Lawyers from across WI tour rural communities, including Barron - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Lawyers from across WI tour rural communities, including Barron


Barron (WQOW) - A shortage of attorneys in rural areas has the attention of lawyers from across the state. Some are even considering leaving the big cities and calling northern Wisconsin home. 

According to the State Bar of Wisconsin, the average attorney makes nearly $100,000 a year, making it a lucrative career.

"If you are practicing in Madison or Milwaukee, you are practicing with tens of thousands of people," said attorney Chad Schimmelpfenning.

That creates an overload of competition, but in rural areas, there's the opposite problem.

"Those attorneys are actually getting up there in years, and we're not seeing the younger attorneys as willing to move out to the rural communities in order to kind of replace the attorneys who are here, as they start to age out and want to transition out of their business," Schimmelpfenning said.

So, a group of lawyers is traveling the state, making a stop Friday in Barron. Some, to help recruit young people into the field, while others, like Pat Scharmer, an attorney from near Madison, look to jump on the opportunity to move to northern Wisconsin.

"We're just looking for what the right community is, and where they have a need for a lawyer and maybe somebody that I could work with," Scharmer said.

He is navigating around Wisconsin this weekend, hoping to find a small community to fit his lifestyle.

"I love the north woods," Scharmer said. "I like the outdoor activities, so my wife and I like to bike and hike and boat and fish and swim and do all the stuff that you can do up in the north woods."

However, the shift from a big city attorney, to practicing law in small-town Wisconsin could be a tough pill to swallow.

"Making that leap into a smaller community where you're probably not going to make the kind of money that you make in big law in one of the bigger cities, is a lot more difficult and there's things that you have to think about in terms of what is that standard of living for me," Scharmer added.

The group of attorneys will continue heading north, making stops in Ashland and Bayfield Saturday before returning home.

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