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Subsidies To Draw Lawyers in SD

Subsidies offered in South Dakota

Across the nation, law schools are downsizing their classes. Law school graduates are struggling to find work. There appears to be a glut of attorneys — everyplace but rural America. As in South Dakota they are offering subsidies to draw lawyers to their state.

The New York Times recently did a story headlined “No Lawyer For Miles, So One Rural State Offers Pay.”

The story is about South Dakota becoming the first state to offer lawyers a subsidy to hang there shingles there. As The Times points out, this program is modeled after one that offers doctors, dentists and nurses a special stipend to work in the depths of America’s Heartland.

States such as South Dakota are desperately in need of lawyers. In Bennett County, the retirement of Fredric Cozad means there’s not a working lawyer for 120 miles, according to The Times.

Only 2 percent of small law practices are located in rural America, even though about 20 percent of the country lives there, The Times reported. And on not only South Dakota but states such as Arizona, Georgia and Texas most lawyers are clustered in major urban areas.

The South Dakota law, which takes effect in June, is being looked at by other rural states, such as Iowa.  According to The Times, the subsidy requires a lawyer to commit for five years and will establish a pilot program for up to 16 participants.

The subsidy will be $12,000 a year, which amounts to 90 percent of tuition at the University of South Dakota Law School, The Times reported.

That’s a lot less than doctors receive under the National Health Service Corps. It pays up to $60,000 in tax-free loan repayment for two years working in rural areas and as much as $140,000 for five years of service, according to The Times.

Americans in rural regions need lawyers like everyone else, to draw up wills and deeds, buy homes, and defend themselves in court.

I hope that this South Dakota program is successful, and that it establishes a model for other states in dire need of lawyers.

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