Best Cities for Small Law Firms to Thrive

Whether you’ve recently graduated law school or are an experienced attorney branching out on your own, setting up shop in a smaller city could boost your odds of success in today’s competitive market.

As entrepreneur Shaan Patel puts it, one of the best ways to achieve entrepreneurial success is to “be a big fish in a small pond.” In other words, it’s far better to enter a small market with less competition than it is to enter a large market swarming with competitors.

This advice is especially true for lawyers embarking on a solo or small firm career. In a large city, you’re surrounded by law firms big and small. While the market may be more extensive in a big city, that does not always lead to greater revenue if you are dealing with cutthroat competition.

Patel writes:

“Doctors and lawyers in smaller cities often earn higher salaries and gain greater recognition than their counterparts in larger cities. With fewer options to the population in small cities, highly skilled professionals can act as monopolists. I remember having a conversation with a very wealthy lawyer in Las Vegas. He mentioned that it was much easier for him to find success in Las Vegas than it was for him to have success in Washington DC where lawyers are a dime a dozen.”

So how can you apply this advice to where to base your practice?

Set up shop in a small town or city, Patel says. Also known as “second cities,” these smaller towns offer less competition and often a significantly lower cost of living than a big city. Marketing is also less expensive, allowing you to get more bang for your buck when it comes to online ads, local sponsorships, radio advertisements, and other forms of law firm marketing. As you succeed and make a name for yourself in your town, you can consider expanding to a larger city later on if that appeals to you.

To compile its list of the best small cities for law school graduates, GoodCall evaluated more than 500 U.S. towns on average lawyer salary, a housing affordability index, area amenities, and employment attractiveness rank (“a combination of law job density, availability, and competition”). Their top 10 small U.S. cities for law school grads are:

  1. Washington, North Carolina
  2. Carlsbad-Artesia, New Mexico
  3. Thomaston, Georgia
  4. Roswell, New Mexico
  5. Laconia, New Hampshire
  6. Shelby, North Carolina
  7. Barre, Vermont
  8. Canton, Illinois
  9. Fairbanks, Alaska
  10. Cheyenne, Wyoming

Choosing a small city or town for your solo or small firm practice could be the difference between a so-so business and one that thrives.

Did you move to a “second city” to start your solo or small firm practice? How did you choose your city, and how did it wind up? Let us know in the comments!

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