Rural Support Programs

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

Jocelyn Fowler
Staff Attorney, Texas Access to Justice Commission
(512) 427-1859

Overview: The Distance Lawyering Project is a pilot project designed to connect rural self-represented litigants with volunteer attorneys via videoconferencing.

Program Details:

  • 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.

Project Rural Practice
State Bar of South Dakota

Francy Foral

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.

Recent Developments:

Learn more in the PBS NewsHour segment, How South Dakota is luring attorneys to remote areas

Rural Legal Education Project
Vermont Bar Association
PO Box 100
Montpelier, VT 05601

Laura Welcome

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.

Rural Opportunity Fellowship
Oregon State Bar

Jonathan Puente
Director of Diversity & Inclusion
(503) 431-6337

Diversity & Inclusion Coordinator
(503) 431-6338 

Overview: The Diversity & Inclusion Department of the Oregon State Bar awards two fellowships to law students who intend to practice law in Oregon, who will help the D&I Department advance its mission, and are willing to accept a summer clerk position in rural Oregon. In general, “rural Oregon” is considered as being anywhere along the Oregon coast, anywhere east of the Cascade Mountains, or anywhere south of Roseburg. Other areas of Oregon may be considered on a case-by-case basis, and are not guaranteed. The Rural Opportunity Fellowship award is $8,360 paid in three installments over the summer months. Students must work for a public employer or 501(c)3 organization; fellowship employment must be in Oregon and may not extend into the academic year.

Rural Practice Initiative Summer Clerkship
Nebraska State Bar Association
c/o Rural Practice Initiative
PO Box 81809
Lincoln, NE 68501-1809
(402) 475-7091

Sam Clinch

Kate Fitzgerald

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.

Program Details

  • 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.

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.

Program Details

  • 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.

Read the September 2016 The Iowa Lawyer article, "Choosing a Rural Practice" (pg. 14). 

Wisconsin Initiative Bus Tour
State Bar of Wisconsin 
New Lawyer Challenges Committee

For more information, contact Kris Wenzel at the State Bar Center at or (608) 250-6185.

Overview: the tour will help new lawyers – 0-3 years out of law school – and law students realize the opportunities of practicing in rural areas of the state. Supported by judges in Florence, Forest, Marinette, Oneida, and Vilas counties, their county bar associations, and the Marquette and U.W. law schools, the tour will include meetings with local judges and lawyers as well as community and business leaders. Participants will be encouraged to bring their spouse or significant other.

Program details: The bus will depart the State Bar Center in Madison on the morning of Friday, Oct. 7, traveling first to Rhinelander and then to Marinette, returning to Madison on Saturday, Oct. 8. Space is limited to 40 people. Applications will be available at after Aug. 1, 2016 and will be accepted until Sept. 9, 2016. 

Read more about the program in the State Bar of Wisconsin Inside Track article, "Thinking About a Move to a Rural Practice? Sign Up for the Greater Wisconsin Initiative Bus Tour, Oct. 7-8."

Law School Programs

University of North Dakota School of Law
215 Centennial Drive Stop 9003
Grand Forks, ND 58202-9003
(701) 777-2104

Bradley Parrish  

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.

Rural Law Opportunities Program
University of Nebraska College of Law and Chadron State College, the University of Nebraska at Kearney and Wayne State College

Overview: The Rural Law Opportunities Program (RLOP) aims to ensure all Nebraskans have access to legal representation by encouraging the practice of law in the state’s rural communities. Through the program, students from certain Nebraska areas will study at one of three Nebraska State Colleges or Universities, obtain their legal education at Nebraska Law and then practice in rural areas throughout the state. RLOP was established through a partnership between the University of Nebraska College of Law and Chadron State College, the University of Nebraska at Kearney and Wayne State College.

Program Details: RLOPs are available at Chadron State College, the University of Nebraska at Kearney and Wayne State College. RLOP students will receive scholarships to fund their undergraduate education and will begin to develop their relationship with Nebraska Law as early as their freshman year in college. Participants will be required to maintain a 3.5 cumulative GPA at their undergraduate institution to remain in the program. RLOP students who satisfy this GPA requirement, obtain a minimum LSAT score and meet other minor law school application criteria will be automatically accepted to the University of Nebraska College of Law.

As RLOP participants, students will visit Nebraska Law for guest lectures, special court proceedings, observation of classes and networking activities. Nebraska Law administrators and admissions representatives will also visit the campuses of participating schools at least once an academic year to meet with students one on one. Between their junior and senior years, RLOP students will have the opportunity to participate in rural Nebraska internships. 

Read more about the program in the Nebraska Today article, "Nebraska Law tackles state's rural legal needs." 

Legal Aid Programs

Rural Access to Justice Project (RA2J)
Legal Aid of Nebraska

Overview: RA2J is a “virtual” self-help center, using online technology, free space in courthouses and volunteer lawyers to provide assistance in rural areas thoughout the state. RA2J is a collaboration between Legal Aid, the courts, the Nebraska State Bar Association, pro bono attorneys and the public libraries to increase access to justice for low-income rural Nebraskans. Read more about RA2J in the ABA Journal article, "Client Empowerment through Access to Justice: The Nebraska Experience."

Court Programs

Rural Attorney Recruitment Program
South Dakota Unified Judicial System

Overview: The Unified Judicial System and the State Bar of South Dakota are committed to assuring that all citizens within the State of South Dakota have access to quality attorneys. In 2013, the South Dakota Legislature approved the Recruitment Assistance Pilot Program to address the current and projected shortage of lawyers practicing in small communities and rural areas of South Dakota. 

Program Details: This program provides qualifying attorneys an incentive payment in return for five (5) continuous years of practice in an eligible rural county. No more than sixteen (16) attorneys may participate in the program and no attorney may be added to the program after July 1, 2017. In 2015, the program was extended to add an additional sixteen (16) attorneys to the program. Thus, no more than a total of 32 attorneys may participate in the program and no attorney may be added to the program after July 1, 2022. 

Attorneys must enter into a contract with the Unified Judicial System, the State Bar and the eligible County in order to participate. Qualifying attorneys within the program will receive an incentive payment, payable in five equal annual installments, each payment equal to 90% of one year’s resident tuition and fees at the University of South Dakota School of Law, as determined on July 1, 2013.