Patrick Burns, the lawyer behind Rural Law, is continuously adding new information as he discovers it (if you are a small town lawyer, you may want to give him a call and help build the network).

The Book Goes Digital

Becoming A Rural Lawyer - A Personal Guide to Establishing a Small Town Practice by Bruce CameronFor those of you who have moved from their libraries into the digital domain, Becoming a Rural Lawyer is now available for Kindle.

In related news, I see that a used copy of my book is currently being listed at $116.17. While I am flattered that someone out there values my little tome so highly, I’d just like to point out that list price is still only $28.50 for a brand-spanking new one (contact me if you want an autographed version). So, not only can my book help you get your small town practice up and running, it’s an appreciable asset as well.

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+.

The Rural Track

On The Fastrack 1/26/12

From "On the Fastrack" by Bill Holbrook (c) 2012 King Features Syndicate, Inc. World rights reserve,

While the rural lawyer is expected to be something of a generalist, there is some wiggle-room in that definition – folks don’t expect a lawyer to do everything. On the other hand, the rural lawyer who refuses to work outside a particular speciality is in for some lean times. The trick is to find that balancing point between doing the stuff that interests you and doing enough of the stuff that small town clients need so that bills get paid, you get fed and your conscience lets you sleep at night.

I arrived at that balancing point by doing transactional work and ADR – there is something about the degree of conflict in litigated matters that just does not sit well with my belief system. Frankly, when I made the decision not to litigate, I was a bit concerned that I wouldn’t get clients – after all rural clients are a fairly conservative and traditional bunch and ADR might come across as a wee bit too much like tie-dye and love beads to them – but rural clients “get” ADR; though many were surprised to find out that it could be applied to areas other than union contract negotiations (many thanks TV news).

The thing I noticed most was that it became a lot easier to market my practice when what I did aligned with who I was. It was not just that the ol’ elevator speech sounded a bit more natural, the experience from first phone call to last meeting flowed better. Sure there are some clients that choose to go with the “full lawyer experience” and that’s OK – what’s right for me is not right for them. I do notice that the ones that do go with an ADR solution tend be surprised by the results – I often hear the phrase “our friends told us that their _____ was horrible, this isn’t all that stressful, are we doing something wrong?” It’s always nice to have to confirm that disputes can be settled with a minimum of conflict and that if they are getting the results they want, then they are doing everything right (personal validation, vindication and a paycheck all rolled into one).

My thanks go out to Bill Holbrook, the creator of “On The Fastrack“, for allowing me to use an image from his January 26th, 2012 strip and for reminding me that I’ve got that job.