Across the country rural communities are experiencing a shortage in the number of legal professionals so in 2013, South Dakota responded. The Midwestern state, where 65 percent of its attorneys are located in just four cities, launched a recruitment program. The goal — to attract attorneys to live and work in a rural county in South Dakota for five years with a cash incentive of $12,500 a year.
The program was championed by the Chief Justice of the South Dakota Supreme Court, David Gilbertson. In a State of the Judiciary message, he cautioned against “the very real possibility of whole sections of this state being without access to legal services,” creating an area with “islands of justice in a rural sea of justice denied.”
For rural communities without a lawyer nearby, everyday issues such as taxes or real estate transactions become hardships. With few options, more and more of these small towns are having to pay lawyers to drive in to their towns to provide legal advice, stretching their budgets.I have written about the South Dakota program here and about the rural lawyer shortage more generally here.