2020 Solo, Small & Rural Law Forum

October 16, 2020

Laramie, Wyoming

Live in-person at 1000 East University Avenue, Laramie, Wyoming--subject to University of Wyoming guidelines and restrictions. This is also available as a virtual conference.


Lawyers in Rural Wyoming

October 16, 2020 8:15 AM-9:45 AM

This presentation addresses the shortage of lawyers in rural Wyoming and why it is a problem. The presentation considers the causes of the problem and ways that it could be remedied, particularly ways to attract recent law school graduates to serve rural communities and ways to help them succeed there.

The South Dakota Rural Attorney Recruitment Program – Addressing Legal Deserts in our State

October 16, 2020 10:00 AM-11:30 AM

Small town, USA. What is not to love? Yet, with 65% of our attorney population taking employment in South Dakota more “urban areas,” South Dakota was experiencing a shortage of rural attorneys. This was leaving its rural areas without accessible legal counsel, importing attorneys, providing leadership roles in the community and undoubtedly affecting the economics and sustainability of the rural area. This program is a huge step toward correcting this problem. We will address the implementation of the program as well as provide you a participant’s point of view.

30 Things Every Solo, Small Firm or Rural Attorney Needs to Know - a Malpractice Avoidance Checklist

October 16, 2020 1:00 PM-2:30 PM

Using a 30-item checklist as the presentation backdrop, this program will highlight common malpractice and ethical concerns solo, small firm and rural lawyers face and share practical tips lawyers can use to responsibly address the concerns identified. 

A Sampling of Attendee Takeaways: 

  •  An awareness of the importance of thorough file documentation to include what the term “thorough” means
  •  An understanding of why taking care of one’s self is so vitally important
  •  An appreciation of the value of calendaring best practices
  • Knowledge of the importance of designating a backup attorney

Practitioner Panel: Been There, Done That

October 16, 2020 2:45 PM-4:15 PM

Small, solo and rural practitioners face a myriad of issues just as the communities and clients they serve face. As somebody who is participating in this program, you have probably encountered those problems, and this panel is here to provide experience in addressing some of those issues. The primary topics to be covered are: 

Ø  Conflicts of interest

Ø  Representing governmental entities in a private practice

Ø  Routinely practicing before the same judges and against the same counsel

Ø  General practice law firm versus a practice with a specific focus

Ø  Advertising/firm marketing

Ø  Fee agreements (contingent, hourly (and of course rates), flat fees, and avoiding fee disputes). 

If these issues do not solve all of the problems a small firm, solo, or rural practitioner face on a regular basis, please have your questions ready, and this experienced panel can help address other issues you might face.


Clay Anderson

Clay Anderson is a rural South Dakota native, husband to a beautiful legal secretary, father of three awesome kids and veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. He earned an undergraduate degree, summa cum laude, majoring in business administration with dual specializations in finance and human resource management from Regis University in Denver Colorado, as well as a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of South Dakota School of Law. His hobby time is spent with his family, coaching area sports, teaching Sunday school and enjoying the broad world of entrepreneurship. Prior to entering the legal profession, he worked with insurance, marketing, hunting and fishing outfitters, hotel franchises, franchisees and various other entrepreneurs and investors to assist them with their respective business ventures. These experiences continue to prove extremely useful as he continues to predominantly assist business and estate planning clients. In 2013, he was the second Rural Attorney Recruitment Program participant in Hand County, South Dakota, where he continues to practice.

Mark Bassingthwaighte

Since 1998, Mark Bassingthwaighte, Esq. has been a Risk Manager with ALPS, the nation’s largest direct writer of lawyers’ malpractice insurance. In his tenure with the company, Mr. Bassingthwaighte has conducted over 1200 law firm risk management assessment visits, presented numerous continuing legal education seminars throughout the United States and written extensively on risk management, ethics and technology. Mr. Bassingthwaighte is a member of the State Bar of Montana as well as the American Bar Association where he currently sits on the ABA Center for Professional Responsibility’s Conference Planning Committee. He received his J.D. from Drake University Law School.

