Starting a Small Municipality Legal Practice

Brittany L. Hatting and Stephanie Dassinger
Become a familiar face in the community by patronizing local businesses, joining service organizations, and supporting local school districts.

Become a familiar face in the community by patronizing local businesses, joining service organizations, and supporting local school districts.

John Fedele via GettyImages

For more in-depth information on this topic, watch the ABA Career Center Career Choice webinar on local government attorneys. The speakers discuss what it’s like to work in local government and how they broke into their respective positions, the pros and cons, and what a typical day in their practice entails. Note: This is not for CLE. The recorded program and materials are exclusively for ABA members.

In the rural communities where we practice, write-in candidates with fewer than five votes regularly win elections for the city council or the local park board. Often, residents of a small community each feel duty-bound to “take their turn” being mayor or on the city council. Many cities do not have many (or any) full-time staff and do not have an attorney that they can call for advice. Despite their size, these communities still are required to navigate a diverse and complicated set of legal matters, just as any larger community would. In the past, many of these communities were served by local, “main street” attorneys. With the number of attorneys practicing in rural areas dwindling, municipalities and other small political subdivisions often do not have or know of a competent attorney who they can call for advice. Given changing technology and client expectations, young attorneys interested in municipal law have a unique opportunity at this juncture to create lasting and symbiotic relationships with small political subdivisions that will provide the basis for a thriving legal practice.

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