Jacob “Jake” Flewelling is one of 84 students to graduate Saturday from the University of Maine School of Law in Portland, but he is one of the few who will practice in rural Maine.
A native of Easton, Flewelling, 24, will return home to work for Currier, Trask, & Dunleavy in Presque Isle. He will focus on commercial and real estate law.
Flewelling decided to become a lawyer when he was attending Easton Middle School.
“My cousin, Norman Trask, spoke with me one night while we sat around a campfire and told me stories about some of the people he had been able to help throughout his time as a lawyer,” he said. “That night I decided that I wanted to be a lawyer and I have never looked back.”
Norman Trask is a partner in the law firm where Flewelling is joining. All the lawyers in the firm have deep Maine roots.
Maine’s ongoing lawyer shortage
Flewelling graduated in 2021 from the University of Maine at Presque Isle. He spent his final year there also taking classes at the law school as a participant in its 3 Plus 3 Program. It allows college students to begin taking classes during their senior year at a Maine school. That gives him a bit of a jump on his fellow graduates who waited to start law school after they’d completed their undergraduate degrees.
The need for young lawyers to replace aging members of the bar in The County is acute. In a 2018 report, there were 72 lawyers practicing in Aroostook County, according to the Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar, which oversees lawyer conduct. Half of those are over the age of 60 and one quarter are over the age of 70.
Luring lawyers to Maine’s rural communities is challenging, according to lawyers who practice outside of Portland, Lewiston/Auburn, Bangor and Augusta. About 60 percent of Maine residents live rurally while a majority of law firms and lawyers are clustered around those cities, according to Maine Law.
Last year, Jonathan Burk, 26, a native of Denmark, joined the Hastings Malia firm in Fryeburg, one of the state’s oldest law firms after graduating from Maine Law.
maine’s rural lawyer crisis
Finding young lawyers willing to live and work in rural Maine is difficult but not impossible, David Hastings said last year. He joined his family law firm in 1976 and is the fifth generation to serve the legal needs of residents in western Maine and eastern New Hampshire.
When small, rural firms like Hastings’ and Trask’s hire young lawyers straight out of law school, it is a big commitment.
“Students learn a lot about the law in law school but not a lot about how to practice law,” Hastings said. “There’s a lot of mentoring involved. It’s a big investment of time and money.”
Flewelling said that the need for young lawyers in The County is one reason he is choosing to practice there.
“The need for lawyers in Aroostook County is already rather large and with a bar composed of mostly veteran lawyers, that need is only going to grow,” he said. “Secondly, I have been connected with Currier, Trask, & Dunleavy for as long as I can remember. From watching cartoons in the back room of their old office as a toddler, to working as an associate throughout law school Currier, Trask, & Dunleavy has been a big part of my life.”