Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Rural Attorneys Needed

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Only 64.4% of the Class of 2013 was able to find jobs that required bar passage – and not all jobs were expected to last after one year.  While up from the years before, this is still a low employment for new lawyers.  Is it still the market that is causing hardship or are new graduates looking in the wrong places?
In the past, I’ve noted opportunities in South Dakota where subsidies were offered to lawyers who live and work in a rural area. I’ve discussed other available opportunities even while still in law school such as Minnesota’s part-time hybrid legal education for which students can even receive funding.
According to the National Association of Counties, roughly 20% of U.S. citizens live in rural areas and only 2% of law practices operate from these locations.  Now, Nebraska is another state who is expressing its need.  Presently, some Nebraska residents have to drive as far as 100 miles in order to find an attorney.  The Nebraska Commission on Public Advocacy created the Rural Practice Loan Repayment Assistance Program.  Law grads who commit to serving under-served areas for at least three years are being offered up to $6,000 per year to repay student loans.  The commission is considering paying those in the program for up to seven years.  So while the assistance may not help pay off the entirety of your loans, it certainly would help.  Additionally, you’ll definitely have business and the cost of living in rural areas is much better than in more urban areas.
Imagine the possibilities – job, loan repayment assistance, and experience.  It may be worthwhile at least for a few years.  You could be steady on your feet financially and have the experience that Biglaw or bigger cities are looking for while your law grad counterparts are still looking for their first job and are buried beneath their student loan debt.  Or, you may decide the country lifestyle suits you.  Rural areas across the country are in need and are providing opportunities definitely worth considering.  Make sure you keep them in mind!
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