UND Law Pilot Program to Offer Internships in Rural North Dakota

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News Article

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School of Law


Leaders from the North Dakota Bar Association and UND Law School have been collaborating on plans to help alleviate the attorney shortage in rural North Dakota. Judge James Hovey, Southeast Judicial District, and Dean Kathryn R.L. Rand recently spoke with Prairie Public's Main Street program about the critical attorney shortage in rural North Dakota. To address the shortage, a new effort is underway intended to demonstrate the benefits for an attorney of living and working in small communities. Listen to the full Main Street interview here.

In addition, Dean Rand was interviewed by UND's Studio One about the collaboration between SBAND and UND Law to create an internship program to assist rural North Dakota. You can watch Dean Rand's Interview in its entirety here.

The UND School of Law, which is planning to offer internships to law students in which they will go and provide legal services in rural North Dakota. Starting next summer, a new pilot program at the UND School of Law will have some students exploring more rural parts of the North Dakota.

The proposed program was created to address the shortage of attorneys across North Dakota. Twenty-one of the state's 53 counties have less than four attorneys and four of the 53 counties have none according to a UND press release.

The program would offer three internships for law students to go to smaller communities in the state that have less than 15,000 people. The interns would work closely with a judge throughout the summer and into the school year.

The hope is that students will learn more about rural communities and the benefits that come from working in them as well.

"It will give students exposure and gain an appreciation to practice in a small community and hopefully go there when they are finished," said Brad Parrish, Assistant Dean of Student Life for the law school.

The internships have been established by a collaboration between the UND School of Law, the State Bar Association of North Dakota and the state courts to help remedy the lack of attorneys especially in the western portion of the state.

"There are real legal needs out there: more oil and gas law, an increasing amount of probate matters, more crimes to deal with and more need for family law. Right now, without immediate access to legal services, it's very difficult for people, and it can increase costs," said Gail Hagerty, a judge from the Bismarck-Mandan area, stated in a UND press release. "We also need more attorneys to do indigent defense work, we need more prosecutors, and we need more new practitioners. There's a lot of potential in rural communities."

Right now, the internships are only a pilot program, but Parrish said the school will see how it goes after the first year and then potentially makes some changes and expand.

"Some students are excited about the application process and have been asking about it," Parrish said.

The application process will begin in the spring of 2014.

"If I was a first-year student, I would definitely be interested," third-year law student Brad Holter said. "There seems to be a great need for legal help in rural areas."

Holter, who is originally from Bismarck, also said these internships would be great for students who are from rural areas and have family to stay with in the area, but he thought housing may be a problem for those who do not have a relative or friend to stay with.

Derek Steiner, a first year UND student from Fargo, said he thinks this internship is a good opportunity for students.

"It's definitely something I would be interested in," Steiner said. "Overall, it seems like a good experience working under a judge and getting a realistic experience."

Not only are students looking forward to the new program but the school of law is as well.

"We are very excited to provide this opportunity and are thankful for the state bar association, the legislation, judges, clerks, attorneys and everyone who works in the communities and will be involved in this program," Parrish said.