We’re addressing a lot of challenges in this country with the innovative use of technology. Why not leverage law blogs to bring lawyers to rural areas of this country that have an aging population of lawyers, if any lawyers at all.
I read a report this week from Leslie Reed of the University of Nebraska that their College of Law is rolling out a new program to reduce the state’s shortage of rural lawyers.
With the Rural Law Opportunities Program, the law college will work in partnership with Wayne State College, Chadron State College and the University of Nebraska at Kearney to jointly recruit incoming college freshmen from rural Nebraska to pursue legal careers outside Nebraska’s metropolitan areas.
The undergraduate institutions will provide free tuition and, if the selected students maintain a 3.5 grade point average and achieve a predetermined score on the Law School Admissions Test based on the College of Law’s current admission standards, they will be admitted automatically to the College of Law. Participants also will receive programming, support and mentorships from the law college while they’re pursuing their bachelor’s degrees.
Last week I read of Wisonsin’s problem in not having lawyers in rural areas and the State Bar of Wisconsin’s efforts.
Of the northern counties in Wisconsin, Oneida County has 72 lawyers (60 percent of whom are age 55 or older), Vilas has 40, Lincoln has 50, Forest has 11, Langlade has 19, Forest has 11, Florence has three, Menominee has 10 and Marinette has 34, according to the state bar.
In an effort to attract more lawyers to the northern part of the state, the state bar recently organized the Wisconsin Initiative Bus Tour. The tour allowed nine people, either third year law school students from Wisconsin or Minnesota or lawyers in the early stages of their careers, to see what it might be like to practice law in a rural area.
The dilemma for lawyers wanting to serve rural areas is how do they earn a living. Are their enough people? Can the people living there afford a lawyer?
The above programs in Wisconsin and Nebraska do not really addresss those problems.
I wonder if blogging could enable lawyers wanting to serve rural and ag communities across the country, many of which don’t have any lawyers to serve community members. Blogs by solo’s and small firm lawyers place the lawyers at the top of the search engines for geographic areas far wider than their community — in some cases, statewide.
For example I could be a lawyer in Northern Wisconsin or Central Nebraska, two areas looking for lawyers, and reach people around the state.
In some areas of the law such as Chapter 7 bankruptcies or no fault divorces, it wouldn’t matter if the lawyer was 100 miles away from the client – the client wouldn’t need to see the lawyer — except for perhaps one hearing for which the lawyer could drive in to handle a few cases at a time. Blogging lawyers in rural Iowa have done divorces for soldiers serving overseas who found the lawyer by doing a relevant search.
Blogging lawyers in these rural areas would have the income from a broad geographic area, serve local community members and have a very low cost of living.
Blogging could be a win for people in rural areas, the lawyers wanting to work in rural areas and the bar associations looking for an answer.
What do you think?