Maine Law continues to focus on Rural Practice Initiatives

Maine Law continues to focus on Rural Practice Initiatives

Applications opened this week for Maine Law students interested in participating in the second year of the Law School’s Rural Practice Fellowships. These fellowships offer students the opportunity to work full-time with private law firms in rural areas over a ten-week period during the summer. It is the result of a collaboration between the Law School, the Maine Justice Foundation, the Maine State Bar Association, and the Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar. The funding for these fellowships is provided by the Maine Justice Foundation.

Last summer, two Maine Law students fresh off their first year of law school headed north to Presque Isle to work in two separate law practices. The inaugural fellows were Ryan Rutledge and Cameron Goodwin. Goodwin spent his fellowship experience at Smith and Associates Law Office, and Rutledge was at Bemis & Rossignol LLC.

“Maine is largely a rural state once you leave the greater Portland area, and the Rural Practice Fellowship is doing a great job of showing law students like myself what life is really like if they want to practice in a smaller law firm in a rural community,” said Rutledge. “In just a ten-week fellowship placement, I learned countless lessons and skills that I will carry with me throughout my legal career, and I can directly link those skills back to the Rural Practice Fellowship at Maine Law.”

This year, there are four fellowship spots available. Students may apply for placement with selected law practices in Aroostook, Hancock, Knox, Piscataquis, Somerset, Waldo, and Washington counties.

In coordination with the Law School’s efforts, Maine Law students are also making an impact. On January 22, 2018, the Maine State Legislature’s Taxation Committee held a public hearing on LD 1680. This bill would create a five-year program offering a $12,000 annual tax credit for up to five lawyers per year who locate in rural Maine according to criteria that would be set by the Board of Overseers of the Bar. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Donna Bailey (D-Saco), and was originally conceived by members of the Finch Society, a student organization at the Law School which supports and promotes small town and rural practice. It is modeled on programs available for dentists and doctors to locate in rural Maine.

The Maine State Bar Association testified in support of LD 1680. Other supporters included several Maine Law students, the Maine Bar Foundation, Legal Services for the Elderly, the Judicial Branch, and the Maine Justice Foundation. There were no opponents. The Taxation Committee will have a chance to further discuss and debate the bill over the coming weeks.