Luring Attorneys To Rural America

In recent years, there's been a push to get more attorneys to underserved rural areas. As I mentioned in April 2013, "[n]early 85% of law students graduate with $100,000 in debt, and it is nearly impossible to service that type of debt by offering low-cost legal services in rural areas."

Like South Dakota's stipend to get lawyers to its rural areas, a small town in North Dakota is doing something similar. The ABA Journal reported that "Wishek, [ND] took the unusual step of offering to pay for office space and other business expenses if a young lawyer agreed to move to town. The city got two: Cody Cooper and Mary DePuydt, a married couple who both finished law school in 2013 and moved to Wishek from the Twin Cities in April. They planned to set up separate law offices to avoid potential conflicts of interest."

Wishek's offer to pay for office space and other business expenses was just one thing that lured the attorneys to town.

"The two were interested in Wishek because they want to try growing and making much of their own food. They also liked the idea of living in a small community because it provides more opportunities to take on leadership roles. Cooper hopes to eventually run for McIntosh County state's attorney. 'That's also a thing that attracted us to Wishek—the possibility that we're going to be able to do good out there,' Cooper says. 'In a big town like Minneapolis, you feel like there's not so much to do to really make an impact.'"

It's great to see young attorneys who are small-community oriented willing to move to rural areas and offer their services in a mutually beneficial way. And it looks like this will continue as "[n]early 20 percent of Americans live in rural areas, but the New York Times says just 2 percent of small law practices are in those areas. Those still practicing law in small towns are often nearing retirement age, without anyone to take over their practices."


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