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.
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?
Colleges and universities
Local tolerance of minority populations
Climate and Environment
Adequacy of water supply
Severe storm exposure
Location of nuclear reactors
Hydraulic fracturing/horizontal drilling for shale gas in region
Year-to-year price changes
Professionalism of local law enforcement
Property tax rate and dollar amount
State income and franchise taxes
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
Churches, Synagogues, Mosques, etc.
Number of and proximity to those of your preference
Business Development (Social Clubs and Service Organizations)
Volunteer fire departments
Sex offenders living in community
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
Economic development track record and plans
Downtown business space occupancy
Cost of Living
Goods and services
Physicians per capita
Family/Primary care physicians
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
How has town adapted to change?
Openness to newcomers
Access to airports
Proximity to Interstate Highway System