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Country Lawyer 2.0 – Intro

0919-MN-Rural-Map

Veteran small-town attorneys talk about their practices, their communities, their profession—and the ways they are changing

Consider this: Strictly by the numbers, most Minnesotans have never even met a small-town lawyer. Yet nearly everyone can conjure a mental picture of one, gleaned from countless reference points in literature and popular culture.  To a considerable extent, they are still what people think of when they think of the legal profession. They’re the problem solvers in their towns, the dispute settlers, founts of institutional memory and practical wisdom.

It’s a tidy picture and a flattering one, as far as it goes, but there is a lot about rural and small-town legal practice that it misses. This spring and summer, Bench & Bar editor Steve Perry interviewed 11 greater Minnesota lawyers at length about their work. And it probably shouldn’t surprise anyone to learn that small-town lawyers are experiencing many of the same dislocations as their metro counterparts—changing client expectations, a shift toward more focused niche practices, struggles to integrate technology in ways that actually benefit their practices and their clients, concerns about isolation and emotional health and professional civility.  

As a number of voices attest in the oral histories that follow, many areas in Minnesota face the additional problem of lawyer shortages. But their stories also reveal a setting rich with opportunities for younger lawyers capable of spotting good long-term investments of their time and talent.   

PART 1: Changing Practices

PART 2: Changing Communities

PART 3: Changing Technology

PART 4: Changing Profession