Meyer & Lain
Chariton Area Chamber/Main Street is proud to feature one of our local contributing businesses in the monthly Small Business Spotlight.
This month, we heard from attorneys Raymond Meyer and Jenna Lain on their partnership, Meyer & Lain. Read on to learn how Ray and Jenna got into law and how they strive to provide a range of legal services to small-town-Iowans.
Who makes up Meyer & Lain? What are your names and job titles/roles?
The partners of Meyer & Lain are Raymond Meyer and Jenna Lain. Ray has been an attorney in Chariton since 1995, after graduating from the University of Iowa College of Law in 1984. Ray previously was in practice in Washington, D.C.; Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Rochester, Minnesota.
Jenna has been an attorney in Corydon since 2010, when she graduated from Drake University School of Law, and has also worked in the Chariton office since the creation of the partnership in 2020.
How long have you been in business in Chariton and Corydon? Are you the first owner or is it a generational business?
Ray's father Virgil moved to Chariton in January 1942 to cover the established law practice of Leo Hoegh, who began his service in World War II and later became Governor of Iowa in the mid-1950s. Ray's brothers Jim and Steve joined their father in the practice in the mid-1970s. Ray returned to Chariton in 1995 to take over the local practice when his brothers became full-time in-house counsel at Hy-Vee Inc. after the move of its corporate offices to West Des Moines. Jenna originally was an associate at a law firm in Corydon in 2010 before opening her own solo practice in 2014. She and Ray formed their partnership at the beginning of 2020, continuing to maintain offices in both towns.
Describe your business. What do you do and how do you do it?
Ray and Jenna both focus their practices in the areas of trust and estate planning and administration. Ray also has a tax preparation practice and Jenna an extensive real estate practice. Jenna counsels many farm clients through estate planning, tax, and real estate issues, using her personal and professional experience. Both counsel nonprofit organizations in their creation and governance.
Why do you do what you do?
Fewer and fewer attorneys want to practice in small-town Iowa. And many of those who currently practice are near retirement. For the most part, attorneys who practice in rural Iowa already had ties to the community. Ray grew up in Chariton, and Jenna moved to Wayne County after her marriage to a lifelong Wayne County resident.
Yet, rural residents have need for legal representation in their lives just as others do. Rural residents need business and tax advice. They need assistance preparing wills, planning their estates, and authorizing others to help them with their health care and financial matters in their senior years. They need assistance buying and selling houses and other real estate. If residents cannot find the representation locally, they are forced to travel to obtain assistance, often at higher cost.
Both Jenna and Ray are committed to providing necessary services locally, and perhaps just as importantly to help ensure those services will continue to be available locally by attempting to recruit new attorneys.
Can you talk about when/why you made the decision to start your own business? Was there a specific moment or realization?
Ray decided to move back to Chariton from Washington, D.C., after he learned that his brothers no longer would be able to continue his family's then 50-year old law practice in Chariton after the move of Hy-Vee's corporate offices to West Des Moines. He has kept it in operation for now over 80 years.
Jenna moved to Corydon in 2010 after her marriage to Justin Lain, a member of a farm family in Wayne County. She grew up on a farm in Hamilton County and wanted to provide legal services of all sorts to farm families such as her own.
What inspires you to keep at it each day?
Whether it is an individual looking for assistance with a will, a power-of-attorney, or a house purchase, or a group wanting to create a new nonprofit corporation to provide new services or programs, Ray and Jenna seek to make themselves available in their local communities. The inspiration is the knowledge that those services are very necessary at different stages of life, and if they are not available locally the quality of life in the local community suffers as a result. The relationships we build with our clients, their families, and their businesses are important to us. We enjoy assisting them through life’s twists and turns and being there for them through good times and bad.
Why did you choose Chariton/Corydon for your business?
Ray grew up in Chariton -- although he practiced several years elsewhere, when the existence of his family's 50-year law practice was threatened by Hy-Vee's move to West Des Moines, he returned to keep it open.
Jenna and Justin moved back to Corydon after college to allow Justin to farm with his family. Originally, Jenna opened her practice in Corydon, as her children attend school there. As Jenna’s practice continued to grow, an expansion to Chariton and partnership with Ray made sense for Jenna to have additional office space closer to her Chariton clients.
What are your biggest challenges as a business owner?
Unquestionably the biggest challenge for small-town Iowa lawyers is finding new lawyers either to continue their existing practices after retirement or, more importantly, to expand their practices to make services of all types available to local residents. The demand for legal work is higher than what we can accomplish.
Therefore we have had to cut back on the types of law we provide. In some ways this is a good thing, because when we are able to focus on certain areas of the law, we have lots of experience and expertise in those areas. However, it is hard for us and our clients when they need help in an area of the law that we no longer handle. We refer them to other local attorneys who do practice in those areas, but all attorneys are narrowing their focuses and finding the right lawyer is often difficult.
What are your biggest rewards?
Our biggest rewards are, first, building relationships with individual clients and knowing that our services are helping them and their families and, second, working with local nonprofits and foundations to build and improve our communities through that work.
What will people get from your business that they won't get anywhere else?
From Ray, they will get the experience of having practiced elsewhere but now having practiced in Chariton for nearly 30 years, following another 50 years of his family's practice. From Jenna, they will get the experience of a lawyer who grew up on a farm, focused on legal issues relating to farms and farmers in her undergraduate and legal training, and continues to live on a farm. And from our partnership, they will get the benefit of two lawyers who work together to address the needs of their clients.