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South Dakota lures lawyers to rural areas with annual subsidies

Posted Apr 9, 2013 7:43 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Rural law practice will become more lucrative for some South Dakota lawyers under a new law passed last month.

Lawyers participating in the pilot program will be paid $12,000 a year to work in rural areas, the New York Times reports. The lawyer will have to make a five-year commitment, the story says, and will have to work in a county with a population of 10,000 or less, the Associated Press reported last month.

Only 16 lawyers can participate in the pilot project, the Times says. The rural counties will pay 35 percent of the incentive payment, the State Bar of South Dakota will pay 15 percent, and the state will pick up the remainder, according to a press release.

Currently 65 percent of the lawyers in South Dakota live in four urban areas. Nationwide, only 2 percent of small law practices are in rural areas, even though nearly a fifth of the country's population lives in those areas, the story says.

The Times highlights rural lawyer Fredric Cozad, who has practiced law in Bennett County for 64 years. A half dozen lawyers worked in the county when he set up practice there; today he is the only one and he is planning to retire. To find another lawyer, residents will have to seek one 120 miles away.

“The needs of the people are still there,” Cozad told the Times. “There is plenty of work and opportunity.”

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