Rural Practice Fellowship Program

As the only statewide bar association in Illinois, the ISBA has been working to address the problem of the shortage of attorneys in rural areas of Illinois. The ISBA is excited to announce the creation of the Rural Practice Fellowship Program, which is designed to connect rural and small town law firms looking for law clerks and associates with law students and newer attorneys interested in practicing law in rural parts of Illinois.

Illinois Faces a Shortage of Rural Attorneys

More than half of Illinois counties have less than 0.7 lawyers in private practice per 1,000 residents. 35 Illinois counties have ten or fewer attorneys total in private practice, and 13 counties have five or fewer attorneys total in private practice. Many Illinois counties have no more than two or three lawyers—and many of these are approaching retirement with no prospect of younger attorneys to take their place. Because of the cost of law school, younger lawyers are not able to afford to start practice with the generally lower salaries available in rural areas.

This shortage of attorneys creates several problems. Established practitioners struggle to find newer or mid-career attorneys to transition or expand their practices, resulting in firms closing or lawyers continuing to practice longer than they would like practice. Clients, on the other hand, often face a challenge in obtaining the legal help they need. The shortage of attorneys poses the greatest hurdle for lower income individuals and others for whom traveling long distances to see a lawyer is difficult or simply not feasible.

ISBA Rural Practice Initiative

To address this issue the ISBA Rural Practice Initiative committee created two complementary programs.

  • The Rural Practice Summer Fellows program aims to connect law students with rural practitioners and to give them a taste of rural practice before they leave law school. The program includes a $5000 fellowship grant and mentoring.
  • The Rural Practice Associate Fellows program aims to place 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. 

These programs provide benefits to both the fellows and the lawyers who oversee them including:

Fellows (Summer Clerks and Associates)

  • Assistance identifying quality job placements in rural areas.
  • Stipend to augment your salary. The ISBA will provide:
    • $5,000 for summer clerks;
    • Stipend of $10,000 for associates to be paid $5,000 at the beginning of the fellowship and $5,000 to be paid after the first year of the fellowship.
  • You will participate in mentorship programs geared specifically to law students and young attorneys in rural practice.
  • You will be provided numerous opportunities to network and develop meaningful relationships with others in the rural legal and business community, including introductions to good rural clients and other business opportunities.
  • Support for learning how to be an attorney in your first job. This program will provide CLE, training, and other resources for rural practitioners.

Deadline for applications was February 12.

Lawyers and Firms Employing a Fellow

  • Share your expertise with newer lawyers and law students!
  • Attorneys admitted to practice will receive MCLE credit in connection with the program.
  • Assistance in identifying and hiring qualified, prescreened summer clerks and associates.
  • Access to high-quality training and support to help integrate new attorneys into your business.
  • Subsidize the salary you can pay so you can attract high-quality employees.

Deadline for applications was February 12.

Questions? Please email RPFellows@isba.org