The headline reads “Legal industry struggles push lawyers to small-town firms”, and the article opens with the doom and gloom – many small town clients have to drive over 100 miles one way to see an attorney, NALP reports a 27% drop in big city law firm jobs since 2009, new lawyers are graduating with heavy debt loads and low employment rates.
On the plus side, there are law schools and bar associations out there developing programs to connect new lawyers and law students with small towns. This particular article gives a tip of the hat to the programs being developed by the Kansas Bar Association, the University of Kansas Law School, and Washburn University Law School. Seems that the lawyers who are taking advantage of these programs are finding both employment and career satisfaction practicing law beyond suburbia’s sprawl.
While there may not be a stampede of new lawyers heading to the sticks, it does look like the trickle is starting to become a stream.
I’m trying to put together a list of law schools and bar associations that have or are developing programs aimed at getting law students and lawyers interested in practicing in small towns and rural areas. I know that there are programs either in place or in development in Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota, but I’d like to know if there are others out there. So, if you know of a program please drop me a line and help out this rural lawyer.
Like this, but with instruments
It may not be news, but two facts are colliding – rural communities lack lawyers and the placement rate for newly graduated law students is abysmal thanks in part to a nationwide glut of attorneys – in the ivory towers of academia and the in paneled halls of Bar Associations (please allow the literary license – I know that very few law schools actually have ivory towers, most simply make do with concrete and cinderblock, and most Bar Associations’ hallways are paint & drywall). But there are efforts afoot to try to rectify the situation by, in one form or another, inserting tab A (new graduates) into slot B (rural communities).
Recently, the Wall Street Journal and Eastern Iowa News Now reported on efforts by the Iowa State Bar, the University of Iowa, Drake University in Iowa, and Creighton University in Nebraska to place law school students in to summer internships and young lawyers in to permanent jobs in small towns and rural communities.
Today, the Kansas City Star and the ABA Journal report on a collaboration between the University of Kansas Law School, Washburn Law School, and the Kansas Bar Association aimed at enticing young lawyers and law students into rural practice. Currently, the collaboration offers two programs, one to help students master the business management skills needed to thrive in a solo/small practice and the other arranges for unpaid internships with rural lawyers and judges.