James Eddington

James A. Eddington graduated from the University of Nebraska law school in December 1987. Mr. Eddington has practiced law in Torrington, Wyoming, since March 1988 where he maintains a general civil trial and appellate practice. He has also served as the city attorney since July 1990 wherein he advises the Torrington City Council, handles civil litigation and prosecutes misdemeanor violations of city ordinances.

Jason Johnson

Jason Johnson was born and raised in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He graduated from East High School in 2006. After high school, he decided to forego playing football at a smaller college to save money and still earn a valuable education at LCCC, so that he could pursue what he always wanted—a legal degree. At LCCC Jason obtained Pre-law and Sociology degrees. After LCCC, Jason received his bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice with a minor in Communications at the University of Wyoming, where he was named the most outstanding criminal justice student in 2010. Jason graduated from the University of Wyoming College of Law in 2014. After law school, he knew he wanted to do some estate planning work for clients but did not know what else he wanted to do. It soon became apparent that his other passion in the law centered around helping injured individuals get their health and life back on track after catastrophic accidents. In December 2017, Jason opened a solo practice—The Law Office of Jason Johnson, LLC and then partnered with Kelly Davis and Justin Kallal to form Davis, Johnson & Kallal, LLC in February 2019. Today, Jason’s primary focus is on injured individuals and estate planning. When Jason is not in the office or the courtroom, you can find him spending time with his family, hunting big game and waterfowl and fishing.

Michael Messenger

Mike Messenger was raised in Cody, Wyoming. He graduated from the University of Nebraska in Lincoln with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in 1969. He graduated from University of Wyoming College of Law with a Juris Doctorate Degree in 1975. In the interim, Mr. Messenger served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam for fourteen months in 1970 and 1971, receiving an honorable discharge and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal. From 1975 to 1984, he was in solo practice; from 1985 to 2018 he was founding member of a law firm with a partner and two associates and since 2018, he is again a solo practitioner.

Bryan Rogers

Bryan K. Rogers grew up in southern Texas but has lived with his wife Julie in southeastern Wyoming for the past 29 years. Bryan ventured into law later in life, leaving behind a regional position with Pilot Flying J Travel Plazas to attend law school at the University of Wyoming. Dealing with caffeine-fueled truckers all those years prepared Bryan well for client relations in the domestic portion of his law practice! When not pressing to meet deadlines, Bryan loves to cook, fish, and sometimes cook fish!

Alan Romero

Alan Romero is Carl M. Williams Professor of Law and Social Responsibility at the University of Wyoming College of Law and Director of the Rural Law Center. He previously taught at the University of North Dakota, University of Idaho and University of Chicago. He has taught a variety of property-related courses and published a book and articles about property law, including issues such as takings, rural property law and land use regulation. Professor Romero received a B.A. summa cum laude from Brigham Young University in 1990 and a J.D. cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1993, where he served as President of the Harvard Journal on Legislation and Director of the Harvard Legislative Research Bureau.

Suzanne Starr

Suzanne Starr is a rural South Dakota native who earned her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. Thereafter, she obtained an associate degree in Paralegal Studies, but upon discovering that the paralegal does all the work and gets none of the fun, she decided to go to law school. Her experience at the University of South Dakota School of Law included writing for law review and obtaining a position on the board as Lead Articles Editor. This paved the way for a clerkship with the South Dakota Supreme Court Retired Justice Richard Sabers. After a few years in a small firm in Spearfish, her entrepreneurial spirit got the best of her and she opened her own general practice business with a primary focus on family law. Since 2010, she has worked for the South Dakota Unified Judicial System and currently serves as the Director of Policy & Legal Services where she works closely with Chief Justice David Gilbertson to implement the Rural Attorney Recruitment Program. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her family, attending her kids’ events, being outdoors, volunteering with Teen Court and working on home improvement projects.

Douglas Weaver

Douglas Weaver was raised in Wheatland, Wyoming. He earned a B.S. from the University of Wyoming in 1977; he also took and passed the CPA exam that same year. He earned his J.D. from the University of Wyoming College of Law in 1980 and has practiced in his hometown since 1982. Doug has represented several towns in Platte County and has served as the Platte County Attorney for close to six years.