Local attorney closes Hillsboro practice

Bob Brookens is well known around Marion County, particularly in Marion and Hillsboro where he has practiced law in offices in each town.

Brookens moved to Marion County in 1978. In 1981, he joined the firm of Morse and Batt in Marion. He also joined the Hillsboro office a few years later. That office opened up in Hillsboro in 1956.

“I joined them in ’81 and started going to the Hillsboro office in ’85. I have continuously done that ever since until reality hit. I’m spending time traveling and I had to cut it down to half a day a week just to keep the boat afloat,” said Brookens.

And now, he has had to close the Hillsboro office down. Brookens said that between rent, having a phone that forwards calls, computer access and more, it just became unrealistic for him to maintain both offices. He decided to keep the office in Marion since the courthouse is there and he has his longstanding relationship with Marion since 1978.

“It came down to a reality check. I can’t do it all,” said Brookens. “It is absolutely killing me as I have come to know so many wonderful people in the Hillsboro area that are not only clients but friends. To say that I can no longer be there is just so hard for me.”

Part of the problem for Brookens is that it is now just him running the two offices as he has not been able to hire anyone else to help out and the partners he has had along the way have moved up. Brookens himself served two terms in the state legislature, and three of the four other lawyers have gone on to sit on the bench as district judges.

“So we are doing something right here, but I cannot get anyone to interview to join the practice. I keep in touch with KU and Washburn law schools and candidates just aren’t applying. Small towns are really hurting big time because no one wants to be a lawyer in a small town. And it’s happening in the bigger towns too. In 2021, Emporia had five open spots they could not fill with attorneys. Wichita had 33 unfilled positions,” said Brookens.

He explained that there are fewer applicants to even get into law school which has caused many programs to cut their numbers in half. The ones who do come through tend to want to practice in larger areas such as Kansas City.

“We have a grave shortage in Kansas,” said Brookens. “It seems to be a money issue vs. quality of life. You can make plenty of money in law even if you do it in small towns.”

Brookens said many candidates also prefer the anonymity that big cities provide where law firms have a reputation while the actual lawyer can stay unknown.

“If anyone knows of any attorneys that they wish to Marion County, do it. This is a great place. I have had nothing but a great career in Marion and Hillsboro and even helping out in Goessel, Lehigh, Peabody and Burns when cities have needed my help with legal issues,” said Brookens.

Brookens, who is an Eagle Scout and has raised four boys with his wife in the Marion area, plans to continue practicing law in Marion for as long as he can.

“People from Hillsboro or anywhere can come and see me here in Marion as long as I am still here. There will come a time when I will have to retire, but that time isn’t now,” Brookens said.

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