A couple of years ago, we had a lot of good fun with the commencement address at Emory School of Law. A professor there, Sara K. Stadler, gave a commencement speech telling students who were graduating into a terrible job market to get over their own sense of entitlement. Then she told them to move to Nebraska.
Interestingly, Stadler did, in fact, up and move to Nebraska. She is now at Creighton University School of Law. She left a tenured position at Emory to be an adjunct at Creighton, so… living the dream, I guess.
The state of Nebraska needs more people like Stadler. Apparently, the state is desperate for lawyers willing to work in rural counties. Unfortunately, Nebraska isn’t putting its money where its mouth is. They could probably learn something from South Dakota….
Here’s a story about the shortage of lawyers in rural counties from the Sidney Sun-Telegraph (gavel bang, ABA Journal — ’cause I’m certainly not staying up on the news coming out of Sidney, Nebraska):
While in some areas, the legal market is oversaturated, the number of qualified attorneys in rural areas is shrinking rapidly. Many counties are underserved at the moment, according to the Nebraska State Bar Association. When there are few lawyers available, this limits access to justice for rural dwellers.
In some cases, people must travel up to 200 miles for legal help. In Nebraska, there are 12 counties that have no lawyers at all.
According to the NSBA there were 18 lawyers in Cheyenne County in 2012, while there were four in Deuel county, two in Kimball County and none in Banner County.
I really hope the next lawyer in Banner County gets paid in chicken eggs like Atticus Finch.
In response to the dearth of lawyers, Nebraska has launched an outreach program to get students and new lawyers interested in practicing in Nebraska. You might remember that South Dakota did a similar thing. We wrote about it earlier this year:
South Dakota enacted HB 1069, which provides funding to repay law school tuition to 16 attorneys who agree to work for five years in rural counties in the state. Qualifying attorneys will receive annual payments over the five years of 90% of the resident tuition and fees at the University of South Dakota School of Law on July 1, 2013.
Nebraska, however, doesn’t seem to be willing to give new lawyers any kind of financial incentive to work in the back of beyond. Their plan amounts to asking people nicely:
In summer 2013, the NSBA started its rural practice initiative. This program educates second and third year law students about the benefits of practicing law in rural areas in the state.
The initiative featured two, two day tours through Albion, a town of about 1,600, 40 miles northwest of Columbus and Ord, a town of around 2,000, 70 miles north of Kearney. This initiative hooked up at least 2-3 people with jobs, according NSBA president Marsha Fangmeyer.
Look, showing people where Nebraska is and proving that it has things like stores and oxygen is a good start. But I imagine that the reason a lot of people aren’t working in rural Nebraska is that they don’t want to be poor-ass practitioners who live in rural Nebraska. If you want to convince people, offering some kind of tuition reimbursement really isn’t a terrible idea.
In-state tuition and fees at the University of Nebraska College of Law total only $15,000 a year. Creighton Law unimaginably charges $32K, which I guess means that Nebraska has a $15,000 idiot tax for Nebraska residents too stupid to go to a state school. If the Nebraska bar really wants people to live in the boonies, couldn’t it the pick up some of these tabs?
After all these Nebraska and Creighton law students figure out that they’re not going to be hired by Wells Fargo, they’ll be looking for work. I’m sure that country law is just as exciting as insurance law, if somebody could make the money work out.
Lawyers increasingly scarce in Sidney, rural Nebraska [Sidney Sun-Telegraph]
Lawyer shortage in rural Nebraska is target of state bar initiative [ABA Journal]