It was only a few years ago that the Law School Cartel mocked struggling law graduates for their inability to find paying jobs. The problem, as it was stated, was that these graduates may need to give up their latte-sipping, loft-living, gentrified-urban lifestyles in order to get some experience and compensation. Tons and tons of Boomers are retiring, and no-one is taking their places. Hey, the Joads had to go West, so you might have to also, snowflake:
When attorney Phil Garland first hung his shingle in Garner, Iowa, there were five lawyers in town. Over 40 years later, that number hasn’t changed. What has changed, though, is those lawyers’ ages.
“We’ve got three guys in their 60s,” says Garland, who is 73.
Garland is the only one who has hired a younger associate to take over when he retires. That means in a few years, the town and its 3,000 residents could be down to just one attorney to handle everything from real estate transactions and probate work to juvenile issues and criminal cases.
And Garner isn’t the only small town facing that problem. Adams County, Iowa, for instance, boasts only one attorney for its 3,686 residents, while Ringgold County, with 5,034 residents, is home to three, according to the Iowa Bar Association.
Look at all that opportunity, and this is just a small sample!
That dearth of legal help is expected to worsen as baby-boomer attorneys who set up shop in America’s small towns 40 or 50 years ago retire and younger attorneys choose to congregate in cities rather than fill the gap.
“It’s a hard sell to get my students to want to go to Fresno and practice, but it would be a really hard sell to get my students to go and hang out a shingle in a place like Chowchilla,” Pruitt says, referring to a small town 250 miles north of Los Angeles.
Yep! Get over yourselves, Millennials, you're the problem, not the solution. The world is your oyster, if you deign to live outside silicon valley, that is. Back to Iowa:
So Garland helped start the Rural Practice Program, one of several initiatives sprouting up with the aim of introducing new attorneys to the possibility of rural practice. The program organizes meet-and-greets between law students and rural lawyers to set up clerkships for those students in rural areas.
The hope is that some of those older lawyers will hire their clerks as associates after graduation, ensuring that when the older lawyers retire, younger lawyers will be there to pick up the baton.
OK, so what is the catch...?
“When I hired my associate, Carrie, I told her the business is yours when I’m done,” Garland says, promising her that he wouldn’t expect her to “buy out” the practice from him when he retires.
Garland says newly minted attorneys can no longer afford that “buy-out” because of the massive debt they are graduating with. Rodriguez “told me flat out that she’s got a lot of student debt … she said if you’d have had a buy-out I’m sure I wouldn’t have come,” Garland remembers.
“I try to encourage all my contemporaries” to forgo that money, he says. “We had the benefit of a cheap education, these kids today don’t have it.”
That debt is the biggest barrier to luring lawyers to the heartland, according to Pruitt and Garland, making the prospect of a regular salary from an established city firm far more attractive than the vicissitudes of solo practice or the cost of buying into a small firm in a town like Garner.
“Law school debt is just the 600-pound gorilla right now and it’s really constraining students’ choices,” says Pruitt. [emphasis added]
Kudos to Garland and other Boomers like him, and I seriously mean that. Not only is he taking (self-sacrificing) steps to make a career happen for others and serve his community at the same time, he recognizes the fundamental truth that the Law School Cartel has dishonestly claimed to have been unable to understand - it's the debt, stupid. Young graduates are not coming because they are "too good" for rural practice, it's because THEY CAN'T AFFORD TO, unless someone is willing to offer a helping hand.
But, you can't expect a bunch of bubble-living deans, administrators and profs to understand this. You can, however, expect them to deflect blame and throw the victim under the bus at every opportunity.
0Ls, we here at OTLSS can't say how widespread this phenomenon is, but it is encouraging that actual, work-for-a-living practitioners "get it" and are trying to do something about it. We still argue that there are too many graduates for too few jobs, rural or not, but perhaps with some planning and a little luck (aka the Garlands of the world) there may be snippets of opportunity. Don't bet the farm on this, however, as the Cartel will say anything about jobs and statistics, as has already been demonstrated. And the debt is toxic and constraining, make no mistake, otherwise there would have already been a rural Renaissance of legal plenty. Do your research before taking the plunge.