Greg Schieber grew up in Caledonia, Minnesota, and returned to the area to practice law in nearby Harmony—joining Richard Nethercut, who for the prior 24 years had served as Harmony’s only lawyer. Schieber presently focuses on real estate, family law, municipal law, some civil litigation, and many of the other little things inherent in a small town general practice.
What led you to choose to practice law in a small town in southern Minnesota?
First, I grew up in Minnesota’s driftless region and knew from a pretty young age I wanted to come back to this part of the state that I love and to stay relatively close to family. Second, I knew that practicing law in a small town, rural setting would allow me the opportunity to be a well-rounded and better balanced person—both considering the broad scope of legal work I could pursue in a general practice as well as my extra-curricular activities. I specifically targeted Harmony because although it was close to home, it was still far enough away to plant new roots and start a professional career. It is also a very appealing, full service, and friendly small-town Minnesota community.
How did you develop a relationship with Richard Nethercut and begin practicing in his firm?
Halfway through law school I sent Dick a letter highlighting my desire to practice in a small town setting in southeastern Minnesota and inquiring whether he might foresee an opportunity for me to do so in his office. At that time he wasn’t seriously contemplating adding a second attorney to his solo practice. Deep into my job search post-bar exam, I circled back around to see if by chance his interest had changed. He invited me to stop by to visit. It wasn’t long afterwards that I was dusting off furniture in the unused office and settling in to a new career.
Tell us about your practice in agriculture and food law.
I attended Drake University Law School because of its agricultural law program. It was a unique opportunity to overlap two of my interests. I knew it was likely that upon graduation I would serve in a rural area, making that knowledge particularly useful. I am specifically interested in efforts to get more farmers back on the land and enterprises that take raw local agricultural products and add value before direct-marketing them, bringing greater wealth to our rural communities. In both instances the law plays a role. I aspire to build a part of my practice around serving folks with specific needs in this area as I become more skilled and established.
Do you have your own small farm?
I live on a small rural acreage between Harmony and Lanesboro. Since it doesn’t yet generate any significant agricultural income, I hesitate to call it a “farm” so as not to insult all of the real farmers in the area. My fiancé and I have a number of chickens, a couple of Scottish Highland beef calves, and a miniature donkey, so far. We also have an ever-expanding variety of fruit trees, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and a thriving weed garden in which we grow a few vegetables. I dream of building up a small beef herd and generating a good annual apple crop for hard cider production, among other goals.
What do you find particularly rewarding in your practice?
I am always striving to make life easier for my clients. The most rewarding part of my practice is when I can accomplish that by efficiently resolving their legal issue, or at minimum, explaining concepts in a way they can understand so they can walk away better understanding their legal issue. I greatly enjoy the opportunity to directly interact with clients on a daily basis. We have a large volume of walk-in appointments, especially since much of our practice involves serving the local Amish community. The variety and unpredictability of these opportunities serve as a nice balance to the sometimes monotonous work of title opinions and real estate closings.
Do you and Mr. Nethercut have plans regarding the future of the office?
We are presently in a transition phase and working to form a partnership. Dick has an eye toward retirement in a couple of years. This will give us some opportunity for a nice overlap as he eventually transitions to fewer and fewer hours at the office.
Do you have any advice for newer attorneys who’d like to practice in a small town?
I didn’t wait for a job opportunity to be advertised. I spent a significant amount of time trying to discern what I wanted and then I went out and tried to find or create that experience. In speaking with other rural attorneys, I believe there is a hesitation to advertise for associates since they fear any new hire will stick around for only a short period of time and then leave. Thus, an attorney who desires to serve in a rural area is less likely to find job postings beckoning them. Instead, they are best advised to step forward and advertise themselves to individuals doing what they would like to do in their own career. Ample opportunities exist for young attorneys in rural areas, but the opportunities are even greater for young attorneys desiring to commit their career to a rural area. Those are the individuals that will turn heads of prospective employers with an eye toward retirement.