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A Law Practice Location Due Diligence Checklist

Let’s get right to the heart of the matter.  Consider the following checklist a rough template that you can use to scope out a geographic location where you would like to settle and practice law.  You should modify it to fit your own personal and professional needs and aspirations.  There may be other criteria than the ones mentioned below that are important to you, and others not particularly relevant to your circumstances.

Two Checklist Caveats
The Checklist does not presume to weigh the relevance of each item.  That is something unique to every individual.  For some, work-life balance may be paramount.  For others, school quality may outweigh all other considerations.  If you want to leave Los Angeles or the Washington, DC exurbs because commuting three hours a day is wearing you down, the allure of a community where a 10-minute commute is attainable may be the only issue on your plate.

A location checklist suitable to a major city or metropolitan area is likely to look somewhat different from one focusing on small towns or rural areas.

What follows are a series of factors that attorneys consider when making locational decisions.

Population Trends

Current town and surrounding area population
Is it large enough to support your practice (if you intend to open a private practice)?
Is it on a growth path?
If “yes,” what are the factors contributing to growth?
If “no,” why is population stable or declining?

Age demographics
Retirement community(ies)
Seasonal changes
Colleges and universities
Local tolerance of minority populations

Climate and Environment
Earthquake propensity
Tornado propensity
Hurricane propensity
Temperatures year-round
Snow-removal capabilities
Air quality
Water quality
Adequacy of water supply
Severe storm exposure
Location of nuclear reactors
Hydraulic fracturing/horizontal drilling for shale gas in region

Home prices
Year-to-year price changes
Mortgage rates
Rental costs
Insurance costs
Utilities costs
Maintenance costs
Flood insurance
Fire Insurance

Crime Rates
Violent crimes
Property crimes
Crime trends
Professionalism of local law enforcement

Property tax rate and dollar amount
Sales taxes
State income and franchise taxes

School rankings
Teacher-pupil ratio
How many parents attend PTA meetings?
Where do high school grads go to college?
How do school bond issues do at election time?
Parents’ educational level
$ spent on library and media services
Private and parochial schools
School athletic programs
Technology in schools

Outdoor activity opportunities
Proximity to major or minor league sports teams

Cultural Opportunities
Intellectual community

Grocery stores
Retail outlets
Outlet malls

Churches, Synagogues, Mosques, etc.
Number of and proximity to those of your preference

Business Development (Social Clubs and Service Organizations)
Volunteer fire departments

Child Safety
Sex offenders living in community
Oxycontin abuse
Methamphetamines presence

Business Considerations
Business “friendliness”
Zoning restrictions on home businesses
Office space availability
Office rental rates
Typical wages for secretaries, paralegals
State/local relocation Incentives
New business assistance
Local unemployment rate
Primary employers
Business-sector stability
Economic development track record and plans
Downtown business space occupancy

Cost of Living
Goods and services

Health Care
Physicians per capita
Family/Primary care physicians
Necessary specialists
Hospital quality
Distance to hospital(s)
Urgent Care – Availability of 24-hour emergency coverage

Business attraction program
Is it formally organized?
Is it proactive?
Has it succeeded?
Examine council meeting minutes
Examine master plan, if any

Other Considerations
How has town adapted to change?
Openness to newcomers
Access to airports
Proximity to Interstate Highway System
Gas prices