Last Hillsboro law office closes its doors
Although Hillsboro clients aren’t losing their lawyer, the last law office in town shut its doors Jan. 31.
Bob Brookens, who for years had an office in Hillsboro as well as one in Marion, now has an office only in Marion.
It wasn’t an easy decision for Brookens.
“We’ve had a presence in Hillsboro a long time,” Brookens said. “It breaks my heart that I won’t be in both communities.”
Still, with only one lawyer in the firm and a so-far-unsuccessful search for another, keeping the Hillsboro office open was no longer justified, he said.
There’s a shortage of lawyers throughout the state except for greater Kansas City, Brookens said.
Even Wichita has 30 openings for lawyers, he said.
“Not in Sedgwick County — in Wichita,” he said.
His friends in Wichita have blamed the lawyer shortage on law school graduates who want to work in “a big city,” where they make more money.
Law firms have had trouble hiring lawyers for five years, he said.
In addition to Brookens, Marion has only two other attorneys in private practice: Brian Bina, whose main office is in McPherson, and Chris Costello, whose main job is banking in Tampa and Marion but who also practices law.
“Private attorneys are in short supply,” Brookens said.
Marion County is among the least-served counties for legal services.
The Rural Justice Initiative, a committee to examine unmet legal needs in rural Kansas, announced in December that it would study the issue of attorney shortages in less-populous parts of the state for 18 months and submit recommendations to the Kansas Supreme Court.
Only half the state’s population lives in Douglas, Johnson, Leavenworth, Sedgwick, Shawnee, and Wyandotte counties, but 80% of the state’s lawyers do.
The state has 1,500 lawyers to serve 1.26 million residents who live in the remaining 99 counties.