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Livin’ on a prairie

Here’s something ironic.

More and more law students are graduating from law school without jobs. More and more people who live in rural parts of America are without local lawyers and have to drive far distances to hire same.

What is a way to get the jobless and the lawyer-less together?

Call it livin’ on a prairie (apologies to Bon Jovi).

South Dakota is the first state in the union to pass a law giving lawyers an annual subsidy to live and work in a rural area, reports the New York Times.

The new statute takes effect in June; as many as to 16 participants will receive an annual subsidy of $12,000 under a pilot program. A lawyer who participates must agree to a five-year commitment under the program.

South Dakota’s system is modeled after the federal program for doctors, dentists and nurses that has been in place for 40 years. The National Health Service Corps has nearly 10,000 participating professionals who serve 10.4 million people, half in rural areas.

In South Dakota, 65 percent of the lawyers live in four urban areas. In Bennett County, by the Nebraska border, the one lawyer who is there is retiring; right now a potential client has to drive 120 miles to find another lawyer.

The people behind the program are pretty sure they can convince jobless students that law practice in the hinterlands is actually pretty good, with interesting, varied and rewarding legal work.

You can bet the people at law schools who think the big thoughts and advise students on how to put that expensive new degree to work will be watching this new experience in the Mount Rushmore State.

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