Rural Practice Committee Member Community
Message from Committee Chair Philip Garland
ISBA Rural Practice Committee
"Investing in the future of small-town practice."
The Iowa State Bar Association’s Rural Practice Committee was formed in the summer of 2010 by then-President Frank Carroll to address the aging population and growing decline of attorneys in Iowa’s rural counties. Frank saw that thousands of Iowans would lose their access to local legal services if nothing was done to reverse the decline.
After nearly a year and a half of identifying the challenges preventing young attorneys from moving to rural communities, the committee’s approach took a different turn when a 1L student at the University of Iowa College of Law contacted the committee chair to request help in finding a clerkship with a small town firm. She advised that many of her classmates were also interested in rural practice, and she set up a Saturday morning meeting at the College of Law. Within a month, 15 students at the U of I, and 20 students each at Creighton University School of Law and Drake University Law School had forwarded resumes to the committee. The challenge then became finding rural attorneys willing to hire a student as a clerk for the summer.
Preliminary estimates indicate that as many or more students from the three law schools want to participate in the rural clerkship program in the summer of 2014. View information related to the 2014 program (link below).
Participation by attorneys is critical for the summer clerkship program to be successful and to expand. It needs to do both to achieve the goal for which the Rural Practice Committee was established.
Key Factors for Success
Beginning in the Winter of 2012, members of the ISBA’s Rural Practice Committee started meeting annually with groups of students who were interested in rural practice. These meetings, which were held at the Creighton, Drake and Iowa law schools and involved presentations and question and answer sessions, proved to be beneficial for introducing students to rural practice.
A gathering of rural practitioners and interested students, initiated in January 2015 and modeled after the concept of “speed dating,” also proved to be successful. Dubbed “Meet and Greet,” students and attorneys met for six-to-10 minutes each as a way of getting acquainted, with the goal that attorneys would follow up with students they were interested in, and students would follow up with attorneys for whom they thought they might like to work.
This bringing together of attorneys and students was designed to place 1L and 2L students in summer clerkships. However, an increasing number of attorneys who wanted to hire full-time associates and 3L students looking for full-time employment, dictated that the program be modified to meet their needs. In 2016, for instance, the Meet and Greet event was divided. Attorneys looking to hire associates and 3L students were invited to a morning session. Attorneys wanting to hire summer clerks and 1L and 2L students attended the afternoon session. Some attorneys attended both sessions.
Since not all attorneys who expressed an interest in the rural practice program were able to attend the Meet and Greet event, the Rural Practice Committee created a web page on the ISBA’s website where students’ resumes and generic cover letters could be posted. This allows any attorney who is thinking about hiring to access cover letters/resumes of prospective candidates.
To supplement the web page, members of the Rural Practice Committee maintain regular contact with students and attorneys, oftentimes selecting several resumes to send to attorneys where it appears there might be a match. In those cases, the student also receives an email with a list of the attorneys to whom his or her resumes were sent with contact information so the student can follow up.
The committee also shares the list of attorneys participating in the rural practice program with the career services offices of the law schools serving the state for posting on the schools’ job boards.
For more information, contact:
Phil Garland, chair, ISBA Rural Practice Committee, firstname.lastname@example.org, (641) 923-3792
Steve Boeckman, staff liaison, ISBA Rural Practice Committee, email@example.com, (515) 697-7869