Paying attorneys to move to rural areas

April 17, 2013
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The American Bar Association called on federal, state and local governments to do something about the decline in the number of lawyers practicing in rural areas. South Dakota has decided to pay attorneys to relocate to its state’s rural areas.

The state is the first to reimburse people for their law school tuition in order to entice recent grads to consider rural locales over urban ones. The legislation signed by Gov. Dennis Daugaard last month creates a four-year pilot program for counties with a population of 10,000 or less. Those counties will have to pay 35 percent of an incentive payment to the attorneys; the state bar will pay 15 percent, with the state paying the remaining amounts. The incentive payment is equal to 90 percent of the resident tuition for the University of South Dakota School of Law. According to the law school's website, a first-year student enrolled for the 2012-2013 school year will pay $13,288 in tuition and fees if he or she is a resident.

Attorneys who participate must practice law on a full-time basis in the eligible county for five years; the payment will also be distributed over the five-year period. It begins July 1. The program will accept no more than 16 for the time being.

The state appropriated from its general fund $475,000 to the Unified Judicial System to cover the payments.

Leaving before the five-year period ends will require the attorney to repay all sums received. Not doing so is grounds for discipline, according to the legislation.

According to the New York Times, nearly one in four Americans live in rural areas, but only two percent of the country’s small law firms are in these less-dense areas. In South Dakota, 65 percent of attorneys are in just four counties.

This is not a problem unique to South Dakota. Rural parts of Indiana also face a dearth of available attorneys, especially for pro bono work. Charles Dunlap, executive director of the Indiana Bar Foundation, called the situation here a “crisis.”

At a time when many recent law school graduates are struggling to find employment in the legal field, this type of legislation could be very attractive – a virtually guaranteed job for five years and a portion of your student loans are paid back. But, if you are a 26-year-old fresh out of school, do you want to move to a place where the population is small, entertainment and nightlife options may be limited, and you likely won’t know anyone?

Firms in smaller cities here have noted they have a hard time attracting and keeping women and minority attorneys because many young lawyers want to work in larger metropolitan areas.

What do you think about the South Dakota initiative? Should Indiana take a look at funding a similar program? Who should be responsible for funding it and where would the money come from?
 

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  • Ageism: Implied or Expressed?
    "Firms in smaller cities here have noted they have a hard time attracting and keeping women and minority attorneys because many young lawyers want to work in larger metropolitan areas." This statement presumes that only "women and minority attorneys" are all "young lawyers." Are these law firms in smaller cities only interested in recruiting young lawyers? Clearly, ageism is implied if not expressed in this conclusion.
  • imminent crisis! sound the klaxon
    I guess the rural folk will have to suffer with old white guy lawyers. I wonder if they will ever survive. ! What will they ever do.

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  1. Im very happy for you, getting ready to go down that dirt road myself, and im praying for the same outcome, because it IS sometimes in the childs best interest to have visitation with grandparents. Thanks for sharing, needed to hear some positive posts for once.

  2. Been there 4 months with 1 paycheck what can i do

  3. our hoa has not communicated any thing that takes place in their "executive meetings" not executive session. They make decisions in these meetings, do not have an agenda, do not notify association memebers and do not keep general meetings minutes. They do not communicate info of any kind to the member, except annual meeting, nobody attends or votes because they think the board is self serving. They keep a deposit fee from club house rental for inspection after someone uses it, there is no inspection I know becausee I rented it, they did not disclose to members that board memebers would be keeping this money, I know it is only 10 dollars but still it is not their money, they hire from within the board for paid positions, no advertising and no request for bids from anyone else, I atteended last annual meeting, went into executive session to elect officers in that session the president brought up the motion to give the secretary a raise of course they all agreed they hired her in, then the minutes stated that a diffeerent board member motioned to give this raise. This board is very clickish and has done things anyway they pleased for over 5 years, what recourse to members have to make changes in the boards conduct

  4. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  5. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

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