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Bench & Bar of Minnesota is the official publication of the Minnesota State Bar Association.

Meet Joseph Krueger: Challenges of Small-Town Lawyering

Joe Krueger

Joe Krueger

Joseph Krueger is a shareholder with Brown & Krueger in Long Prairie. He graduated from Creighton University School of Law in 2003 with a concentration in Business, Taxation and Commercial Transactions. Krueger serves as the 7th District Representative to the MSBA Assembly and recently joined the Outstate Practice Section Council.

How would you describe your practice?

My practice is typical of many in outstate Minnesota. I practice in a handful of different areas but do not specialize in a single area. My primary areas are plaintiff’s personal injury, civil litigation, real estate, estate planning, probate and municipal law. I am the only shareholder in my firm following the retirement of the other shareholder a few months ago. The firm currently has one associate, three full-time legal assistants, a part-time bookkeeper and part-time paralegal.

What led you to choose small firm practice?

Initially I chose a small town practice as a place where I could get the most experience in the shortest period of time and at the same time enjoy many of my personal hobbies. Admittedly, I thought I would only be in small practice for a few years, but I have remained because I find the practice itself and the opportunities quite rewarding.

What do you value in your practice?

The two things I value most are my autonomy and the other attorneys in outstate Minnesota.  I have the freedom to choose the cases I want to take on, set my own hours (for the most part) and still enjoy my hobbies.

Regardless of where an attorney practices in outstate Minnesota, most attorneys share a common bond. We do not have an opportunity to get together as often as we should, but when we do, we find that our experiences are very similar. I think it is because of the shared experiences that I have been able to form some very close relationships with other attorneys. Even though we do not work at the same firm, I would have no problem calling them with questions or concerns.

How is being a bar association member worthwhile?

Being a member of a bar association is one of the most important things an outstate attorney can do. Bar associations provide a common gathering point despite the fact that outstate attorneys are geographically spread out. The MSBA provides wonderful resources for small firms such as research tools, practicelaw documents, list serves and section events.

When you face a challenge, what resources are helpful to you?

My fellow outstate attorneys are the best resource for just about any challenge I face. Fortunately for me, many of my friends have more practice experience than I do and have already faced issues that are new for me.

What aspects of your practice are particularly challenging?

The most challenging aspect of my practice is recruiting new associates. Outstate practice provides wonderful opportunities for new attorneys to gain experience, become a partner in a firm, enjoy financial success and still have time to participate in outside interests. But it seems that many new attorneys find it intimidating to venture outstate and beyond their close social networks. Recruiting new associates is difficult and is sometimes a trial and error process.

What activities do you enjoy away from work?

I enjoy spending time with my wife Jae and our dog Herbie. I also enjoy the organizations that I have become a part of during the last several years. One of the most important things you can do when beginning your practice in outstate Minnesota, and perhaps anywhere for that matter, is to become involved with your community and meet people. Not only has my community involvement led to my meeting new clients, it has also led to rewarding opportunities for me to give back to my community.

Where do you see the practice of law heading in the future, particularly for the small firm practitioner?

I believe there is a difference between a small firm in the Twin Cities and a small firm in outstate Minnesota. While some issues they experience are similar, small outstate firms face a significant question: Where is the next generation of attorneys going to come from?

In the vicinity where I practice, the vast majority of attorneys have either retired in the last few years or will likely retire in the next five to ten years. I do not see current attorneys being replaced as quickly as they are retiring. While population adjustments and movement away from rural areas could impact the need for future attorneys, I still believe that we will reach a point where there will not be a sufficient number of attorneys in outstate Minnesota to meet all the legal needs of residents. Many of the states near Minnesota, including Iowa, South Dakota and my home state of Nebraska, are already facing difficulty recruiting attorneys to rural areas.

I think this is a trend that will continue. I hope that with the help of the MSBA, its Outstate Practice Section, district bar associations and other allies, Minnesota can remain ahead of the curve and ensure sufficient legal resources to serve clients throughout the state.

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