This job market demands that lawyers need to be more creative in order to find meaningful employment that utilizes their hard-earned degree. For some lawyers, this means a lengthy job search that may ultimately end in a career outside the legal field. For others, it may mean that they choose to relocate outside of the city where they graduated from. In fact, many lawyers are choosing to relocate to rural America to places like North Dakota, Mississippi, or Kansas.
There are lots of reasons why a lawyer may scoff at such a drastic move. But, when digging deeper, this is becomes a strong contender for many in the context of the tough job market and inevitable lateral movement from their first legal job within a few years. Specifically, here are three reasons why lawyers should seriously considering making this move:
- Increasing Demand Creating Opportunity for Lawyers
According to the New York Times, about 20% of America’s population lives in rural areas, however; only 2% of small law practices are in those areas. The consequences of these numbers include:
- Justice Gap. The lack of legal representation for rural Americans has created a “justice gap” between the rural and urban parts of this country. For example, this gap has grown so wide that there is not a single lawyer in 12 counties in Nebraska. Similar stats can be found in the Dakotas, Kansas, Missouri, and Minnesota.
- Retirement. Many lawyers in rural America are retiring without a lawyer to take their place. This forces their former clients to drive hundreds of miles for legal assistance. Many clients will choose to not obtain counsel or not pursue potential class actions simply because of this inconvenience.
- Incentives. Some states have taken meaningful steps to attract legal talent. For example, South Dakota has enacted the Rural Attorney Recruitment Program that offers an incentive payment for the first five years of practice (about 90% of USD’s law school in state tuition). Other states, such as Nebraska and North Dakota are considering or testing similar programs.
- Immediate Opportunity for Real Practice Experience
- Competitive Advantage. As the sole lawyer in town (or even county) you will get immediate experience advising clients and trying cases. These hands-on skills and real opportunity are things that your competitors who stayed in the city can only dream about. Sometimes, the only way to become a contender for that dream job is to put yourself out of the market for a little while.
- Transferable Practical Experience. The disparity in representation between rural and urban Americans means that most lawyers in small towns are generalists. Few practice what they think is the dream after they graduate. Instead, most lawyers try several different practice areas and roles before finding the right fit for them. A broad background boosts the future marketability of your legal career for the long term.
- Business Savvy. The business of the practice of law can be challenging and few graduate with any knowledge of what this actually means. Practicing in a small town requires relationship building, business development, marketing, and acquiring all of those business skills that are not taught in law school. You will not get the same depth of expertise in these areas if you stay in the city or take a job outside of the legal field.
- Balancing Expectations with Experience
The grass is not always greener. The reality of small town living also means that there are some downsides to choosing to move outside of the city. These lifestyle matters must be carefully balanced against your personal desire to put that title of “Esq.” to work. For example, this can include:
- Salary. Lawyers in rural areas make on average less than their city counterparts. For some, this lower salary is still better than no paycheck in the competitive job markets of most cities. Fortunately, the lower cost of living in rural America will help offset the lower starting wage.
- Social Life. Networking, dating, major league sporting events or hot concerts are something that just are not the same in a small town. Life in a rural area is simply different. Appreciating that you will likely be the youngest (if not only) lawyer (or even person under 40) in town goes a long way to helping you formulate a plan on how you will adapt to the culture.
- No Traffic. Say goodbye to rush hour and bumper-to-bumper traffic. Not only will living in rural America help you appreciate your car more, you may also decide to expand your available modes of transportation. Imagine riding a horse or a boat to your next deposition! In fact, some lawyers have decided to even learn to fly in order to reach the most remote areas of the country.
Living and practicing law in rural America certainly has its advantages. But, the decision to move to the country is not a choice to be made lightly—particularly at the beginning of your career. Evaluate all options and seriously take stock of what you want out of your law license and your personal life. If relocation is for you, then actively begin your search across all areas. Many of the rural opportunities are not posted in the more traditional ways that you may be accustomed to in the city. Instead, the corporations or firms in those areas may rely heavily on referrals or staffing agencies to help fill the need. Connect with companies like Tower Legal Solutions to best understand your options and opportunities outside the metro area.
By: Jacob Crawford
ABOUT TOWER AND THE AUTHOR
TOWER LEGAL SOLUTIONS AND TOWER CONSULTING SERVICES HAVE SPECIALIZED KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERTISE THAT HAS PROVE TO HELP LAW FIRMS AND CORPORATIONS IDENTIFY AND HIRE HIGHLY SKILLED CANDIDATES. TOWER HAS A NATIONAL PRESENCE WITH OFFICES IN NEW YORK, WASHINGTON, D.C., CHARLOTTE, DALLAS, MINNEAPOLIS AND LOS ANGELES. JACOB IS A STUDENT AT WILLIAM MITCHELL COLLEGE OF LAW AND EXPECTED TO GRADUATE MAY OF 2016. HE CURRENTLY IS AN EXTERN AT THE MINNEAPOLIS OFFICE OF TOWER.
Learn more about Tower Legal Solutions: www.towerls.com