An article in the June 22 Wall Street Journal highlighted the “opportunity-meets-preparedness” situation where unemployed urban lawyers are finding that there are many small towns without enough lawyers. Yes, you read that correctly. Amid all the blustering about having “too many lawyers” there are actually communities that want more.
It is similar to the medical services imbalance, where there are too many general practitioners in some urban areas but small towns often have few or none. Life in a smaller town can be fantastic for those who enjoy less traffic and pollution and more familiar faces when they shop, drive and go out to eat. For those who crave the faster pace and pulse of a larger area, however, the lower cost of living typically is not enough to offset the lack of entertainment options. Unlike the medical profession, there are few student loan relief programs that encourage lawyers to live in less-populated areas beyond those that generally apply to public and nonprofit legal services work.
But who says you have to be just one or the other, urban or rural? There is a big, important difference between the medical and legal professions: other than a few meetings and court appearances, lawyers do not have to examine their clients or see them physically to deliver high-quality services. Rather than pack up and move right away, try temporary or part-time operations to get a feel for the legal services that your targeted smaller communities are looking for.
Do you plan to offer simple estate planning services on a limited scope basis or help people with orders in uncontested family law matters? Use some of the suggestions* in Start and Grow Your Limited Scope Practice: How to Make Money Serving the “Do It Yourself” Client to generate interest and a list of prospective clients in the area. Then, much like the original Methodist preachers of the 1800s and many rural judges today, circuit ride to stop in each community often enough to address that targeted need, get some face time with clients and prospective clients, hold a mass execution (of documents, not people) session, or just do a community service information session. After that, you can keep the client reasonably informed via mail, fax, email, phone, video chat or other appropriate means.
If the business picks up, consider renting space for a more permanent presence and increasing your trips to that “branch office” as the work requires. If it doesn’t, you have not wasted money that you need to allocate to marketing and other locations.
* Because some of those suggestions are not found anywhere else, they are not posted here. Get your copy of the eBook today and gain that advantage over others who have not yet done so. See ordering info at the right for PDF versions and links to Amazon for the Kindle version.