A Deeper Look at Our State’s ‘Legal Deserts’
This article is reprinted from the September 2021 issue of Washington State Bar News with the permission of the Washington State Bar Association.
My dad is an optometrist in Raymond (population 2,963). He’s the only one in Raymond. In fact, he’s the only one for 30 to 50 miles in any direction. We moved to Raymond when I was 3. My dad finished optometry school and joined the practice of Dr. William J. McKinney. The plan was for my dad to practice with him initially as an employee, then become a partner and eventually buy the practice. It worked well. Dr. McKinney was able to transfer the practice he spent his life creating—from the building and the equipment, right down to the staff and the goodwill—and my dad was able to step into that practice and make it his own, investing in new technology, developing new systems, and building a new office that he still walks to and from every day. My dad is my role model for loving what you do.
His retirement plan has always been to repeat what Dr. McKinney did and sell the practice to someone ready to make it their own. And over the years, he’s tried. Several doctors have come and gone for one reason or another. Maybe small-town living didn’t suit them. Maybe their spouse couldn’t find a job. Maybe their student loan debt was too much to take on the debt of buying a practice.1 Whatever the reason, so far, it hasn’t worked out. My dad will turn 71 this year, and I wonder: Who will serve that community when my dad is no longer able to?
All of this was on my mind when I sat in the offices of MDKJ Lawfirm in Davenport, two years ago on the annual WSBA Listening Tour. Then-President Bill Pickett, Governor P.J. Grabicki, and I were sitting around the firm’s conference room table eating pizza and listening to L.R. “Rusty” McGuire talk about what a hard time they’ve had recruiting lawyers to join their firm. “We pay the same rate as the Spokane firms,” he told us, “and that goes a lot further in Davenport. We can offer attorneys a great practice and a great lifestyle here.”