No Lawyer for Miles, So One Rural State Offers Pay

A new South Dakota law subsidizes to live and work in rural areas. It's getting interest from other rural states where lawyers are scarce.

News Story (Iowa, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, RURAL, South Dakota, Wyoming)

Ethan Bronner
New York Times (NYT)
April 8, 2013
Link to story

Tags: Legal Needs


Last month, South Dakota became the first state to heed the call. It passed a law that offers lawyers an annual subsidy to live and work in rural areas, like the national one that doctors, nurses and dentists have had for decades.
Mayor Gayle Kocer said that landowners in Martin — 42 miles from the site of the Wounded Knee massacre and home to wild turkeys and antelopes, winter wheat and millet — required lawyers for deeds, wills, sales and disputes.

“We need lawyers,” she said. “Our state attorney drives down from Rapid City. It’s crazy. We haven’t had a full-time city attorney in years. For any legal issue, we have to look out of town.”

Carla Sue Denis, a drug-rehabilitation counselor in town — addiction is a raging problem — said people seeking a divorce and other legal matters sometimes consulted her since she knew how to do research on the Internet and download forms.
But Mr. Barnett, like Chief Justice Gilbertson, said the possibilities for satisfying and highly varied legal work were especially great in rural areas. And the plan is to set up new rural lawyers with mentors and help spouses find work.

The new law, which will go into effect in June, requires a five-year commitment from the applicant and sets up a pilot program of up to 16 participants. They will receive an annual subsidy of $12,000, 90 percent of the cost of a year at the University of South Dakota Law School.