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Unemployed? Go Midwest, Young Man. Go Midwest

By William Peacock, Esq. | Last updated on

Horace Greeley reportedly said, "Go West, young man, go West. There is health in the country, and room away from our crowds of idlers and imbeciles." That was 1883.

In 2013, recent law graduates would be wise to heed his advice, although it should be noted that "West," in 1883, was the Midwest. It's also still the place to look, as there is still opportunity in the "flyover" states.

About forty-five percent of recent law grads are unemployed or underemployed. Meanwhile, the rural parts of the Midwest are facing a dramatic shortage of qualified attorneys. The shortage is so bad that they'll pay you to open up a practice, reports The New York Times.

Pay you? Subsidies? Communism be damned, that sounds wonderful, doesn't it?

South Dakota is the first state in the Union to pass such a law for attorneys. It provides a $12,000 annual subsidy in exchange for a five year commitment to start your own full-time practice in a county with less than 10,000 residents.

Unemployment? Or live in Deliverance?

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We kid. The Times brings the story of an attorney, Frederic Cozad, 86, who is retiring from practice in Bennett County, SD. Once he's gone, there will be no attorneys within 120 miles.

Contrary to popular opinion of our profession, that's a bad thing. Prosecutors and defense attorneys have to be bussed in. Residents have to drive hours to see an an attorney about routine matters, such as estate planning, deeds, and contracts.

Could you fill the void? It's a terrifying thought to become a jack-of-all-trades straight out of school, isn't it? You'll have to learn nearly every field of law, learn how to run a business, and find support staff -- all while you are still fresh out of school. Mentors? You can't have mentors when there aren't any lawyers.

Then again, you can't easily be sued for malpractice when there aren't any lawyers. You'd also have a local monopoly, not only in your tiny county, but probably for surrounding counties as well. You don't need hundreds of tomes of case law. So long as there is Internet access (there is - and it's broadband!), you could do it. And heck, $12,000 is probably enough to cover the cost of living out there, assuming you can find a place to live (the Times article mentions a lack of rental property).

Though we recently advised that grads move to California because homelessness is far less oppressive when one doesn't have to deal with snow, we may now have to backtrack and advise you to consider South Dakota. Not only does SD have the easiest bar exam in the country, but your best case scenario in an urban area is likely long-term unemployment, followed by a $45,000 gig for a shady sole practitioner, followed by burnout and bankruptcy due to the high cost of living.

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