A Rare Species

Well, yesterday was the good news (see Canada, eh?), today, unfortunately, is the bad. Peralte C. Paul reports on the dearth of rural lawyers in rural Georgia in the August 30th edition of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. As Mr. Paul points out, the problem is not a numbers issues (after all there are some 28,000+ lawyers in Georgia) it is one of distribution and simple economics; 69% of the Georgia Bar practices within the 5 counties surrounding metro Atlanta, leaving just under 9000 lawyers spread across the remaining 154 counties and it’s not a uniform distribution – Mr. Paul reports there are 35 counties that have fewer than 4 practicing attorneys (and yes 0 is less than 4).

The article contends that, at its core, this due to simple economics. That without some form of incentive program (like those available to medical doctors), the majority of new lawyers are simply unable to afford to practice in rural counties. Seems that small populations with low annual incomes just don’t provide the type of steady client stream needed to meet the income needs of new lawyers trying to service their student loans.

The lack of access to any legal representation and the lack of access to affordable representation (when it is available)  is having a trickle-down effect in the form of increased workload for the Georgia Legal Services Program (70 lawyers, 11,000 cases), an increased reliance on the public defender system (and we know how under worked these lawyers are to begin with), and an increase in pro se litigants.

To read the full article, click here.