So, what does a state do when 65% of the state’s lawyers practice in 4 of the 66 counties and 19 counties have 2 or fewer practicing lawyers. Well, if you are the South Dakota Senate, you float a plan to subsidize law student tuition in return for a promise that these students will open a practice in a small town or rural county.
It’s a cool idea – the county in need ponies up 1/3 of the student’s school fees, the state’s Unified Judicial System covers the remainder and the student contracts to keep their grades up and upon graduating to live and practice in the supporting county for a set number of years – and, a good start to reversing the declining rural lawyer population – let’s hope it passes.
But realistically, this is just a first step (a good one, but a first one). It will take more than simply releasing a few dozen newly fledged lawyers out into the wild. If these future rural lawyers are to have a fighting chance to develop a thriving practice, they’ll need more than a debt-free education; these new lawyers are going to need mentors, help with the administrative side of things, and a good education in keeping their overhead low. I’m betting the SD Bar has some ideas on how to solve these problems as well.
Tip of the hat to The Daily Republic for reporting on this.