Monday, October 31, 2016

Nebraska program pays undergraduate tuition for students seeking to practice law in rural areas

Nebraska has launched a program to meet the state's rural lawyer shortage, Leslie Reed reports for Nebraska Today, the newspaper at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Of the state's 93 counties, 31 have three or fewer lawyers and 11 have none. (Nebraska State Bar Association map: Counties with three or fewer lawyers. Yellow counties have none.)
The Rural Opportunities Law Program is a partnership between the University of Nebraska College of Law, Wayne State College, Chadron State College and the University of Nebraska at Kearney "to jointly recruit incoming college freshmen from rural Nebraska to pursue legal careers outside Nebraska’s metropolitan areas."

As part of the program undergraduate students receive free tuition Reed writes. If they maintain a 3.5 grade point average "and achieve a predetermined score on the Law School Admissions Test based on the College of Law’s current admission standards, they will be admitted automatically to the College of Law. Participants also will receive programming, support and mentorships from the law college while they’re pursuing their bachelor’s degrees."

The program apparently operates on the honor system, at least for now. Reed reports, "After earning their law degrees, the new attorneys would be expected to return to rural Nebraska to launch their careers."

The program is modeled after a successful program at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, Reed writes. Launched in 1990, that program has graduated more than 420 students, 65 percent of which remained in Nebraska, with 73 percent of those doctors working in rural areas. Robert Bartee, the medical center's vice chancellor for external affairs, said of that program, “The overriding thing we learned is that you have a much better chance of having a graduate go back to a rural area if they’re from a rural area."

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