Press Releases

ISBA Launches Rural Practice Fellowship Program

Rhys Saunders
Senior Manager of Communications
For Immediate Release: 
December 15, 2020

The Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA) has launched its Rural Practice Fellowship Program, which is designed to meet the critical need of providing access to justice for those living in rural areas with the declining lawyer population.

The goal of the program is to connect rural and small-town law firms looking to hire law clerks and associates with law students and newer attorneys interested in practicing law in rural areas of Illinois. Thirty-five Illinois counties have ten or fewer attorneys total in private practice, and 13 counties have five or fewer attorneys total in private practice.

The program was officially launched during the ISBA’s Joint Midyear Meeting, which was held virtually Dec. 10-11.

“Illinois has aging lawyer populations starting to retire and no young lawyers starting to move into rural counties,” said ISBA President Dennis Orsey. “It is our hope that the ISBA’s Rural Practice Fellowship Program will help address this critical need and make sure that citizens in those communities have access to justice.”

The ISBA Special Committee on the Rural Practice Initiative created two fellowship programs to address the issue.

The Rural Practice Summer Fellows Program connects law students with rural practitioners to give them experience working in rural communities before they leave law school. The program includes a $5,000 fellowship stipend and mentoring.

The Rural Practice Associate Fellows Program places graduating law students and new attorneys as permanent associates with rural practitioners. The program includes a $5,000 stipend at the beginning of employment, and an additional $5,000 stipend if the associate is still working for the same firm after one year.

“Like many states, Illinois is facing a severe shortage of attorneys in rural areas,” said Daniel Thies, co-chair of the Special Committee on the Rural Practice Initiative. “The ISBA Rural Practice Fellowship Program will be a key part of the solution, aiming both to give attorneys an incentive to join an existing rural practice, and to support those attorneys in the practice of law.”

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