Rural Practice Fellowship Program

As the only statewide general bar association in Illinois, the ISBA is working to address the problem of the shortage of attorneys in rural areas of Illinois. The ISBA’s Rural Practice Fellowship Program 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.

Thank you to everyone helping to support this program!

Rural Practice Fellowship Program Fellows Announced

2023-24 Associate Fellows

  • Fellow: Jonathan Grossi (University of Iowa College of Law)
    Firm: Claire M. Wilson; Claire M. Wilson, Attorney at Law (Will County)
  • Fellow: Michael J. Zywica (Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School)
    Firm: George Leynaud; Leynaud Law Group, LLC (LaSalle County)
  • Fellow: Kathryn Friederichs (University of Oklahoma College of Law)
    Firm: Jeffrey McDaniel; Brooks Law Firm, P.C. (Rock Island County)
  • Fellow: Thomas E. Goodman (Southern Illinois University School of Law)
    Firm: Samantha Bobor; Giffin, Winning, Cohen, & Bedowes, P.C. (Montgomery County)
  • Fellow: Hailey Wills (Northern Illinois University College of Law)
    Firm: Thomas Nack; Nack, Richardson & Nack, P.C. (Jo Daviess County)
  • Fellow: Joseph Strater (Southern Illinois University School of Law)
    Firm: Dustin Probst; Dove & Dove, Attorneys at Law (Shelby County)  
  • Fellow: Elle Basler (Southern Illinois University School of Law)
    Firm: Elvis Cameron; Cameron Law Firm, LLC (Union County)
  • Fellow: Molly Gregory (University of Illinois College of Law)
    Firm: Kaylan Huber; Huber & Mudd, LLC (Vermillion County)
  • Fellow: Casey Williams (Southern Illinois University School of Law)
    Firm: Matthew Benson; The Benson Law Firm (Perry County)
  • Fellow: Jerald Dehne (Southern Illinois University School of Law)
    Firm: Jonathan Mitchell; Feirich/Mager/Green/Ryan (Jackson County)

Illinois Faces a Shortage of Rural Attorneys

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 $5,000 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. 

Benefits of the program

These programs provide benefits to both the fellows and the lawyers who oversee them. Find out more about the benefits.

  • 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.


  • 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.

Rural Practice News


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