I have lived in Houston almost my entire life and have always considered myself an urbanite. My wife and I love the trappings of the city—musicals, museums, and dim sum, to name a few. But in June I moved to San Angelo, with a population of about 100,700, and you cannot convince me to go back.
In Houston, I had a difficult time finding a job, being the first lawyer in my family and not knowing anyone in the profession. In my experience, I found that most law firms were not in the market to hire a recent graduate. When I graduated from South Texas College of Law Houston, my grades were perfectly average. I suspect that I was screened out of most every entry-level job I applied for because of my undistinguished academic record.
The job application process was incredibly frustrating; I am not my GPA. I am thoughtful and charismatic. I have an eye for detail and an eidetic memory. My writing is clear, succinct, and persuasive. I turned my attention west.
I had read an article in the Texas Bar Journal describing the need for young lawyers to move to more rural parts of the state. I learned that less populous counties were struggling to keep up with demands for legal services, especially as more lawyers retired.
It is all true.
I received a call for an interview 45 minutes after I submitted my resume to a firm in San Angelo.
Once I made the move, it didn’t take long to figure out that the lifestyle of a small-town attorney is for me.
In Houston, the courthouse was 30 minutes from my office (without traffic), and I would pay $6 to park in a lot four blocks away. There are four probate judges in Harris County. I never met any of them. I only made appearances in front of a magistrate or associate judges. I avoided going to the courthouse because of the hassle and, when I was in the gallery waiting my turn, I never had a conversation with the same attorney twice.
In San Angelo, the courthouse is five minutes from my office (there is no traffic), and I park on the street right in front. There are four district judges in Tom Green County, and all of themknow me by name. I am at the courthouse two or three times a week, and usually I see the same 15 or 20 lawyers.
While I have not found a dim sum restaurant or a Rothko in Tom Green County, I have discovered a community I am proud to be a part of and have learned that I can do meaningful work on interesting cases for good and decent people.
If you need a less altruistic reason to make the move out west, I have also found that there is money to be made in small-town Texas. By considering a move to a less than urban part of the state, I have changed the course of my life and my career for the better. There is plenty of room out here for you to do the same.
Derick Lancaster is an associate of the Skinner Law Firm in San Angelo where he practices criminal and family law. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.