Your rural job search will be overwhelming if you don’t focus your efforts. In prior posts, I’ve discussed how geographically narrowing down your job search can help you focus your energy on networking in the area and demonstrating a commitment to staying in the area. So, how do you go about narrowing down a geographic area, other than just putting up a map on the wall and throwing darts?
1. Start with a general geographic area
You don’t need to start out by knowing exactly what county you want to practice in. That would be a little too narrow to start out with. But, most people have an idea of the state or, at least, region of the country they want to live in. Now, think about an area of that state that appeals to you. Or, think about a regional center that appeals to you and look at any rural areas within driving distance.
2. Consider places that you already have connections
Did you spend your summers with your grandparents? Is your spouse from a small town? These are geographic areas you have already connections. Find out if these places have a need for your services. You already have a head start on a network that can either lead to a job opportunity or a client base.
3. Where will you fit in?
This is an important factor in finding the right place to practice. Obviously, not all rural areas are alike. Some have more conservative politics, some are more liberal. Some have an “old boys” network, some are ready for new blood. You need to get a good sense of what the area is like and whether you’d fit in. That doesn’t mean that you have to fit a mold, but you need to know whether you would enjoy living and working with a majority of the people in that area, or if you would spend your days feeling like you’re hitting your head against the wall.
4. Where will your skills be needed?
As these comments point out, not every rural area is begging for new lawyers. Do some research. How many lawyers are there now? How big of an area are they drawing their clients from? How close are they to retirement? And, if possible, do research on your potential client base. Would they prefer to work with an attorney because they are in town? Or are they bedroom community, where most people work, shop and find other services in the nearest regional center? If that community is saturated, move your search to a neighboring one within the geographic area.
By doing some research and giving some thought to where you want to practice, you can focus your energy on those areas that have a need for your services and that you’ll be happy living and practicing in.