The University of Maine School of Law, the public and only law school for the State of Maine, is pleased to announce the launch of its Rural Lawyer Pilot Project. The program will officially launch during the “Preparing for Rural Practice” Workshop for attorneys and law students this Saturday, April 8.
According to a June 2014 report on bar demographics, outside of Cumberland County, just 10% of lawyers in private practice in Maine are under the age of 35, while approximately 65% are 50 or older. In the coming years, rural counties will likely face a shortage of lawyers as aging lawyers retire, which will lead to access to justice challenges.
In response to this anticipated shortage, Maine Law recently received funding from the Maine Justice Foundation for a three-year pilot project that will place law students with practitioners in communities that would otherwise have limited access to legal services. Maine Law students will work in the summers under the guidance of practitioners on legal research and drafting, dispute resolution, general practice case management, real estate transactions, trial practice, and ethics. Maine Law students will also be encouraged to perform volunteer work for legal aid providers in the area where they are serving as fellows. This project is a collaboration between the Law School, the Maine Justice Foundation, the Maine State Bar Association, and the Maine Board of Bar Overseers. For the inaugural summer, up to two students will be placed as fellows in Aroostook County, but the fellows will rotate to different areas in subsequent summers.
The April 8th launch event, “Preparing for Rural Practice” features 2.25 CLE credits (inclusive of 1 Ethics credit). The event will bring together attorneys and law students to discuss rural practice challenges and opportunities. This innovative half day program will begin at 8:30 am at the University of Maine School of Law, located at 246 Deering Avenue in Portland. A full list of topics and presenters is available on the Maine Law Community website.
“Of the four major initiatives underway at the Law School, the Rural Lawyer Pilot Project is the one I am most proud of because it represents a true collaboration among and between a whole host of involved people and organizations to meet a stubborn and persistent challenge in Maine – rural community access to affordable legal services,” said Danielle Conway, Dean of the University of Maine School of Law. “Rural communities are vital to defining Maine’s identity. With the Rural Lawyer Pilot Project, my goal is to make sure Maine Law has a role – among several other partner organizations – in providing professional legal services to Maine’s Rural, Regional, and Remote Communities for the promotion of economic and workforce development as well as the provision of necessary social and human service support,” said Conway.