Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Student Lawyer magazine highlights "adventure" of rural practice

Student Lawyer magazine this week ran a story headlined, "Adventurers Sought in Rural America."  The story's lede highlights rural-urban difference:
You may seek work at a firm in a large city where you’re paid handsomely, specialize in one type of law, and there’s a Starbucks on every corner where you can grab a cup of joe on your way into the office.

Or, you may choose to go down an entirely different path and look for work in a much smaller—perhaps a rural—setting, where you may run into clients at the local market, work on more types of cases, and receive a paycheck that’s considerably lower than what you’d receive at a big-bucks firm. 
Perhaps most pressing, there’s a dire need for legal representation and not enough lawyers to serve the unique demands of rural communities. During a time when jobs are few and far between, rural communities offer an untapped market with plenty of perks and a chance to fill a void and make a serious impact in the lives of residents.
The story, by free-lancer Karen Schwartz, covers efforts to increase access to legal representation in rural parts of California, Iowa and Maine.  Among the tactics those states are using are programs whereby rural attorneys mentor law students during summer stints, mentoring that sometimes turns into succession planning.   One lawyer who had done a summer internship with Phil Garland in Garner, Iowa, offered these observations on rural practice:
One of the benefits of working in a small town in terms of clients is that you help that client with everything.  You might help that client with a will, and then they might come in if they want to purchase land or need assistance with an estate. It’s nice to build client relationships and it’s easier to do that in a smaller community.

William Robitzek, who practice in Lewiston, Maine, and is currently president of the New England Bar Association, commented on and refuted perceptions of rural places and rural practice:
There’s the misconception that you can’t have a successful practice in the rural areas of the state. Once students spend time in Portland—the largest metropolitan area in Maine with the only law school—they don’t want to leave, they get used to the lifestyle. They think all the clients are in Portland, but there’s a lot of legitimate activity taking place in the rest of the state as attorneys get older, and in some areas, we only have a few lawyers. And attorneys who stay in Portland right out of law school don’t necessarily get legal jobs.
The full story is here.

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