By Brooke Faulkner • May 24, 2017•Careers, Other Career Issues
If you’ve ever seen Hollywood’s version of females in the legal field, you’d be convinced that we were all small town gals who fulfilled our dreams of moving to the big city by obtaining our law degrees. Of course, that’s not always the case. Sure, plenty of us left our hometowns for bigger and better things, and that might have been due to the fact that rural lawyers face certain stigmas: first, you won’t make much money in a small town, and second, you’ll need to maintain a general practice if you want to succeed.
The idea that specialty lawyers can’t thrive in rural areas needs to be put to rest. Obviously, there are certain specialties that are meant for the hustle and bustle of urban life. Inland farm towns aren’t situated next to bustling ports that need lawyers who specialize in international trade, and most rural areas don’t house large corporations that need corporate legal aids. Not every small town does big business, but they all have one thing in common with every urban area in the U.S.: people. There may be less of them, but they are still people, and they still need legal representation in many aspects of their lives.
There are plenty of legal specialties that are not only needed, but are thriving in small towns all across America. If you’re a little fish longing to go back to your little pond, or even an urban native that wants a quieter lifestyle, these legal specialties will serve you well in any of the country’s lesser-known reaches:
Real Estate Law
No matter where you live, real estate law has always been regarded as one of the most sound specialties. While plenty of people own their homes in urban areas, the majority of them are often renting. This is a huge contrast to America’s smaller towns, where most of the residents actually own their property. When so many landowners live side-by-side, issues are bound to arise. There will always be that tiff over whose livestock is encroaching on whose vegetation, or maybe that neighbor’s new fence is three feet into someone’s property. Homeowners are also continually improving their properties, which means that they’ll need to obtain permits for new structures or digging rights. Not all of these issues will end up in court, but they will all end better if those involved have access to legal professionals who specialize in real estate law.
In addition to this, tenants will always have trouble with their landlords, and landlords will always have trouble with their tenants, no matter the size of the town. There’s also the issue of the baby boomer/millennial real estate paradox: according to Marylhurst University, generational shifts in buyers are changing the current market. Older generations are retiring and moving to different locales, and millennials are ready to buy their first homes, which means that lots of homes are going to be trading hands all across America. Lawyers will be needed especially in rural areas, where older, often single-occupancy homes will have to pass through more legal red tape before they can even hit the market.
There are more families in rural areas (per capita,) but it’s also been noted that families in rural areas tend to have more children, and that there’s a higher percentage of multiple-generation households. According to the American Psychological Association, anywhere from 40 to 50 percent of couples divorce, and this is spread evenly among rural and urban areas. Divorce proceedings and custody arrangements will always need lawyers who specialize in family law, and the inordinate percentage of families in smaller towns means this will always be a safe practice area for the rural reaches of our country.
On top of this, rural family lawyers often specialize in trusts and estates as well. This includes things like wills and advanced directives, which are more common in areas where multiple generations live in the same homes or the same cities more often. Bradley University says that advanced directives give elderly individuals more freedom in choice of care and more options to stay at home with or near their loved ones, but these types of things all require specialty lawyers who can serve those needs. Most multiple-generation households will opt for in-home care over nursing facilities in order to keep their family members closer for longer, which means that a family law practice will be valued and revered in the hearts small towns and down the country backroads.
Criminal defense attorneys are another specialty that is always in dire need in every corner of the globe. In America, this dire need extends more into the rural areas than the urban ones. According to The University of Cincinnati, “most adolescents break the law—indeed, abstaining from involvement in at least petty delinquencies might be considered ‘deviant’...” and this is especially true of small towns where the area's youth don’t have as many recreational opportunities as those in big cities.
But you won’t just be defending kids who get into a bit of trouble drinking or destroying property. While theft and burglary are less common in smaller towns, The Rural Health Information Hub actually found that substance abuse is almost as common in non-metropolitan areas as it is in large metropolises. This includes alcohol and illicit drug use. It’s also been found that rural areas have a harder time combatting these substance abuse issues, which means criminal defense lawyers are needed to advocate for treatment and rehabilitation in areas where facilities might be sparse.
No matter where you go in this great country of ours, well-versed female lawyers are needed to serve our people. While choosing a specialty can be a daunting task, don’t buy into the notion that small-town lawyers can’t hone a specific area of practice and do well at it. All three of these areas will serve you well in any town in America, no matter the ratio of livestock to people.