Bar Association Committees and Sections
The Iowa State Bar Association
Rural Practice Committee
The Utah State Bar Association
Solo Small Firm and Rural Practice Section
Colorado Bar Association
Agricultural and Rural Law Section
Bar Association Programs
Distance Lawyering Project
Texas Access to Justice Commission’s Technology Committee and the Texas Young Lawyers Association
Staff Attorney, Texas Access to Justice Commission
Overview: The Distance Lawyering Project is a pilot project designed to connect rural self-represented litigants with volunteer attorneys via videoconferencing.
- Rural self-represented litigants seeking an uncontested divorce will work with pro bono attorneys via video- or tele-conferencing tools such as Skype.
- These litigants qualify for legal aid services but are unable to get an attorney through legal aid due to a lack of legal aid resources.
- Volunteer attorneys remotely help the litigant prepare his or her initial petition using Supreme Court-approved divorce forms; the attorney then connects with the litigant again prior to the end of the 60-day waiting period to assist with preparation for final judgment.
- The volunteer attorney is not be expected to travel or make an appearance on behalf of the litigant at any time.
Read more about the Distance Lawyering Project in this TYLA eNews ATJ Update, Distance Lawyering: We Need Your Help.
Overview: In response to the steady decline in lawyers practicing in rural communities and the very real possibility of whole sections of South Dakota being without access to legal services, the State Bar of South Dakota has taken a leadership role in addressing the rural attorneys' status as an endangered species through the formation of Project Rural Practice ("PRP"). PRP is a collaborative effort involving multiple organizations. Those invited include the Associations of the SD Indian County Bar, County Commissioners, School Districts, SD Retailers & the States Attorneys as well as the UJS, Law School, local charitable organizations and others.
Program Details: Three areas of focus have been identified in addressing the challenge of attracting lawyers to main street:
- First, educate lawyers on Bar and practice support resources for attorneys seeking to move to rural areas; break down barriers to rural practice.
- Second, develop community incentives with non-lawyer stakeholders and encourage them to make the case for recruiting a lawyer.
- Third, develop a website to match lawyers with communities or lawyers seeking a successor.
- To promote such practices nationally, Project Rural Practice in South Dakota offered a resolution that passed unanimously before the American Bar Association House of Delegates in support of PRP's mission.
- On March 21, Governor Daugaard signed HB 1096, the "rural attorney recruitment bill," which is designed to assist counties in South Dakota with 10,000 people or fewer attract new attorneys. See this article.
Summer Clerkship Program
Rural Practice Committee
Iowa State Bar Association
200 State Street, P.O Box 134
Garner, IA 50438-0134
Phil Garland, Committee Chair
Overview: The ISBA's summer clerkship program that matches students at Iowa's two law schools and Creighton University (in Omaha, NE) with attorneys in small towns for approximately 10 weeks during the summer. The overarching goal of the program is to allow attorneys to become acquainted with and evaluate students who might become prospective associates or successors. It allows students who might consider practicing in a rural area to get a feel of a rural practice and living in a small town.
- The attorneys who participated in the 2012 summer clerkship program reported that their clerks did research, prepared documents, assisted them in preparing for trial, sat in on client meetings, did title opinions, prepared probate inventories and assisted in preparing closing documents.
- Participating attorneys determine how much to compensate student attorneys, but it is recommended that the compensation be at least $15 per hour for a 40 hour week. Almost all of the participating attorneys in the 2012 summer program paid that amount.
Watch the video, "ISBA's Rural Practice Program: Shaping Iowa's Future Today," here.
Rural Practice Initiative Summer Clerkship
Nebraska State Bar Association
c/o Rural Practice Initiative
PO Box 81809
Lincoln, NE 68501-1809
Overview: The Nebraska State Bar Association's Rural Practice Initiative places law students in firms outside of metropolitan areas for one or two 5-week clerkships throughout the summer.
- Students gain practical experience, draft pleadings and interrogatories, shadow during court days and client meetings, research, and prepare briefs and memos. All clerks are compensated by their employer.
- All clerks are compensated, though pay varies from employer to employer.
Overview: The Rural Legal Education Project is a community legal education outreach effort of the VBA that enables it to expand its education program to rural Vermont adults through presentations at the local libraries within each community. The focus is on legal issues facing Vermont's rural population.
Law School Programs
University of North Dakota School of Law
215 Centennial Drive Stop 9003
Grand Forks, ND 58202-9003
Overview: To address the shortage of attorneys in rural North Dakota, and to demonstrate the benefits of working in a small community, the North Dakota Bar Association, the UND Law School, and the state courts have collaborated to create a program offering UND law students internships in rural North Dakota.
Program Details: The program will offer three law students internships in North Dakota communities that have less than 15,000 people. The interns will work closely with a judge throughout the summer and into the school year.
Recent Developments: Currently, the internships are only a pilot program. After the first year, the program will potentially undergo changes and expand. The application process will begin in the spring of 2014.