When I graduated law school from the University of Ottawa I had two potential career paths laid out in front of me. The first was to stay in Ottawa and complete my articles for the Federal Crown Attorney’s office. The second was to return to my hometown of Lindsay Ontario and article for my father. 

I had gotten married while still in school and my wife and I fell in love with Ottawa.  We loved the culture, diversity, shopping and all other advantages that come along with a big city. Federal Crown work was rewarding and it came along with a guaranteed income, benefits and pension. My wife was about to start teacher’s college in Kingston which is just an hour and a half jaunt up the 416/401.

On the flip side, Lindsay was small and familiar. I knew that remuneration discussions with my dad would be challenging. Kingston would be two and a half hours away and there would be no pension and no benefits. I could remember my dad walking around the house when I was growing up and saying, “I hope to retire one day after I die”. It was not the “Law and Order” career that I had imagined when I was in law school. 

Despite what appeared to be a massive imbalance between opportunities, my wife and I decided to plant our flag in Lindsay. We were both small town kids and dreamed of what raising a family could/would be like with fresh air and lots of green space. When my practice started, it was as I suspected. The pay was crap (I bartended nights at East Side Mario’s during my articles), and it was incredibly hard to get out from under the enormous shadow that my dad casted as one of the top family law litigators in the Central East region. I was resigned to the fact that I would be known as “Scott McLeod’s kid” for my entire practice. 

What I didn’t expect were the incredible opportunities that presented themselves as well. Within the first few months I was able to carve out a niche for myself within my firm by taking smaller, less lucrative family and criminal files. Almost immediately I was trusted to attend Court on my own litigation matters, and with the incredible mentorship that I was receiving from my dad, my practice grew quickly. Other local senior counsel were quick to lend a hand or provide advice, and I had a first row seat to experience their art and pageantry in the Court room. 

My dad and other senior counsel (hat tip David Gemmill) were also there for me when it came to the “other stuff” too. The general public may not know this, but practicing as a Family Law litigator, especially in a small town, is a special kind of hell. Your client pays and trusts you to fix their most important problems at their absolute lowest point. You’re automatically hated by half of the population and if you don’t experience the success that your client expects, one bad review can damage your reputation for years. I was fortunate to rely on my father and other local senior counsel for emotional support and guidance. Whether it be an arm around my should or a beer at the end of the day, small town colleagues know what you’re going through and usually want to help.

Now that I have a family of my own, practicing as a lawyer in a small town has offered other advantages outside of the law. Family and community is prioritized over billable hours. I can attend my children’s recitals, games and activities with my firm’s support and volunteering for one of the many local not-for-profit organizations is seen as more important that an eighty-hour work week. After seventeen years, there is not one day that I have regretted my decision to move back home and practice law in a small town. I wake up every morning excited to be a lawyer and I feel extremely fortunate of the career that I have. With the amazing support of my family, friends and my firm, I would recommend a “home cooking” legal practice any day of the week! (and twice on Sundays).

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