Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Rural Oklahoma Lawyers Tout Big Possibilities in Small Towns

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Rural Oklahoma Lawyers Tout Big Possibilities in Small Towns

Article excerpt

Three recent deaths have left District Court Judge Michael D. DeBerry with only two attorneys serving one of the areas he covers - and both surviving practitioners are 65 years old or older.

"We need lawyers in southeastern Oklahoma," said DeBerry, who serves McCurtain, Choctaw and Pushmataha counties. "Antlers is dying, and Hugo is dying. We really need lawyers."

Like many states, Oklahoma faces a growing shortage of legal help in its rural communities, with more needs expected as aging lawyers retire or pass on. While estimating demand remains difficult, with many attorneys' careers stretching past traditional retirement age, the Oklahoma Bar Association Law School Committee touted the broad rural opportunities to 40 University of Tulsa students Friday.

"There are attorneys out there who like Bruce are covered with work, because there's only three or four attorneys in town, and they have been there forever," said Dru Tate, a 2010 TU law school grad who works at Bruce Coker and Associates of Okemah. "They don't get a lot of students fresh out of law school."

Many attorneys spoke warmly of the advantages rural markets provide.

"For me, it's the quality of life," said 2012 TU law school graduate Ryan Olsen, who started with Vinita's Logan and Lowry as an intern and never left.

An avid hunter and fisher, he said he appreciates that firm's low- key atmosphere and one-minute commute from his rural home.

"You just never know what's going to walk in the door," he said of his clients' needs, which range from family and criminal law to coal-mining legislation and health care. "I've really enjoyed the variety of things I do every day."

Several attorneys said the rural workload remains quite steady, with a wide variety of cases readily available.

"We can do almost anything you want to do, other than securities, mergers and acquisitions," said David Butler, a member of the Enid firm Mitchell and DeClerck.

Marion Fry, a 1999 TU graduate, appreciated his opportunities, both as assistant district attorney in LeFlore County and a Choctaw Nation Court of Appeals judge.

"It's just like being in a big town," he said of his Poteau posts. …

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