PDO continues its “How I Got My Job” Series focusing on practicing in smaller cities and towns with a feature on Jeffery Slack, who opened his own firm in Cedar City, Utah. Here is Jeffery’s perspective on practicing in a smaller city!
1. What did you do before law school and why did you decide to go to law school? I was an undergraduate at the University of Utah. I worked at UPS and put myself through school that way. About half way through my undergraduate education, it dawned on me that I was not going to really get any offers from any “English Literature and Spanish Literature” firms so law school seemed like it would open some doors. I almost stayed at UPS and became a delivery driver.
2. What kinds of things did you do during law school? (Clubs, journal, work, clinics?) I worked at the Attorney General’s office downtown (Heber Wells building, at the Criminal Division and Prosecution Counsel) from the Summer after my first year up until graduation from law school.
3. Where are you working and what are you doing? I am a sole practitioner practicing in mostly criminal defense. My office is located in Cedar City. I also practice all domestic areas of the law (divorce, custody, adoptions, probate etc). I have one of four contracts in Iron County representing indigent defendants. My private work is mostly in Southwest Utah–however, I have cases from Davis County south.
4. When and how did you first decide to start your own firm? From 2003 to 2006, I was a Deputy Iron County Attorney. During that time, I had also served as a Special Prosecutor for Washington and Beaver Counties. I think I always had wanted the freedom to be my own boss and to essentially not rely on someone else for a paycheck, so I tried to soak in all the information I could from the various private attorneys I came into contact with. On many occasions, I would go to lunch with or simply pull aside private attorneys and quiz them about their practices and I sought out their advice regarding the running of a law office. In 2006, one of the private attorneys in Cedar City mentioned to me that I could take over his indigent defense contract. That was enough to push me over the cliff to leaving my government job and going solo. The contract was enough to cover my overhead and made me feel confident that it could be done.
5. What do you like about practicing in Southern Utah? The vast majority of the attorneys in Southern Utah are good, honest people.
6. What kinds of things do you think helped you build your practice outside of a major city? In my opinion, my three or so years of experience as a prosecutor gave me credibility to the general public (whether that credibility was deserved or not is debatable). Also, those years gave me invaluable courtroom confidence and experience.
7. What tips do you have for students who are job seeking? You cannot rely on a paycheck from an employer. If you can at all afford to do so, work or volunteer to work at a smaller firm or with a solo who does the day to day practice of law that the majority of lawyers practice. When I graduated from law school I did know how to write a petition or for that matter where I would go to file it.