Rural Practice Participation

Rural Practice Committee

Why You Should Participate

In the process of designing a program, the Rural Practice Committee heard comments from numerous members who had hired an associate, and all were aware of associates who had been hired by attorneys in smaller communities. All had heard or experienced the horror stories from colleagues about hiring one, two or even three associates, investing $40,000 to $60,000 and a couple of years of training in each, and then having them leave about the time they could begin bringing revenue into the firm. To add insult to injury, the associates often left "toxic” files for the lawyer to clean up.  

The ISBA Rural Practice summer clerkship program eliminates most of these problems. Here’s why:

The commitment is for the summer only, with the number of weeks determined by mutual agreement between the attorney and the student. At the end, the attorney and student part ways. If the match was a good one and the student was a 1L, there is an opportunity to have him or her come back the next summer. There’s also the possibility the student may continue providing some services to the attorney during the school year.  

If a 2L and the chemistry between the attorney, student and office staff is good, the student would be a high-priority hire as an associate after graduation the following year. As an associate, the student would already know the office procedures and many of the firm’s clients. The clients would have met the student and, hopefully, felt comfortable with him or her. The required time to train the student would be lower. And, the student would be familiar with the community, thus more likely to stay.

Hiring a summer clerk gives you an opportunity to evaluate the student without the risks and costs of hiring him or her in a permanent relationship as would be the case with an associate. The investment is a fraction of that made in an associate, and part of the investment can be recouped by billing some of the clerk’s time.

As attorney Earl Hill from Britt explains: “No question there’s a cost, but it’s very minimal as far as I’m concerned.”