A quiet secluded life in the country, with the possibility of being useful to people to whom it is easy to do good, and who are not accustomed to have it done to them; then work which one hopes may be of some use; then rest, nature, books, music, love for one’s neighbor—such is my idea of happiness. – Tolstoy
After living in Calgary for several years, my Dad opened his own law firm in a small farming community. He had just finished articling, had a wife and two children, and no money. It was one of the best things that ever happened to us.
I am not a rural lawyer (yet), but I have developed a great deal of experience working in our family law office, running my own registry business, and being involved in our community. I have also had opportunities to speak with a variety of lawyers, about their professional experiences.
Deciding where to practice law should be an informed choice. By distilling my perspective into one day, I aim to share a picture of what practicing in a rural community could look like. Additionally, I hope to engage considerations of entrepreneurship and work-life balance.
In the morning, I contemplated what to show my classmates about a rural lifestyle. While enjoying my coffee, I watched a beautiful sunrise and four moose in our field. I thought, “This is already going to be good”.
My drive to the office did not involve waking up early to avoid traffic, and only took ten minutes. Next year, I will be able to drive my son to school, because my work day begins around the same time. Although that means, he will argue with me to listen to Johnny Cash in the car.
Having my own business in a small community, and being close to my son’s school, will help me balance a busy career with being an involved parent. I will have the flexibility to meet with his teachers, coach his sports teams, and be home for dinner.
One drawback of small communities is that they tend to lack anonymity. For me, this was a positive. Having a more public life pushed me out of my comfort zone, and taught me to be an open, honest, and accountable person. Qualities which I hope to instill in my son.
At the office we have transparent fees, which are mostly flat rate and quoted directly from a lawyer. We often provide free consultations and notarizing, which has brought us a lot of repeat business and loyal clients.
Our clients have personable relationships with us. We care about the people in our community, and we are respected and appreciated by them. It is important for us to be involved in the community, in order to understand their particular needs.
We provide a variety of legal services, including Family, Wills and Estates, Secured Transactions, Real Estate, Corporate, and Litigation. Sometimes, in a rural setting, these regular transactions take on a unique form. For example, instead of registering a lien on someone’s car, it may be on a tractor or the quota of “eggs from chickens”.
Fridays are busy Real Estate days. One of the local bank managers knows this, and tries to help our Paralegals by hand delivering documents or drafts we need. We also have collegial relationships with legal staff in the surrounding communities. It’s nice to have such friendly interactions with other law offices and banks, because so much of our work is interconnected.
In the afternoon, we drove to court in Calgary on an interesting estate matter. We usually travel to court in Didsbury, Airdrie, Red Deer, Calgary, and sometimes Edmonton.
Even though we serve a large rural area, we are still only about 50km away from the Calgary Courts Centre. The travel time is significant enough that we think twice about bringing small issues to court, but not enough to dissuade us from going when needed, or from catching the Flames games.
I know of many sole practitioners in rural communities who would like to retire, and pass their thriving businesses on to young lawyers. I hope my story will inspire some students to inquire further into the merits of business ownership and rural law.