For the past seven years, I’ve blogged about the legal services crisis in rural America. Yet despite creative solutions and a plethora of new programs, demand for lawyers in rural parts remains acute.
Unfortunately, for the time being, pure tech solutions like online document providers aren’t likely to be effective. According to a recent Pew Research Report, many rural dwellers lack access to broadband and internet services. Only 78 percent of adults in rural areas use the internet compared to 90+ percent for rural and urban areas, and only a dismal 58 percent have broadband service at home. Apps won’t save the day either since only 65 percent of rural residents even have smartphones, compared to 78 and 83 percent in cities and suburbs.
Still, when there’s demand, there’s opportunity as Greg McCleery – owner of the fast-growing McCleery firm in rural Ohio discovered. According to this profile, the McCleery Law Firm launched around 2016, and grew from a solo practice to a four-person firm with plans to bring two more attorneys on board. Although the McCleery firm leverages technology and has a website, it also has a physical location in a rural community, making it accessible to clients.
All too often, we’ve started to view access to justice and technology as synonymous. The crisis in rural legal services and the success of firms like McCleery Law suggest that tech is only part of the equation. The rest is up to us.