New Inductee into "Passed the Bar - Hung a Shingle" N. Bob Pesall
Although, Attorney Pesall states he is just a little outside the window of eighteen months, when you read his story you will understand it was okay because he relocated back home to a small town in South Dakota. His story is interesting for all those who want to go back home to a small town and make the decision to be a generalist to service the community versus a specific area of law. Several months ago I wrote a post called Going Solo in a Small Town on the mindset of the small town lawyer and now Attorney Pesall is letting everyone see first hand how and why the decision was made and how he has faced the challenges.
I've been a fan of your blog since its inception, and a solo practitioner for six months. I am slightly outside the 18 month window for the Passed the Bar - Hung A Shingle club, but I hope you'll consider me anyway.
A native of South Dakota, I graduated from the University of South Dakota School of Law in may of 2004. My wife (of four years now ) was a classmate of mine. We got married in law school, and upon graduation we were both hired by an old and very respected law firm in western North Dakota. This firm had about eleven lawyers in total, and a practice that stretched out over several states. My wife and I sat for the North Dakota Bar exam in 2004, and the South Dakota bar exam in 2005. I learned a lot during my short stay in western North Dakota, both about the practice of law and about life in general. But I stayed a South Dakotan at heart. In the end, there were three factors that made us decide it was time to move back home. First, distance was a problem. Our family and friends all lived seven hours away. Second, fitting in was a problem. When you move to a new town, you lack the common frame of reference held by everyone who grew up there. This makes it hard to communicate, and hard to really understand your clients' needs. Finally, my wife did not like practicing law in the courtroom, and we both wanted to try something new.
In September, 2006, opportunity knocked. A bank in Sioux Falls, South Dakota offered my wife a position as associate counsel. It was close to our family and friends, and it came with health insurance. We bought Foonberg, did some market research, and we came up with a plan. The town of Flandreau, South Dakota was only 40 miles away from Sioux Falls. It was under-lawyered, and I had family there going back six generations. We bought a house exactly half-way between the two cities, and I put up my shingle. My office is about two blocks away from the house where my great-great-great grandparents lived.
These days, I do quite a bit of court-appointed criminal defense work. I am also building a practice in real estate, estate planning, and election law. But the fact is, I work in a small town. Flandreau has a population of about 2,400 people and true specialization is unrealistic. Small towns need generalist lawyers. If a case beyond my abilities comes in the door, I refer it to my specialist friends in the big city. In turn, they refer me cases which are outside their specialities. I like it this way. I get variety. I get interesting clients. I get the satisfaction of helping keep the town on the map for another generation. And I don't get in over my head.
Going solo was probably the best decision I could have made. (The seond best decision I ever made was to buy doughnuts for everyone in the Clerk of the Court's office on my first day. If the Clerk likes you, life gets a whole lot easier.)
N. Bob Peasall, Attorney at Law
(605) 573-0274/Fax (605) 573-0275
809 West Pipestone Ave. Ste. 11
PO BOX 23
Flandreau, SD 57028