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What is one of the biggest fears students have as they approach graduation – finding their first job. While many law students find there aren’t job opportunities, there actually are, but in rural America.
Married couple Cody Cooper and Mary DePuydt both finished law school in 2013 and moved to Wishek, North Dakota, from the Twin Cities after a very attractive offer was made to the young lawyering couple.
Wishek faces the same problem that many American small-towns face – finding themselves without a local lawyer. While 20 percent of the American population live in rural areas; however, only 2 percent of small law practices are in those areas. This disconnect causes a “justice gap” or an area where legal needs are failed to be met because any potential clients are unable to find or afford and attorney.
In order to bring people out to rural areas, in 2013 South Dakota started the “Rural Attorney Recruitment Program” becoming the first state to pay young lawyers to permanently relocate to rural areas. Attorneys are paid $12K a year (for 5 years) for simply relocating to a county with a population of 10K or fewer.
This increasing desire to solve the “justice gap” problem has resulted in other states starting their own programs. For example, New Hampshire launched its own rural program when state Bar Association Board of Governors President Lisa Wellman-Ally started her term in June this year.
"My goal is to attract attorneys to those more rural areas so the people in the rural areas will have access to justice—they'll have attorneys who are local, part of their communities," says Wellman-Ally "and to show [new attorneys] that there is a quality of life that is different in these rural areas."
While newly-graduated law students may be wary of moving to rural America, job opportunities may await them there.
Law Students: What factors would make you consider moving to rural America?
This is a fascinating topic. Personally, I haven't given much thought to moving away, but I wouldn't pass on a good opportunity. There are definitely a few factors that I would consider important. First, location would be important. Almost all my family lives in Tennessee, so a move across country would make it difficult to keep in touch. So, without other mitigating circumstances, I would prefer to stay in the southeast. There are plenty of rural communities to go around in the southeast. That said, if the income was high enough, location would be less of an issue. So, income would be a major factor. Additionally, the type of legal work involved would be a factor. I assume from the article, that the shortage of attorneys in South Dakota is due in part to the population boom from fracking. So I could see a number of legal jobs needing filled. Is there a way to see which states have started programs similar to those of South Dakota and New Hampshire?