Small Town Lawyer

When I played football all through my youth one of my coaches was also the town attorney. He had a little office in the middle of town, and worked by himself, without so much as a secretary.

On my way to my brother’s house to borrow a sawsall I recently passed by his office and decided to stop in to say hello. He was in there, casually dressed, shuffling some papers. He was standing in front of a photo of the local iconic Mount Monadnock that he climbs just about every day, year round. We hadn’t seen each other in over ten years so he didn’t recognize me, but he definitely remembered me when I re-introduced myself. I could tell because he did that thing with his face that people do when they go from confusion and searching their memory to a knowing grin as everything comes back to them.

He had no idea what I’d been up to so I told him I was just about to graduate from law school.

His focus is mostly on criminal defense work, with a little dabbling in those routine things a small town lawyer ought to know like real estate, wills and small business issues. He asked about my plans after graduation. I told him about my real estate adventures and how I was up in the air on whether I wanted to practice on a limited, part-time basis, or not at all (I’m heavily leaning towards ‘not at all’). There are only about three key areas I’m really interested in practicing as a solo; criminal defense, police misconduct and asset protection.

There are a few attorneys in Boston making a living suing the police department, but it doesn’t really happen much out in the small towns of New England. Mostly, I think, because they can be hard cases to win and there isn’t much money to be made even if you do. But it does serve as an important check on the police. And with the greater ubiquity of recording devices there are more and more opportunities to get bad cops off the street and make room for cops who actually take their responsibilities seriously.

A family friend, a dentist who also owns a commercial building just up the street from my old coach’s office has offered to rent me an office space in his building, which also houses the town police department, for $100/month. I had previously figured if I did have a go at practicing law it would just be out of a home office. But for $100/month, even if I only actually used the space once a month, just the exposure of having a sign out on main street right outside the police department would be worthwhile.

I could refer stuff I’m not interested in out to other attorneys, and when something intriguing catches my eye, take on a client as I see fit.

So I told my old coach he may see my sign go up sometime in the next year or so. He said, “I hope so!” And offered his future assistance. Though, in all likely-hood, the option to not work at all will be too tempting to pass up.

 

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6 Comments

  1. Posted April 24, 2012 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

    1st the law school. then the night job. Then mvong into what was to be a rental house. Now a law office.

    slip slidin’ away.

    yer really gonna have to rename this blog. :)

  2. Posted April 25, 2012 at 2:47 am | Permalink

    @jcollinsnh

    Just wait for my next post where I update you guys on my new $180k/year corporate law gig that requires 6 1/2 day work weeks and monthly international travel. ;-)

  3. et
    Posted April 26, 2012 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

    It seems like this would be a great way to give back to your community while still maintaining your freedom.
    Why not do it?

  4. Posted April 28, 2012 at 12:41 am | Permalink

    @et

    I agree. I think there are a lot of positive things that could come from it.

    The nice thing is, there’s no need to make a decision today. If at any point, for the rest of my life, I decide this is something I want to do, all I have to do is dust off the law books and hang up a sign.

    Maybe after a year or two of catching my breath there will be some egregious injustice that motivates me to take action.

  5. Russell
    Posted April 29, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    If you’re really living so simply you have a huge opportunity as a lawyer. You can be a true low-end solo.

    I’m a solo practitioner who handles a high-volume with two paralegals. For most of my cases I make $ 1000 and put in about 5 hours per case. If you wanted to, you could do 20 cases, 50 cases or 250 (like me) a year.

    The only question is where do you get the clients? It’s very easy if you have a good website title like http://www.yourhometownlawyer.com and some good links. For example, lackingambition.com has a google page rank of 2 so that’s a good incoming link.

    Anyways, I know what it’s like to not want to practice law but end up making a good, fun living doing it. If you want some tips feel free to get in touch with me.

  6. Posted April 30, 2012 at 12:29 am | Permalink

    @russell

    Thanks for sharing those numbers. It is tempting, isn’t it? $20k/year for 100, mostly flexible, hours of work is hard to complain about.