Thinking of small-town practice?
A couple of years ago the Wall Street Journal published an article about an initiative on the part of certain Midwestern US law schools (two in Iowa, one in Nebraska) to encourage law students concerned about job prospects to consider small-town practice.
I’ve seen the same advice offered on this side of the border – not only to new lawyers, but also to lawyers at any point in their careers who may be questioning the “fit” between their temperament and goals and big-city legal work. With Ontario’s new premier, Kathleen Wynne, signalling a renewed focus on rural priorities by assuming responsibility for leadership of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs, the timing may be right for a move.
Practice in a solo or small firm (the norm in rural communities) is not for every lawyer. Small practice requires considerable self-reliance and a flair for the business side of law. (If you’re wondering if you have the mettle, try this self-assessment quiz we published in the first Student Edition of LAWPRO Magazine.)
If your proposed move means building a firm from the ground up, the practicePRO website offers a wealth of resources that can help. In particular, you may want to visit the New Lawyer Resources page, which includes links to a wide variety of practical tools to assist with budgeting, creating a business plan, creating retainers, and building a good lawyer/client relationship.
However, be aware that there may be opportunities available to you that don’t require starting from scratch. In the past several years, there has been a trend away from rural practice in Ontario. The average age of rural practitioners is fairly high, and in some cases, older lawyers with successful small-town practices struggle with retirement planning because of the challenge of finding competent and willing newcomers to step into their shoes. Willing to relocate out of the city? There may well be a small-town practice that would welcome your skills. If you’re REALLY lucky, you may also have access to a mentor. See our booklet on Managing a Mentoring Relationship for advice on making the most out of that opportunity.
Time for a drive out to the country?
This article is by Nora Rock, corporate writer/policy analyst at LAWPRO.