A new program at the University of Nebraska at Kearney hopes to ease a shortage of lawyers in rural Nebraska.
The Nebraska Bar reports 31 of the state’s 93 counties have three or fewer lawyers with 11 having no attorney at all. Others have only a handful, stretched pretty thin.
UNK Political Science Professor Chuck Rowling says the Kearney Law Opportunities Program offers free tuition at UNK and guaranteed admission to the University of Nebraska College of Law as long as students meet the qualifications.
“But a lot of our students come from small-town Nebraska,” Rowling tells Nebraska Radio Network. “They have every desire in the world to go back to their communities and help their communities and work there. But this encourages it, this incentivizes it, makes it more possible for those students.”
The program is modeled after the Kearney Health Opportunities Program, which has worked to bring health care workers to rural areas for the past 25 years.
Students can pursue any major as long as it has a pre-law emphasis. They are encouraged to take courses that emphasize law in criminal justice, political science as well as business. Around 50 UNK students have a pre-law emphasis.
Students in the program are paired with mentors on both the Kearney and the Lincoln campuses.
Rowling says rural communities see too many bright students leave for an education and never come back.
“And this is one way in which we can incentivize or encourage them to go back into the communities,” according to Rowling.
Wayne State College and Chadron College have similar programs.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:50]