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).
In this month’s Canadian Lawyer, Bruce LeRose has an excellent article on the ongoing demise of rural lawyers in British Columbia and the steps the B.C. branch of the Canadian Bar Association is taking to try to encourage new lawyers to take on the challenges of rural practice. Mr. LeRose points out two of the more serious factors contributing to the demise of the species: the march toward specialization (small towns simply don’t have the work to support the boutique lawyer – it’s breadth not depth that pays the bills) and the closure of small town courts (a problem that is rapidly marching toward my neck of the woods as the legislature’s economic priorities don’t include a fully funded judiciary). But for all the doom and gloom, there is hope.
The bright spot is that the B.C. Bar’s Rural Education and Access Program (REAL). Thanks to REAL, rural law firms are starting to hire new staff and about a third of those new hires are students or new lawyers. Through REAL, students are being introduced to rural law firms, the advantages of rural practice (networking is easier, overhead is lower, and success comes quickly through hard work and passion), and the personal benefits of small town living (an improved work-life balance, a family friendly supportive environment).
To read the full text of the article, click here.
I hope you don’t mind the informality, Mr. Flanders seems a bit stiff for this blog (it’s more Carharts & Red Wings than Brook’s Brothers & Edmund Allens around here). First, thanks for the comment to Beyond Our Field of View; I am always flattered to know that someone other than spammers peruse my miscellaneous ramblings on rural law and rural lawyering. Now, to address some of your questions.
I don’t have a good definition of what or, more precisely, who a rural lawyer is. The prototypical rural lawyer lives and practices in a small town, yet some live in small towns but have offices in larger cities, and some live in larger cities and practice in small towns. By the way, “large” and “small” are relative terms depending on the area of the country you live in (what’s “large” out here on the prairie would look pretty “small” were it plopped down by Los Angeles – my guess is that there are more people in one block of downtown LA than there are in the small town I live in). If you are serving small town clients, you are a rural lawyer in my book.
There is nothing wrong with having both city clients and country clients. Donald Landon in Law Careers and Community Context: A Comparison of Rural and Urban Experience noted that to meet the entrepreneurial imperative of building a practice while still making a living, it was not unusual for rural lawyers to arrange their practice so that they drew clients from small towns as well as metropolitan areas – this is what practicing at suburbia’s edge is all about. No matter what, if you are starting a law practice, you are starting a business and you have to think first in terms of being an entrepreneur – unless you are blessed with a remarkably large personal fortune and practicing law just happens to be your way to do that “charity thing”, the point of this exercise is to make money, so take on city clients, country clients, or clients from other worlds (just be sure to get that retainer up front). Continue reading
In reality, serendipity accounts for one percent of the blessings we receive in life, work and love. The other 99 percent is due to our efforts. — Peter McWilliams
In his March 14th, 2011 article in Forbes, Glenn Liopis talks about the concept of earning serendipity – that by actively seeking out unexpected good fortune it becomes easier to reach out and seize that life changing opportunity. Mr. Liopis points out that in a country of boundless possibilities, we have become myopic; unable to see the opportunities available simply because we are unwilling to pull our focus away from our narrow definition of a successful career path.
While Mr. Liopis writes in general terms about this shift in mindset, I was reminded of the opportunities that lie out there in the dark of the night sky – those opportunities that await the lawyers willing to broaden their field of view and look towards small towns and small firms for that great career opportunity.
Now, I will be the first to admit that rural living and a rural practice are not for everyone – this is not a “go rural young lawyer” call to action. But, perhaps, as you lift your eyes from the metropolitan law firm partner track and gaze out toward those small quiet places that interrupt the space between real cities you will discover that there are other opportunities, unexpected opportunities waiting.
How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book. — Henry David Thoreau
Yesterday, Carolyn Elefant announced that the second edition of her book Solo by Choice (actually it is a two volume set – there is also a companion volume entitled, appropriately, Solo by Choice, The Companion Guide). In a nutshell, Solo by Choice 2011-2012 brings the original work into the age of Social Media, Cloud Computing and the realities of being a post-2008 economic collapse solo attorney and adds to Carolyn’s remarkably lucid and thoughtful prose the voices of other solo attorneys – basically, Carolyn explains the theory, the greek chorus provides a bit of in-the-trenches reality.
For anyone thinking about starting a solo practice, there are two must read books – Jay Foonberg’s How to Start & Build a Law Practice and Carolyn’s Solo by Choice. In my opinion, Carolyn’s book has always been the more accessible of the two and has been much more relevant to this rural solo – I’ve found that her take on things finds more resonance with my rural clients (perhaps its just that she’s just better at explaining things in ways I understand).
This new edition maintains those qualities – Carolyn’s text is still a joy to read; yet I am of two minds about the material provided by those other solos. I like having other voices, other explanations of the whys, wherefores and what-works and think its great to have those been-there-done-that experiences as object lessons. Unfortunately I find that the change in the “voice” of the work slows the flow of my reading.
Now, this new edition is not all roses and Skittles. There are a few places where a little tighter editing would have caught the odd typo – this is more apparent in the companion volume where the answers to the 34 questions read as if they were taken verbatim from an interview. While this doesn’t really affect the books’ readability, its does make them seem slightly less polished. But this is a minor nit – my biggest concern is that my copy of the new edition will become as dog-eared, tattered, and abused as my copy of the original.