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Small Town Lawyering Gets A Boost From the Iowa Bar

May 30th, 2012

Looking for a slower pace than a big-city law firm? Opportunities are there, for lawyers willing to move to a small town and become a generalist.

The money isn’t anywhere near what a major firm will pay, but, as the  Iowa State Bar Association found, there is a need for lawyers in rural areas. It’s rural practice committee looked at divorce filings in just one rural county and found that in three decades the number handled by local attorneys was cut in half.

“We want to keep people in small towns,” Phillip Garland told the National Law Journal. Co-chair of the rural practice committee, he said many Iowans from small towns must travel to larger cities for legal services. “We want legal services to be accessible, and lawyers do a lot for the community.”

Any reader of John Grisham novels will recognize the challenge of small town lawyering. Your clients are your neighbors, the problems they bring are typically not the kind that break new ground or will ever reach even a state Supreme Court. And, especially for newly minted lawyers, the money may not even be enough to cover the student loan debt.

Lawyers who do give it a try, often leave. “One of the big reasons they leave is money and their student debt,” Garland said.

That hasn’t stopped the Iowa Bar from promoting a small-town clerkship program that this summer will place seven students from state law schools in rural offices.

Paralegals and legal support staff may find the opportunities more enticing. A somewhat dated discussion on has legal support professionals bemoaning the layoffs, budget cuts, salary cuts, and long hours of demanding work at the big firms.

Writes KMM in Delaware:

Having worked in large and small (4-15 attorneys)- if you find a small firm that has all the benefits, including a matching saving plan- I would work there anytime over the “prestige name” of a large firm….REASON- over all, it is easier to function in small firm due to the size and rules- and I myself, never had overtime- always straight hours- period- as a Paralegal.



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